Well, it’s been a while, let’s start this out right.
For an idea as to what we’re doing here, refer back to the introduction for more details.
When we left off on these discussions, we had just completed an evaluation of the second season of ERB, and in that time period Peter and Lloyd have been busy, as we have another two whole seasons to talk about, which isn’t even counting the fifth (which is presently ongoing). While that’s great to a point, the third season kind of represents what I would call a “flattening” of the ERB product on the whole. While the first two seasons are full of all sorts of experimental moments, by the third season, the core concepts were more or less set in stone, and ERB had begun to expand in terms of the talent fielded for battle raps.That was great in theory, don’t get me wrong, but on the flipside, while Season Three has a couple of really solid releases, a whole lot of the season feels flat and uninspired, and the majority of the videos lack the punch of the first two seasons. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really strong winners in Season Three, at least, but Season Four basically beats the shit out of it pretty hard, thanks to several really strong tracks and only a couple flat entries, while the third season is a lot of “meh.” So let’s take a look at where Season Three went flat, starting with the worst videos and moving up the chain as we go.
Miley Cyrus vs Joan of Arc:
Now that I’m writing this piece, I never have to listen to it ever again.
Holy shit, I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe with the fact that the only thing that Michelle Glavan, the person portraying Miley Cyrus, does that makes her feel like she’s portraying Miley Cyrus is rap poorly? The entire time she’s on camera, it feels like someone paid P!nk to do a horrible Miley Cyrus cosplay. I’m not sure if she just didn’t want to portray Miley as-is (because, to be fair, Miley was fucking weird at that point… uh, well, from that point onward, anyway) or she was just inherently bad at it, but it’s just… not a good portrayal. She also completely no-sells anything Joan of Arc has to say, at all, and that’s clearly by design so that makes it worse, because it makes it feel like nothing Joan has to say is in any way penetrating.
Perhaps we could start with the odd rapping Jessi Smiles, who portrays Joan of Arc, is asked to perform during her sequences? She starts out perfectly fine, then goes into this sort of 1980’s rap style before moving into an escalating staccato style and… look, none of it works. None of it. I mean, both of them seem like they have some kind of talent, but… not for rapping. Her portrayal of Joan is also overly selling Miley’s existence and battle raps, to the point where it honestly feels like, thematically, she lost, bad, and it’s so weird.
Probably the most frustrating part, though, is that neither rapper has anything to say here that’s worth hearing. Miley talks about how Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, which… isn’t really presented in a way that comes across as insulting? At most she says the French and God are dicks, which… isn’t really insulting to Joan in any way, so I’m not sure what the point is. Meanwhile, Joan does get in some digs, mostly about Miley being a slut and a skank and whatever, but otherwise it’s just “Wah you’re being super sexualized and wasting your talent,” which is basically a fifty year old’s interpretation of what Miley Cyrus was doing.
Hell, even the beat is lame.
The point is, it’s not really clear who the viewer is supposed to sympathize with here: the hyper-prude warrior maiden who still loves France and God even though she was done dirty by her own people, or the talented but super-purposefully controversial hypocrite. Put another way, the question of “Who Won?” can safely be answered with “Not the audience.”
Artists vs TMNT:
Rhett and Link are pretty on-point here as Leonardo and Donatello (the artists), and the background music is pretty solid, for the most part. The costumes are perfectly reasonable for the artists on the whole, as well, and while Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, portraying Michelangelo and Raphael (the artists) are a little rough around the edges, they’re not bad considering this is their first go-round.
Also, the idea of this battle rap is neat, and it’s definitely one that, when you first see it, makes you nod and go “Oh, yeah, this makes perfect sense.”
The TMNT. Just… all of it.
So, remember back at the end of Season Two when I mentioned that, after how well Rasputin vs. Stalin came off, the ERB crew decided to make these mass-talent battle raps at the middle and end of each season as a result? Well, this is where that idea immediately proves how it can be used for ill. You can actually tell that Peter and Lloyd didn’t have a lot to work with when putting this pairing together, because the Artists get about twenty seconds more time to work with here (which doesn’t seem like a lot, but in a song that’s only 1:25 it’s a lot), and ten seconds of the time the TMNT have is devoted to them basically saying “Splinter wouldn’t approve but he’s not here so time to throw down.” The Artists devote more time to actually talking about things that might be interesting, such as explaining who they are and why they’re better than the TMNT, while the Turtles mostly just go on about nonsense, and outside of Donny calling out the Artists for not knowing who they even are and Mikey pointing out that they drew a lot of dongs, the TMNT just… has nothing to work with.
This is also a rap battle where Nice Peter affects a weird voice, though this time it’s mostly because he and Lloyd are doubling up on voice work, since they rap as all of the TMNT, and it’s… not very interesting all around. Though if we’re being honest, the worst part is probably the TMNT costumes, which somehow look worse than the ones used in the movie from the 90’s, which is pretty impressive… if not for the best reasons.