It's not JoJo, not Britney, but Lara Croft in that hip-hugging outfit, who raps, "You've got to stand and choose."
The lyrics aren't regular music video flava either, certainly not out of "Baby It's You" or "My Prerogative," which crowned last week's Top 10 hits on "TRL" -- or "Total Request Live," the viewer-voted countdown on MTV that is prime real estate for anyone scrambling for the elusive youth vote.
Then again, "Stand and Choose," the 2-minute 46-second music video debuting on "TRL" today, is an all-star cast of more than 50 video gaming characters, a "We Are the World" virtual reality extravaganza set in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
The music is hip-hop. The mood is serious. The message is clear: Young people need to take this voting thing seriously.
The other message is clearer still: For the 18-to-24-year-old electorate, Psymon (of SSX Tricky), Nick Kang (of True Crime), Raiden (of Mortal Kombat) and SpongeBob (of, well, SpongeBob), are pop culture icons to rival most anyone in Spin magazine.
In an unprecedented move, MTV and 12 interactive game publishers, spearheaded by Bruno Bonnell of Atari Inc., teamed up for this get-out-the-vote music video, which will play in rotation (viewers can vote for it) on MTV, MTV2, mtvU, MTV.com, Spike TV and The N.
"The popularity of video games is through the roof," says Dave Sirulnick, head of MTV News. "It's a very important part of young people's lives. So, for us, this makes sense."
For the video game industry, it's a baptism of sorts -- the first time video game characters, or "intellectual properties," as industry insiders call it, are used to encourage voting in a presidential election. It's a "natural fit," says Douglas Lowenstein, head of the Washington-based Entertainment Software Association. " 'Stand and Choose' is a creative, nonpartisan way to reach the generation that has grown up both wanting their MTV and playing computer and video games."
The video is written and produced by Ross Robinson, who has worked with Limp Bizkit, Korn and, most recently, the Cure. It starts off with Psymon walking through Washington Square Park, as a virtual Tony Hawk, Lara Croft, Sonic and characters from the Sims and Leisure Suit Larry come into view, all singing the chorus, "Come on and stand / Choose / Everybody / Anybody stand / Choose / Anybody / Come on." The project was directed by Tony Shiff, a producer for MTV2. It's only one of many components used by MTV's Choose or Lose: 20 Million Loud! campaign to mobilize the more than 20 million young adults ages 18 to 30 who could greatly influence the election but who routinely have not shown up at the polls.
This generation is hyper-connected, with a slew of fast-moving images inundating them at every turn. That, however, has not translated into increased voting participation. Since the 26th Amendment took effect in 1971, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, the percentage of the country's eligible 18- to 24-year-olds who voted has consistently decreased. It was 49.6 percent in 1972, when Nixon crushed McGovern; it was 26.7 percent in 2000.
Now, MTV and the gaming industry are hoping the characters from the gaming world will be able to reach this double-click generation.
"Using these video game characters -- in a music video, no less -- is a new device that's a new channel to the voter," says Phil Sharp, director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a congressman from Indiana from 1975 to 1995. "I hadn't thought of this one. But that's probably my generational problem, and it's a wise thing that somebody did think of it."
After all, his sons -- one is 28, the other 22 -- grew up playing video games.