Tales from a Music Videophile


Wishful thinking.

Critics try to make sense out of film. I spend more time trying to understand music videos. On a good day I could take in all the playlists on Music Choice on Demand, while I gorge on concessions from my refrigerator and veg out. The experience of going to the movies is recreated on my sofa. That would include hopping into mulitple theaters, which I equate to channel surfing between Music Choice and MTV’s Young Flashy and Fly—one of the perks of having Time Warner Cable. This kind of greed is great. And the buck doesn’t stop there. The Internet’s selection of videos is the closest thing to infinite bliss. By the end of my marathon, I could probably count on both hands how many times I’ve blinked. The next step is to take all that my eyeballs have absorbed so that I can reinterpret the video treatments on Twitter. I might be one of the few nerds in the Twitter-verse, waxing about rap and R&B music videos. Does no one get as excited as I do?

I’ll start by saying long form music videos like “Thriller” and “Trapped in the Closet” belong on my greatest of all-time list. Not this time. They just don’t deserve to stand on the same playing field as traditional videos that run under 4 minutes. This would be why the Grammy’s gave long form music videos their own category, which they don’t televise. In most cases, the best long form videos redefined the medium. The shorter videos can stretch the imagination of the artist and producer’s vision just as much as the cinematic ones do. Kanye West, a reigning muse for camera operators, is an anomoly to his visual creations. He’s already interpreted “All of the Lights” twice—once through a snippet in his Runaway feature, and a follow-up video also directed by Hype Williams. They both represent the spoils of pop life under the spotlight of celebrity. The song paints the metaphor for success, yet in real life, his art was contrasted by an uproar for the video’s potential to induce seizures. If bad news were a mosquito, it was attracted to the buzzing black light of Kanye’s recent work, also criticized for being influenced by the opening credits of Gaspar Noe’s film, Enter the Void. From Kanye’s consistent reputation to out-do himself, there has to be another video in the queue for “All of the Lights” now that a remix is on the horizon. Remember how many videos there were for “Jesus Walks”? Maybe you stopped counting after the second take. But the answer is three. It’s great work like Kanye’s that yield some of my most complex responses to what they mean in the grand scheme of artistry and trends in the music industry. Sure his videos speak for themselves in their impact in the mainstream. Here are a five others that needed a little more explanation.

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