There’s no denying that music influences culture. On a personal level, music can connect emotionally with a listener. A music video can further reinforce that bond by taking a disembodied song and tying it to an artist or band. The same video can affect fashion and dance trends and a make political statement. Music videos have kick-started director’s careers and broken the YouTube view counter. And in so many ways, music videos have influenced and inspired the video and film industry.
From MTV and MuchMusic to YouTube and Vemo
MTV launched on August 1, 1981 as a 24/7 music video channel. But there was one problem: inventory. Since there were so few music videos available, and most were from Europe, MTV had to go to music labels and ask them to make videos. In exchange, they offered to provide free exposure for bands. Using the same model, MuchMusic (now Much) launched in Canada in 1984. This was a successful format for over a decade.
Reality television took over in 1992 and MTV jumped on the bandwagon with shows like The Real World. On MTV and elsewhere, the popularity of music videos declined.
In 2005, along came YouTube. Then Vevo in 2009. Record companies made deals with both outfits regarding content. The music video had never disappeared, but these deals ushered in a resurgence.
Videos that Left a Mark
A 2015 survey showed that millennials watch more music videos than anything else online. We’ve seen that a video can contribute just as much to a song becoming a hit as the song itself. Here’s a brief list of some of the videos that had a lasting impact and why they made us sit up and take notice.
Thriller, 1982. When this video danced out of the graveyard fog thirty-six years ago, it was revolutionary. “Thriller” was a mini-movie helmed by film director John Landis that cost $500,000 to make. The video was thirteen minutes of highly produced choreography with a storyline. At half a million dollars, “Thriller” was about fifteen times more expensive than other productions. The video had an exclusive debut on MTV and an airing deal with the music video channel. The Thriller album, and the titular video, changed the music business.
Take on Me, 1985. A-ha’s catchy tune, sung in ever-higher notes by Norwegian frontman Morten Harket, was immortalized by the accompanying video. Using a technique called rotoscoping, the music video was truly a piece of art with line drawings that came to life. The video took four months to produce with more than 3,000 drawings.
Sledgehammer 1986. Peter Gabriel wowed and delighted music video lovers with this stop-motion piece of brilliance. Did you know “Sledgehammer” was created by the same company that went on to produce Wallace and Gromit?
Nothing Compares to You, 1990. This is the basic recipe for a winning video: a close-up of Sinead O’Connor’s expressive face emoting like crazy while she sings a beautiful song. It was simple but effective. The song already tugs on your heart strings and adding O’Connor’s hypnotic face brought all the feels. Fun fact: Prince wrote this song and first released it with his band The Family in 1985.
Her Morning Elegance, 2007. This incredible music video depicts a dreamscape created with stop-motion photography. The production used 2096 still images shot over 48 hours. It won a Grammy for “Best Short Form Music Video” and was screened at major short film festivals.
The One Moment, 2014. OK Go is a band known for making quirky, unique videos. Often, they’re done in one take and have intricate choreography. Remember their treadmill video for “Here it Goes Again”? For “The One Moment”, an elaborate set-up is over in less than five seconds. Thankfully, we also get to watch it in super slow motion so we can truly appreciate all that is happening.
Like a Rolling Stone, 2013. Bob Dylan’s Interactive Video version of his 1965 hit let the viewer choose their visual experience. Other artists also created interactive videos, including Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” performed in four-minute chunks around the world for twenty-four hours. Pharrell participated himself by performing the song every hour, on the hour.
Up and Up, 2015. From the first frame, this Coldplay video will mess with your mind. Turning perception on it’s head, eagles fly through water and cars drive on the rings around Saturn. It’s a wonder to behold and completely enthralling for 4:07.
Lemonade, 2016. Beyoncé dropped an entire album and an accompanying hour-long film with basically no warning. The album was available to stream on Tidal, but in Canada we didn’t have access to the accompanying video on HBO. The videos and songs were an intimate look into the life of Queen Bey and her politics. Cameos abounded.
This is America, 2018. Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, released one of this year’s most jarring and talked-about videos. The first viewing will leave you wide-eyed at the juxtaposition of pop culture and violent imagery. Only after watching the video countless times and reading various analyses will the scope of what’s being said and shown come to light. As a commentary on the current state of being black in America, it’s pretty bleak. The lyrics of this song are forceful, but consider whether “This is America” would have had the same reaction without the video.
We Have Music Video Experience
Key West Video has produced music videos for acts from rock bands to opera singers. If you’re interested in talking to us about your music video, give us a call today.