Rembert Explains the ’80s: Don Johnson’s ‘Heartbeat’

Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by Grantland reader Lee T. Guzofski: “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at

0:02 Ooh, a space shuttle launch.

0:04 Never mind, that’s the Chrysler building. Oh, Don, you trickster. Unless the Chrysler building is LAUNCHING? That’d be awesome.

0:05 No. That’s not what’s happening at all. Not one bit.

0:09 Look at Don, looking stupid-fresh. Or is this Crockett? I’ve never really understood the difference.

0:14 There’s a protest going on, but unclear about what. Maybe they’re picketing Don Johnson. Or Crockett. Or Tubbs. Can’t imagine why, unless they’re haters.

0:15 Nope, wrong again. Don has a camera and looks involved, maybe he’s like an Occupy leader. Again, unclear, but at least we know he’s not being hated on.

0:26 OK, Don is singing, with no explanation about the protest. I might have to actually listen to the lyrics for clues. Don wouldn’t make me do that, would he? I’d hope not.

0:38 Fourth outfit for Don in 38 seconds. This could get crazy by the two-minute mark.

0:41 OK. Officially confused. They just showed a fire and soldiers and some evil-looking leader. What is this? Is this on the soundtrack to some movie? Is this some ’80s political song? Is Don about to get real on me right now? Is that guy a final boss and is Don going to defeat him at the end? I’m pumped if that’s what’s in store.

0:46 I don’t think this is from a movie anymore, but buildings are exploding. Everywhere. This looks like Michael Bay’s film school midterm.

1:00 Back to Don Johnson and he’s finally at the chorus,where he does that crouch thing and yells “HEART-BEAT.” Can’t lie, it’s pretty powerful. Or maybe I’m just caught up in all this wartime mystery Don has thrown my way. I hope everyone’s OK.

1:08 OK, Don, I’m on to you. We’re back to the scene when he’s a cameraman outside of the Occupy Michael Bay protest and he’s gone from shooting actual footage to zooming in on a lady. To Don’s credit, she’s fly, so I’m not even that mad. Maybe she’s a protester. Maybe they’ll have an intense activist courtship. That’d be cool.

1:15 If you blink, you’ll miss it, but someone wearing a mask has walked by at least three times in this music video. It’s really distracting, because every time he walks by, I assume it’s to assassinate Don Johnson. Be careful, Don. I think there’s a man with a mask on trying to kill you.

1:25 I’d be rude if I didn’t point out that Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, is playing guitar in this video. Why, I do not know, but based on everything else in this video so far it makes perfect sense.

1:34 These background dancers just did the worst move ever. It’s this alternating forward-and-back move, which looks like a portion of the electric slide done without an ounce of emotion. I’m starting to think this was a one-take video, which is confusing, given that I thought Don had all the money back then.

1:39 As Don sings “I’m looking for love” there is a woman (“love,” I must assume) that is standing on a car, dressed in gold, with a fire spewing behind her. She doesn’t look disturbed in the slightest that the final scene in Volcano is taking place about 30 feet away. She’s actually striking a pose, while, I’m pretty sure, people are just dying all around her. This is Don’s “love.” Interesting.

1:41 Don is back in outfit no. 3, I think, and is covered in soot. What is this song about?

1:45 Guess who isn’t covered in soot? DWEEZIL.

1:56 Okay. I’m about over this. Right before Don launched into the cry-chorus, one shadow on a wall dives into another. And then they both collapse. And then the scene is over. What country is this taking place in? Is this supposed to be postapocalyptic New York City, a.k.a. gentrified Harlem?

1:59 A random bike gang with hats on rolls by. Sure. Why not, Don.

2:09 While my interest in this video is rapidly decreasing, I can’t help but celebrate Don’s five o’clock shadow. It’s what I’ve tried and failed to pull off since I was 18. I’ll never get there. Don did. He wins, even if this video is dumb.

2:10 Creeper Don is back to zooming in on the lady with his camera.

2:12 Uh-oh, Don just got busted. She’s staring right at him. But she doesn’t look upset. She’s just staring right back.


2:17 She’s really good, though.

2:18 Plot twist: The lady just wrapped some sort of fabric or bandanna or article of clothing over her face. But she’s still staring. Wait, is she about to rumble in this war? Is this song about having a lover that’s fighting for the other side? I don’t know why I’m still asking questions as if he’s ever going to answer them in the final 1:52, but who knows?

2:31 Back to Don, belting in his highest register, with Dweezil and the crew. I wonder what random subplot they’ll bring up next.

2:35 I knew it. The plot where Don runs through a village, grabs a kid with one arm, throws him over a haystack, and then takes cover before an explosion takes place. Before the haystack throw it looked like he was helping someone, but he really launched the kid, making me think he’s going to beat him down later. Like go all-out Jack Bauer on that poor child. I just don’t know. I don’t know anything.

2:42 #DWEEZIL.

2:50 A three-second clip of three guys walking. This video looks like an accident.

2:56 A three-second clip of a woman walking. Great.

3:14 Oh yes, Don just went a cappella on us, signaling that this video is about to end. Bring it on home, Mr. Johnson. For everyone’s sake.

3:22 There’s a lot of nothing going on right now, but one of those nothing things is that Don is looking at film while a watermark transparency of the lady he loves is slightly in the foreground of the screen. Just wanted you to know that was happening, but again remember that it means nothing.

3:27 Key change.

3:34 Another explosion.

3:39 Don stops walking for a second, looks in six different directions, and then walks away. And that was the scene. It’s just incredible how bad this is.

3:46 A light-up “heart beat” sign makes an appearance in the video, against the side of the building, I guess to remind us that this song was called “Heartbeat.” Thanks, light-up sign.

4:00 All at once: Don at computer, explosion, and hot-lady watermark. And then the next scene.

4:10 End.

I have nothing to say. I’ll never get that 4:10 back. Never.

Filed Under: Don Johnson, Music, Rembert Explains

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert