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>

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

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  1. What’s the role of the music video in the process of discovering music (or, for the cynically-minded, marketing)? I remember there was a time when I would watch music videos to find new music that I liked. The video was an attention-grabber, and if the video drew you in, you listened to the song and were more likely, I assume, to buy the album.

    But I don’t do that anymore. And, judging by the content on music stations, neither do most people.

    So how are they consumed nowadays? Do people only watch videos of artists they happen to be interested in, and only when they browse that artist’s website? Or do they watch what gets pushed by msn.com or what ends up being popular on YouTube?

    I don’t know what role they play in the cycle now, but I’m willing to bet that their content and whatever artistic effort is still being put into videos is influenced by how they get to the fans.

    Still, food for thought.


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