Pretty Ricky: Get Ready For Joy, In Bigger Than The Sound

Hyper-libidinous quartet introduces new member via online video series you have to see to believe.

There are many benefits to spending 13 hours a week on an airplane. I just can’t think of any of them at the moment.

This is probably because I am on an airplane right now, winging my way from New York to Los Angeles once again, for another episode of “FNMTV,” Pete Wentz’s Friday night video show that I am rather inexplicably a part of . For the next, oh, 10 weeks, that means I will effectively be bicoastal, an official jet-setter and the kind of guy who gets to lounge about in Admiral’s Clubs all day long.

That all sounds very glamorous, but I assure you it’s not. Because it also means that I always feel tired, jet-lagged and half-drunk (without the whole “getting drunk” part, unfortunately); that I have neglected my duties as general manager of three fantasy-baseball teams; and — perhaps most troubling — that I don’t have the slightest idea what is happening anywhere in the world. At all.

I missed the whole “terrorist fist jab” thing, I had no idea Tim Russert had died, and I completely spaced on both the Celtics’ Game 4 comeback and Tiger’s heroics at Torrey Pines. I am basically like a 5-year-old at this point, blissfully unaware of anything, constantly amazed by everything. You could probably distract me just by jangling a set of keys in front of my face. In fact, if you see me, please don’t attempt to do this.

Of course, being a confused, punch-drunk toddler isn’t all bad. Come to think of it, it’s pretty much the only good thing about spending so much time on airplanes. For one, I can safely say that my appreciation for Pretty Ricky is currently at an all-time high.

Confused? Let me give you a bit of backstory. Late last month, just as all my “FNMTV” hysteria was ramping up, Pretty Ricky — the hyper-libidinous, barely literate R&B quartet perhaps best known for wearing matching “Phantom of the Opera” costumes and inspiring a series of YouTube tribute clips in which shirtless young men summarily ravage furniture — unleashed the epic (and episodic) “21 Days Of 4Play” series , a collection of clips designed to hype both their upcoming album, 80′s Babies, and their newest member, a bulgy, preening lover-man who goes by the name of 4Play (you can probably also guess what his primary interest is). As is the case with everything PR do, the videos are low-budget, nonsensical and, of course, obsessed with all things coital. They are full of dramatic soliloquies, shirtless games of craps and grammar lessons given from the back of an SUV. There are impromptu performances filmed on back porches with insane jungle motifs, rambling odes to females delivered from what appears to be King Tut’s tomb (or a rec room), and speeches about naked recording techniques given by a gentleman wearing only a wife-beater and jockey shorts (and a 20-pound dookie chain, of course).

The series is, if you haven’t gathered, perhaps the most amazingly overwrought bit of lo-fi celluloid to hit the small screen since R. Kelly’s legendary “Trapped in the Closet” was foisted upon the unsuspecting masses. It is that good. Probably even better.

Of course, since I was traveling so much, the series came and went without me even noticing, and it wasn’t until last week, when my alarmingly brilliant co-worker — and fellow Ricky obsessive — Jim Cantiello sent me a hyperbolic e-mail about it (sample line: “Holy crap. I just can’t even contain myself. You must watch them. All of them”) that I actually got around to watching all 21 Days. And suffice to say, my reality hasn’t been the same since.

Perhaps it’s because I am jet-lagged, exhausted and relatively brain-dead, or maybe it was just the result of having nothing else to do, but I have spent basically every waking minute living Pretty Ricky. In airport terminals, hotel rooms and taxi cabs, I have watched and rewatched the series, taking breaks only to eat, sleep and fire off agitated e-mails to my wife about Pretty Ricky (she does not, shall we say, share my excitement). I know every scene, line and location by heart. I have become obsessed with the lives, sartorial choices and idiosyncrasies of the group members, so much so that I find myself wondering why Slick’Em spends most of Episode 13 running a lint-roller over his pectorals, or counting the number of times Spectacular licks his lips, or even marveling at Diamond Blue’s commitment to the whole 80′s Babies concept, which is so deep that he’s taken to dressing like all three members of Bel Biv DeVoe simultaneously and delivering lines like, “I like girls with one toe, five toes, 10 toes” with a straight face (Blue is 100 percent the MVP of the entire “21 Days” series). To be honest, I don’t care that much about 4Play, but I’m even willing to give him the benefit of repeated viewings.

And, like I said, the reason for this is probably because of my current situation and mental state (Pretty Ricky are the jangliest of keys, it would seem), but I am OK with this. In fact, I’m glad I’m this way. There is some sort of joyous ridiculousness to the entire series, something I’m sure I’d miss (or at least try to overthink) under so-called “normal” circumstances.

Because as a music journalist, I know I would let my head get in the way of all this. Perhaps I would feel guilty for liking it so much, because, you know, it’s the lowest form of art, and maybe Pretty Ricky aren’t smart enough to realize the joke’s on them (I did the exactly this with Kelly’s “Trapped” series, penning a hand-wringing “open letter” to him in an edition of Bigger Than the Sound that ran last year). Or maybe I’d spend hours trying to contextualize the entire series, to attach some sort of higher meaning to it all rather than just enjoy it.

And I’m glad I’m not doing that here. “21 Days of 4Play” is amazing simply because it’s amazing. And the same goes for Pretty Ricky. There are probably deeper reasons why I love them both so much, but who needs that? Why use statements like “post-ironic” or “unintentionally hilarious” when simplicity will do? I happen to think super-horny dudes delivering salacious come-ons while wearing Versace silks (or relaxing in an Egyptian-themed room) are hilarious. I am OK with this.

Because, trust me: It’s best not to think about it. Just sit back, turn you brain off, and get ready for joy.

You don’t have to be a 5-year-old to figure it out. Or maybe you do.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.