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)  


Wow, it’s been awhile since the last post. But no time like the present to set things right!

Here’s something I noticed when I happened to be watching a recent re-run of The Blues Brothers. As with so many similarities when you catch them, you can help but be astonished by the connection and why you didn’t notice it sooner. So consider this one:

Frank Oz

Here is a shot of Frank Oz, actor/director and voice talent for many of Jim Henson’s creations, from about the late 1970s. He appears in The Blues Brothers as a prison guard. Now compare with this:

David Cross as Tobias Fünke

None other than David Cross in his Tobias Fünke role from Arrested Development. Now I have no idea if Mitch Hurwitz and David Cross had in mind to have Tobias look like an earlier Frank Oz, but still, it’s uncanny, no?

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 2:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Easter!

I hope everyone’s been enjoying their Easter weekend. Here, it was much the same as every year, having relatives over for the big feast and all. But there’s one thing I have to say about this time of year: hasn’t this become one of the most screwed-up holidays ever?

Now really, what does a rabbit have to do with anything surrounding the Crucifiction? To me, it’s always been about the corporate imagery, regardless of whether or not it started that way. Keep the kids identifying with some gift-bearing being of nebulous origins versus its real meaning, push the chocolate angle and we can turn this into another Christmas!

And really, you’d almost think that’s what is happening. I saw in a mall recently a line-up of kids waiting to get their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny. In the news recently was word of a school in Rhode Island, USA, where they’ve banned the Easter Bunny altogether because it was felt his religious symbolism was too strong. He has since been renamed Peter Rabbit.

Man, this is boggling my mind even whilst writing this. I think I need some more chocolate…

(For a real funny look at the Easter holiday involving a fish and Lincoln Logs, check out Bill Hicks’ Rant In E Minor.)

Published in: on April 9, 2007 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment