The Music Video: A Lament – Part II

Funny how once one gets going on a subject, suddenly it starts getting the thought processes going, thinking on the subject matter in new ways that weren’t realized before. That’s how it is often for me. And since I tend to write my posts here in an as-I-think-of-it matter, all sorts of ideas are bound to emerge merely as a result of writing. This is exactly what happened with me with the last post and is the whole reason why I’ve been thinking about the purpose of the music video for the last week or so! I guess the rant wasn’t finished after all…

I suppose if one goes back to the early 1980s and looks at the whole reason why MTV was created in the first place was to provide an outlet to get music exposed over TV in a way beyond just live performances. Music had been showcased as something near video format before the days of MTV by bands like the Police and even Bob Dylan, in his iconic “Subterranean Homesick Blues” montage. But now it was getting round-the-clock treatment in a way never seen before. Coupled with teen and celebrity culture to boot, it was a record label’s dream. Of course, this was back when the cable TV landscape (and I think it was the same in the US as it was here) was barely above a dozen channels. It was much easier to hold a viewer’s attention, to say nothing of the eventual emergence of the Internet.

Some interesting points were mentioned to me on this angle: if in fact this was the primary reason for the music video all along, then its decline as of late makes alot more sense. With the ascendance of other means of exposure, especially in the form of the mp3, the all-music channels were suddenly left in an untenable position. If they can’t hold the audiences like they used to, then the advertisers won’t be there like they used to either. So something’s gotta give. Ultimately, it meant that the more music-oriented programming slowly fell by the wayside to be replaced with programming that had very little to do with music at all, the wave of so-called “reality” TV. Now the networks like MTV and VH1 in the US, MuchMusic and M3 here are now shells of themselves, devoted to music in name only.

So where does that leave the music video? Despite the fact that its champion of so long has diminished a great deal, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. It just means that it’s had to adapt. DVD collections of music videos by various artists have proven popular, or even by certain directors, such as Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry. And now there’s YouTube, something that the labels have been using their advantage for awhile now.

So maybe it’s not an overall decline in the music video, it’s just that the delivery method has changed, which in itself is a major move. As Marshall McLuhan said: “The medium is the message.”

But I still think there’s room for videos on TV. After all, shouldn’t the music stations be about music?

More Favourites – I can’t believe I forgot to mention them in the last post on this topic, but Tool is another favourite maker of music videos. Adam Jones’s strange, other-worldly creations have been a favourite of mine since their beginning.

Sober (1994)

Stinkfist (1996)

And of course, there’s always the delightful weirdness of Peter Gabriel.

Sledgehammer (1986)

I give an Honourable Mention to Soundgarden’s “Burden In My Hand”. While it’s only the band walking through a desert, the cinematography is excellent.

Burden In My Hand (1996)

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Music Video: A Lament

Art and the music video: can they co-exist? I’ve always thought of them as being a perfect match, a visual accompaniment that can take the music in either a whole new direction or give it

But it seems now more than ever before that the music video simply exists to showcase the musician, what they’re wearing or some other product-placed schlock that turns it into a glorified commercial. (If you’ve seen Sting’s video for “Desert Rose”, you’ll know what I mean.) And this is if you actually can see a music video on MuchMusic or M3, now that they’ve almost been totally eliminated in favour of “reality” TV programming.

Now it’s debatable as to whether or not there ever was some ideal time period for the artistic music video, but it definitely seemed like even as short a time as a decade ago, that videos were getting a much more fair deal from their TV distributors. But is this more a symptom of the bands that exist than the environment itself? Well, that’ll be another rant for another time.

But I can certainly say that there have been a few that have stuck with me well after I had seen them on TV, and were really a treat for the senses. Here are some of my favourites of all time:

Radiohead – Pyramid Song (2001)

Live – Turn My Head (1997)

Sigur Rós – Track 1 (2001)

For me, these gave the song something even more than before, a new quality that hadn’t been before realised. Now of course it would be a bit much to expect such a quality all the time, but to see the whole art form in such a state as it is right now can be tough to take at times. Is it meant to be just another tool for marketers and promoters to sell their business and affix a dollar value to yet another element of this world? It sure seems that’s what the TV programmers and record labels think.

Thus I lament. </rant>

Published in: on March 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Singin’ the Alberta Blues

Well, so much for predictions…

I was one of many who was not expecting such a Tory sweep of the Ledge. At the very least, some modest gains on the part of the Opposition parties. But nothing. Even Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman got the boot. But there are a few reasons not to read too much into this massive win.

First off, one only has to look at the turnout for this election. Only 41% of the electorate even bothered to cast a ballot. 41%! That’s the lowest turnout in over 50 years! Can anyone say that this new government truly represents the people if this province? It gets worse when one considers that the Tories only won this overwhelming majority with a little over 50% of the popular vote. Which translates into support from a little over 20% from the total population. And they now hold 88% of the seats in the Legislature. Ridiculous. Fortunately, there is a solution, though it remains to be seen if the new government will even consider it.

And then there’s the issue of the Opposition. Wow. They had the perfect opportunity: a decrepit government led by an uncertain leader facing fallout from misdeed within their ranks and from their predecessor’s (in)action, coupled with a desire for change that comes after keeping the same party in power for 37 years! And they failed.  Miserably.  Thanks to having run such a lacklustre campaign that completely failed to capitalise on their adversary’s misfortune and inspire any passion whatsoever, they paid for it in fine form. No doubt a major reason why many stayed at home or simply endorsed the status quo.

And to top it off, the provincial election overseer did a fine job in getting things screwed up. Their less-than-informative website crashed prior to election day. Many were not informed at all as to where they were supposed to vote. And this is to say nothing about the case of a large number of returning officers having Tory connections.

Hardly a ringing endorsement of democracy, I’d say. But the bigger question remains: will anyone do anything to redress the vote-representation dischord and staggering voter apathy so that this doesn’t happen again? Somehow, I’m not optimistic…

Published in: on March 6, 2008 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment