It’s finally happened: the world reached peak twerk this week with the debut of Mastodon’s absolutely hysterical music video for “The Motherload.” And if twerking is jumping the shark, there seems hardly a better way for it to happen.
The central conceit of “Motherload,” which is the third single off the band’s 2014 album Once More ‘Round the Sun, is a hilariously ribbing bit of satire parodying the stereotypically self-serious, graven themes and imagery of metal music videos. We see a host of metal tropes—the biblical scene with the iconic verboten apple, clips of soothsayers, wizards, monsters, and hedonists, and a depiction of a sysiphean character bearing a church bell in a bit of overly-literal (though hopefully deliberate) direction (he appears as Brann Dailor croons, “I can feel the weight, feel the weight”)—given sidesplitting send-ups as a twerk team appears on the scene and puts its thang down with ludicrous gusto.
The video proceeds in this fashion until the song’s bridge, at which point a Bring It On-style dance battle takes place as the band rocks out in the background. The battle is contentious—vicious, even—when suddenly, as a blistering guitar solo kicks into gear, a woman clearly implied to be “Lord of the Twerk” shows up and drops down in a most dramatic and earth-shattering fashion; the scene only gets more absurdly funny as the solo heats up and the shot goes full-on psychedelic—a kaleidoscopic celebration of the booty immaculate.
Adding to the video’s sense of parody the aesthetic of the song itself speaks, in a metaphysical sort of way, to the self-effacing nature of the video. The tune is overtly simple, full of chunky metal riffs and infectious choruses; it’s aural ethos is a totally unpretentious shot at self-serious, #dark metal, as the refrain seems to confirm: “This time, this time/ things’ll work out just fine.”
“Motherload” is downright friggin’ calamitous—and how awesome is it that Mastodon are cashing in on the universal love apparent for all things booty-related right now? Sure, they may be exploiting a cultural trend but they’re doing it in a riotously appropriate way that pays homage to the craft of the twerk—and, to be sure, this video illustrates the legitimate talent and athleticism needed to twerk like a champ.
Predictably, there’s been some backlash, some rabble rousing and conjecture about the “oversexualized” nature of the video. And sure, the video might piss off a few purists but anyone with even the most stunted, desiccated sense of humor should probably understand the video is wholly tongue-in-cheek.
But if artists like Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus are demonstrating racial tone-deafness by co-opting twerk and choice bits of hip-hop culture, what does that say about Mastodon? Is this parody just as tone-deaf? Is it taking a shot at the cultural appropriation of twerking by mainstream artists? Or does “Motherload” speak to the ubiquity and pervasiveness of twerking and thusly recognize the interaction and—whether you’d like to admit it or not—interconnectedness of major musical genres like hip-hop, pop, and metal? That the video conveys the intersectionality of twerking at the confluence of these genres seems to confirm the latter question.
We can also consider that twerking, as a gesture, is often used to send a message: something like an absurd braggadocio, and Mastodon soundly take the piss out of this “message” in their new music video. The band extrapolate and embrace this absurdity by making it grandiose in parody. After all, Mastodon have been known to espouse the bizarre, the experimental, and the exotic. Then again, maybe they’re just taking the next step toward a career as children’s entertainers once they’ve retired from metal.