I was watching the VMA’s the other day and realized something: I absolutely love music videos. I think it has to do with the “visual freedom” of the medium, the way that a music video can capture the feel or energy of music through film. There’s more flexiibilty than with a movie because there isn’t a story to tell; instead, there’s a “feeling” to capture. It also helps that I’m a sucker for interesting animation. And while the old adage is certainly true that “a great video depends on a great song,” there’s something to be said for quality filmmaking. A great video makes a great song better. The best videos in history are something more than just a choreographed dance number set to music (think Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or Daft Punk’s “Da Funk“).
I used to think music videos were a dying art form. There were two forces at play. First, several of the most visionary music video directors–Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek and (to a lesser extent) Michel Gondry–had made the transition into directing feature films. Okay, maybe I’m overstating the importance of a handful of famous directors slowing down their output. There were some quality videos made in the last, say, five years or so.
The bigger problem was that great videos that were made didn’t get the exposure they deserved. MTV and VH1 spurned music videos in favor of reality television, so finding new music videos took some effort on the part of the viewer. Sure, you could watch them on the Internet. But broadband connections weren’t as ubiquitous as today, so streaming videos online was unpleasant and annoying, a constant trade-off between quality, frame rate and loading time.
Both of those phenomena combined to spell the end of the music video. Of course, it didn’t happen. Streaming video is relatively easy now. Music videos (like music itself) just made the transition onto the Internet. Thanks, YouTube. Music videos aren’t going anywhere.
But it’s easy to make a bad, predictable video. How many rap videos are nothing more than the rapper looking tough and throwing up money in front of expensive cars and bikini-clad women? It’s hard to do something different, something nobody’s ever seen before. That’s why the following two videos are favorites of mine. They challenge the conventions of what a music video can be.
The first video is for Steve Aoki’s new single “I’m in the House” feat [[[Zuper Blahq]]]. Here’s a great example of something that can’t be done in a feature film. It’s a three-minute swirl of color and fun; it captures the energy of the song as well as any video I’ve seen.
This next video is for Miike Snow’s “Burial.” It looks like what would happen if someone found the footage for a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and edited down the most beautiful scenes. The cinematography is abslolutely fantastic. If MTV gave an award for “Video Most Likely to Make You Cry,” this one would win. This music video is, in a word, perfect.
Like I said above, a great video makes a great song better. Here are the MP3s.