Music video analysis

Animated Gorillaz

With the plethora of music videos out today and new ones being released essentially on a daily basis, it is difficult to stick with one favourite for an extended period of time. Therefore, my ‘favourite’ in terms of music videos is rather fickle. However, I must admit that one of my favourite ‘kinds’ of music videos, are the animated ones.

Many artists have had animated music videos or videos which feature some form of animation. No band however, represents animation in music videos as well as the Gorrilaz.

The band is made up of of virtual (animated) members, every one of their music videos are in animation, with certain videos combining animation, CGI and live footage. Therefore, when writing about animated music videos, it’s hard to not mention the Gorrilaz.

Two of my favourite music videos by the Gorillaz are those for Clint Eastwood (released in 2001 as part of their self-titled debut album, Gorillaz) and Feel Good Inc. (released in 2005 on their second album, Demon Days).

Clint Eastwood

The video takes place in a cemetery. In the beginning, a spirit is released from Russell Hobbs’ (the virtual drummer’s) head. The blue spirit is voiced by the artist featured on the song – Del the Funky Homosapien. As the spirit raps his verses he releases gorilla zombies.

These sinister gorillas appear to want to cause harm. They are eventually defeated by a kick from Noodle (the virtual guitarist). Thereafter, the spirit returns back to Russell’s head and the gorilla zombies disintegrate in the sunlight, which appears from between the parting clouds.

This video is filled with references to other things pop culture related. One of the most noticeable and one of my favourites is the dancing of the gorilla zombies. They do choreography which appears similar to that found in Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller. Thus, this references the death and ‘rise’ of the zombie gorillas.

Feel Good Inc.

The irony of this music video is beautiful. 2D (the virtual lead vocalist) continuously repeats the words “feel good”, while the video has a dark, melancholy feeling, which completely contrasts with ‘feeling good’.

It’s been said that the video represents the media “dumbing down” society as seen in the rather ‘dead’ crowd and that issues of freedom are also dealt with. One can see this in the way 2D peers out of the window at Noodle, on her floating landmass powered by a windmill.

In Conclusion

When it comes to the music video industry, animated videos have definitely made their mark. Examples of these include videos by the virtual band Gorillaz. Including, the videos for: Clint Eastwood and Feel Good Inc.

Animated music videos are an interesting break from the usual live-action music videos, we have become accustom to. Therefore, if done correctly, an animated music video has the ability to surpass the quality of a live-action one.

Animation adds a dynamic to music which live-action is unable to, as in Clint Eastwood and Feel Good Inc. the dark, introspective feel, coupled with the hints of death are perfectly conveyed by the ‘look and feel’ of the videos.

Objectification of the Male Form in Music Videos

With the amount of music videos out there that objectify woman, it’s plausible to think that there are none that objectify men. However, there are quite a few that do.

The focus of most sexually charged music videos by male artists, is the artist’s (or the video character’s) ability to satisfy women in bed, thus focus is placed on his skills in the bedroom. Furthermore, women’s desire of the male artist is also a theme constantly explored in videos.

In these videos, women are often shown as inferior to men; the implication of this is that they are ‘objects’ to be owned. Other references in male artist’s videos seek to represent their virility, masculinity and physical strength.

Videos which blatantly objectify the male form are usually done by female artists. These videos feature the uncommon ‘female gaze’.

Just as in the previous post, let’s look at ‘male objectification in music videos’ in Gifs.

Squat for the camera – Na Na

Yeah… what about it? – Lemme See

Did that just happen? – Naked

Anonymous torso – Super Bass

Who’s the boss? – Lay it on Me

“Is you big enough” – Rude Boy

Stripped – Call Me Maybe

Music Videos

Na Na – Trey Songz

This video takes no prisoners concerning ‘objectification’. Men (Trey Songz) and women (the female characters) are objectified. However, the women are objectified considerably more.

The sexual tension in this video arises from the clever manner in which exercise moves suggest sexual positions and actions. This sexual tension is further amplified by the video being shot in black and white.

Lemme See – Usher ft. Rick Ross

Anyone who knows Pop music knows Usher constantly objectifies his body, as he does in this video.

Usher starts off fully clothed and eventually he sings, “I decided to take my shirt off and show my chest” as he removes his shirt. He then continues most of the video shirtless, he caters to the ‘female gaze’, as many of his fans are female.

Naked – Marques Houston

This video which I discovered while researching the topic, is the height of male objectification for the ‘female gaze’.

Marques Houston is basically naked throughout the video. It is clear he performs for the ‘female gaze’, through his positions and movements.

Super Bass – Nicki Minaj

This video parallels Hip-Hop videos in which women are objectified. The men are merely objects to be looked at.

Early in the video, parts of the male form are objectified. A male torso, face, lips and eyes are shown – with no focus on who they ‘belong’ to.

In this video Nicki and her female companions are clearly in control. Towards the end of the video, they take control of the men and essentially dance ‘on’ them.

Lay it on Me – Kelly Rowland ft. Big Sean

As in my previous post I have to reference Lay it on Me. This video represents female control of men and the ‘female gaze’ of the male form, like no other.

In this video, the idea of men being background objects to look at is epitomised in a shot of Kelly covering a man’s private area. We have no idea who he is; he only serves to ‘sex-up’ the shot.

I got you covered

Rude Boy – Rihanna

This video by Rihanna, one of my favourites, on account of its crazy backgrounds and rendering of footage, treats men as decorative props.

The men in the video serve no other purpose, but to play Rihanna’s male counterparts. Female control of the male form is evident in the video, as in the shot where Rihanna checks if a man ‘measures up’ to her standards.

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen

In this humorous portrayal of male objectification and the ‘female gaze’ – Carly gawks at a shirtless neighbour while he mows the lawn.

In the end when it is discovered that Carly’s love interest is gay, she is quite surprised. This comical twist is more complex than it appears though, as it hints at the homosexual ‘male gaze’ – which is almost non-existent in mainstream Pop music.

In Conclusion

It is clear that there are music videos which objectify the male form and represent the ‘female gaze’, however as it stands, they are considerably less than those that objectify women.

Objectify Me from Behind

“Sex sells”. We’ve heard it over and over again. Apart from advertising, nowhere else does this phrase ring truer, than when it comes to music videos.

Google “female objectification in music videos”, and you’ll receive a plethora of links, ranging from the serious scientific surveys to the more playful ‘list of the sexiest female videos of all time’. Two of the links which caught my eye are a scientific study and one which speaks about empowerment in female music videos.

The study reveals the whole “watch violence on TV and you’ll become violent” conclusion. It was discovered that young men who watched music videos of highly objectified woman, tended to have antagonistic sexual beliefs and more acceptance of interpersonal violence.

The post on empowerment is interesting, in that it puts a positive spin on female objectification and sexuality in music videos. It states that the depiction of this can be a means of deriving power. Four subsets are identified, power in:

  • Vulnerability
  • Sexuality
  • Self-assertion
  • Message

These four subsets can overlap depending on the particular video and artist in question. Moreover, this way of looking at music videos is more meaningful than simply resorting to – “she wanted to be sexy”.

If “a picture is worth a thousand words” then a Gif is worth more. So, before we get to the videos, let’s look at ‘female objectification in music videos’ in Gifs.

Lesson in angles – Partition

Secret handshake – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Objectify me from behind – Blurred Lines

Red-light district – Bandz a Make Her Dance

Strapped in – Lay it on Me

Pow! – Love Sex Magic

Music Videos

Partition – Beyoncé

Said by Beyoncé herself, “If you got it, flaunt it” (Check On it).

Strangely, I feel the overt eroticism in this video is acceptable. I guess because of Beyoncé’s age and the fact that the ‘male gaze’ in the video is that of her husband.

Can’t Remember to Forget You – Shakira ft. Rihanna

I echo the views of certain YouTube commenters: “this video is the closest you can get to porn – without it being porn”. Don’t get me wrong. It is a beautiful music video, with the opulent mansion and that bed. Those black and white stripes make for a beautiful composition.

(Music) stars and stripes

Did I forget to mention, the video also features Shakira and Rihanna showing off their assets… financial assets I mean. What with that mansion and what not…

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke ft. T.I & Pharrell

A post on “female objectification in music videos” will not be complete without mentioning Blurred Lines.

The whole saga which followed its release – the video being banned in places and having Feminists up in arms – proves that there is a line, which this video and its accompanying lyrics crossed.

Bandz a Make Her Dance – Juicy J ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz

This video represents women as moving ornaments to look at. It pushes the boundaries of objectification, by depicting women as strippers.

It’s quite sad that as a society we have come to expect this of Hip-Hop and R&B music videos.

Lay It on Me – Kelly Rowland ft. Big Sean

In this video Kelly uses her sexuality to gain power – she sits on a chaise longue made of men, if that isn’t power…

Chaise longue of men

The depiction of male objectification in Lay it on Me cannot be ignored. It is a major part of the video. It will be dealt with in the next post.

Love Sex Magic – Ciara ft. Justin Timberlake

Ciara’s music videos are known to be quite sexual; Love Sex Magic is no exception.

Her wardrobe, dancing and interactions with Justin Timberlake clearly mark this as a video which serves the ‘male gaze’.

In Conclusion

“Sex sold”, “sex sells” and for the foreseeable future I say “sex will sell”. However, the boundaries and limitations of this, is constantly being tested and shifting.

This range of videos shows the extent to which “sex” has permeated the Pop music industry. Today it is difficult to imagine this industry existing without it.

Notable Mentions

Caged: Savage Female Sexuality

Leopard behind bars – Partition

Tigress in heat – Love Sex Magic

The “O Face”

Bey“O”ncé – Partition

Rih“O”nna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Innuendo

Insert Freud’s phallic theories here — Can’t Remember to Forget You

Stroking her p****cat – Bandz a make Her Dance

Playing with his slinky – Lay it on Me

He has a big… trunk – Lay it on Me

Moving Pictures: Lana Del Rey

To celebrities and anyone in the public eye – “Image is everything”. This has never been truer than in today’s world. What with social networking and the omnipresent, all-powerful media.

Regarding recording artists, music videos are one of the major ways they are represented and depicted. Music videos are able to define an artist and characterise them in a certain manner. This depiction is not influenced by online opinions or what the media decides to portray.

In my opinion, the music videos of singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, all deserve to be individually analysed and discussed, as each is complex – in terms of visuals, narrative, symbolism and so much more. However, for the sake of comparison and general study, this post is concerned with six of her most popular music videos:

• Video Games
• Born to Die
• Blue Jeans
• Summertime Sadness
• National Anthem
• Young and Beautiful

Video Games

 

Directed and edited by Lana Del Rey herself, this video is a mixture of her singing into the camera and clips of archive footage. Wearing little make-up, she sings sombrely into the camera with her hair worn casually down.

Many of the clips interspersed throughout the video have an aged appearance. The footage seems to flow with a natural narrative, as certain clips carry throughout the video. Images of Americana, old Hollywood and summertime can be seen.

The video conveys a sense of care-free summer love and joy. Yet, it also comments on the ‘darker’ side of fame and Hollywood as the paparazzi feature greatly in the video.

Born to Die

 

Beginning and ending with Lana Del Rey and her punk lover standing naked before an American flag, this video tells the story of a couple’s road to death.

Lana, flanked by tigers, sings in a grand cathedral. Images of death are found throughout the video, Lana and her lover gesture ‘throat slitting’ and to the end her lover stands with her bloody, lifeless body in his arms.

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Bloody death

The video speaks of enjoying life while one can, as everyone dies eventually.

Blue Jeans

 

Featuring the same punk lover as in Born to Die, this video, shot in black and white, depicts the ending of a relationship. A pool is the major motif with the lovers moving through the water surrounded by crocodiles.
The video contains themes of ‘life’, including: sex (fellatio), religion (baptism) and death (drowning).

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Sexual innuendo

In the video the crocodiles symbolise the potential dangers of the relationship and Lana’s death by drowning, represents the end of it. However, the punk lover once again supports her lifeless body, conveying the love he had for her.

Summertime Sadness

 

This video, with an aged appearance, depicts the love between two friends. It is also concerned with death.

After the suicide of her friend Lana expresses sadness, and as a result takes her own life as well. An image of Jesus on the cross parallels the pose Lana has when jumping to her death, implying the sacrifice she makes.

The video ends with Lana walking towards the camera with her ‘spirit’ alongside her.

National Anthem

 

The video tells the story of JFK’s assassination and the relationship he and his wife had. Lana plays Jackie O and the president is played by rapper, A$AP Rocky. Central to the video is a day at the family’s beach house, with depictions of parties and intimate moments between Lana and the president.

The video depicts a loving family who seem to have it all. However, this is shattered by the president’s assassination. Thereafter, Lana is lonely, stating – “I need somebody to hold me”.

The video ends with eternal love. The president is dead, but Lana says, “And I still love him, I love him”.

Young and Beautiful

 

The song and video asks the question, whether love remains after youth and beauty fades.

Lana is shown walking towards multiple mirrors, which towards the end fade in the light, implying the mortality of beauty. Shots of a conductor leading his orchestra are also to be found in the video.

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Reflected beauty

The video demonstrates a beautiful use of light and shadow. The light which falls on the orchestra varies, it’s red in parts and blue in others; the moving shadows of orchestra members are also shown.

Thread

Throughout this range of music videos, common motifs and images come up. Examples include:

The American flag:
• Video Games
• Born to Die
• National Anthem

Wild animals:
• Born to Die (tigers)
• Blue Jeans (crocodiles)
• National Anthem (a lion rug)

Aged appearance of videos:
• Video Games
• Summertime Sadness
• National Anthem
• Young and Beautiful

These videos all serve to characterise Lana as unique, compared to most pop artists in the music industry. With her old Hollywood and Americana appeal Lana Del Rey is an alternative singer who – based on her music videos – is deserving of the title ‘artist’.

Liberated ‘Freedom’

Analyses always reveal information not easily tangible at first glance. Like any film, music videos also hold a wealth of information. Within the fusion of visuals and sounds – characters are created, narratives developed, themes expressed, and so much more.

Personally, I view music videos as films – very short ones at that. Similar to film, “good” music videos exist and by this principle, “bad” ones too. The “good” ones are usually what become classics and in the fast paced industry of pop music, a video is often deemed classic within two to three years after its release.

In my mind, Freedom by Nicki Minaj is one of these classics. Released in November of 2012, the video is a mere 16-months-old. The imagery and mood of the video defy expectations. Usually Nicki’s videos are brightly coloured and undoubtedly “poppy”. However, Freedom has an air of mystery and dark romance, and includes visuals with great symbolic value.

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Nicki’s usual aesthetic (Starships)

 

Directed by Colin Tilley, a man who has written and directed videos for artists such as Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Kelly Rowland – Freedom portrays Nicki Minaj’s rise to the upper echelons of the music industry and suggests the creative and – dare I say – financial freedom granted by this ascent.

Thematically, Freedom has the concept of – you guessed it – freedom as its focus. However, the video also deals with themes of progression, power and self-reflexivity. The lyrics and imagery of the video serve as the primary communicators of these themes, with cinematography and editing merely strengthening the already established ideas.

The video is shot in black and white and only transitions to colour in the second half. This very noticeable transformation signals change and progression. As “real-world” references are found throughout the video’s lyrics, the progression is symbolic of Nicki’s rise and overnight success. The video opens and closes with shots of a flight of stairs, this blatantly expresses upward movement and therefore, Nicki’s success.

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Ascent to greatness

The video places great emphasis on religious imagery – more specifically, on imagery relating to Christianity. Early in the video’s progression, Nicki stands in front of an unfinished representation of Noah’s Ark, while wearing a headpiece which bears a striking resemblance to a crown of thorns, we are also shown a cross with a set of keys around it. These religious symbols liken Nicki to a god, implying that she is powerful. The lyrics preceding the shot of the cross and keys – “They’ll never thank me for opening doors/ But they ain’t even thank Jesus when he died on the cross” – clearly likens Nicki to Jesus. She has opened doors for other artists (represented by the keys) with her radical style of Hip-Hop. Through her actions, others benefit – just as sinners reaped the rewards when Jesus was crucified.

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Noah’s Ark and a Crown of Thorns

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The Cross with a set of keys

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The set of keys

Early in the video as the first chorus begins, a majestic eagle takes flight. Exemplifying what freedom is. The price of this freedom is also suggested within the video. Large gears are given prominence, by zooming in on them. These gears symbolise the effort Nicki had to put in to achieve what she has. The theme of power is also significant in Freedom, conspicuously suggested by shots of Nicki wearing a regal crown and of her sitting on a throne. Her power is also conveyed in more subtle manners, such as by using shots of nature in action, like powerful crashing waves. The theme of self-reflexivity is mainly present within the lyrics when Nicki asks, “Mirror, mirror … What you hiding from?”

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A majestic eagle in flight

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Gears of effort

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Regal Nicki

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On the throne

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The power of Nature… and Nicki

An analysis of Freedom reveals the power and liberty that Nicki Minaj possesses as one of the most prominent artists in contemporary music. Through its lyrics, palpable symbolism and subtle messages Freedom successfully conveys emancipation and supremacy.