Music videos

The rise of the ‘Dislike’ Button

In today’s world of online democracy, every voice counts. Whether you like or dislike something, your opinion is valuable. You have the right to hand out compliments and by the same token, you are able to dish out the most horrible, biting and seething insults.

With the presence of the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ buttons on YouTube, there is no need to leave a comment. With a simple click you are able to express your opinion of a video. Your opinion matters, because as we know the most popular videos are those with the most ‘likes’ and on YouTube popularity brings viewers and the more viewers the more money one makes through advertisements. Therefore, the opinions of viewers directly affect content creators.

This is no different with music videos. Viewers are able to say if they approve of a video or not, with no further explanation. Did you not like the theme of the video? Did you think it was too sexual? Were you bored by it? This doesn’t matter. If you disapprove of a video you are able to let the world know, by simply giving it a ‘thumbs’ down.

The manifestation of opinion can come in various forms, including, pressing the ‘like’ button, leaving a comment, flagging a video or sharing it with your friends. However, in my opinion, the epitome of judgement comes in the form of ‘reaction videos’.

The ‘reaction video’ takes the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ buttons to all new heights.

‘Reaction videos’ usually take on the format of ‘a camera pointed at someone’. A person will sit in front of a camera while they watch whatever video, their facial expressions and body language are recorded. Most ‘reaction videos’ include the person being recorded giving critique or complimenting the video being watched.

In the realm of music videos, ‘reaction videos’ are a common phenomenon. Naturally, these videos are quite bias in the opinions being expressed in them. Usually it involves a person watching a music video for the first time and giving their running commentary of it.

These kinds of videos are popular and ‘watchable’ as many YouTube viewers enjoy seeing other people’s opinions about a video, sometimes using other’s opinions to inform and help form their own.

Videos

Countless ‘reaction’ videos can be found on the web. They range from those shot in a bedroom with a simple webcam to those shot with professional cameras and lighting.

Here are only a few examples taken from YouTube.

I especially like ‘reaction videos’ by the Fine Brothers.

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The Best Form of Flattery

Fact: every music video has an average of five parodies made of it.

Well, maybe that’s not quite a fact, but if you search “music video parodies”, it would seem rather realistic. Almost every popular music video released today is parodied.

One could wonder why these parodies are made in the first place. Well, besides accruing money for its creators, through advertising on YouTube, I would say, that it serves as a creative outlet.

The individuals or bands of YouTubers who make these parodies flex their creative muscles. Some more than others, but that’s beside the point. Music video parodies use visuals similar to the original video, the basic ‘song’ accompanying the original video is used, with the exception of lyrics. Usually, lyrics are altered to suit the parody.

The changes to lyrics and quite often, the narrative of the original music video, subvert the intended message of the video. The parody, thus takes on a message of its own, while still relying on the message of the original.

The message in parodies usually revolves around some form of mocking of the artist of the original video or mocking of the original video itself. Thus, all parodies, with very little exception, are done in a humorous way. The humour used in parodies is a major tool in the subversion of the original, intended message.

The popularity of music video parodies is a result of their ‘watch-ability’, but why are these parodies watchable? First of all, like many videos which go viral, parodies rely on humour. Ironically, the popularity and ‘watch-ability’ of parodies is based on the original music video. If the music video a parody is based on goes viral or receives many views, odds are the parody would benefit from this, in terms of views.

Videos

There are countless music video parodies on YouTube and the internet, but I have to say that some are my favourites are those made by The Key of Awesome. Their parodies always have great production value and remain true to the original visually, while always subverting the intended message in some of the most creative ways. Here are just a few of their videos.

One of my all-time favourite music video parody moments is when James Franco and Seth Rogen took to parodying Kanye West’s Bound 2. Hi-la-rious…

Here’s the original, followed by the parody.

 

 

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.

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’.