Why Music Videos Are A Significant Art Form
Music videos are an art form that exist in order to promote and distribute the artist’s composition. They exist to entertain, to shock, to tease, and serve many other functions, but they exist separately from the original music. A hardcore fan of a producer may never see a producer's music video and still enjoy their music to its fullest potential. However, music videos succeed due to their ability to supplement music with an audiovisual experience unlike any other. The art of music videos is relatively young, as MTV, Michael Jackson and others gave fuel to the medium's fire decades ago. As electronic music has become more accepted in America over the past few years, the importance of music videos has grown as well.
A recent music video inspired this editorial, and it's important to use that video as a jumping-off point for this discussion. Savant released the album ZION, and to with it came a music video to his older track "Kali 47." A dubby electro track, "Kali 47" cleverly incorporates some musical notes that sound straight out of a Spaghetti Western film. The music video accompanying "Kali 47" follows this track excellently, depicting a western/steampunk saloon shootout that syncs to the melodies of the original song. Director Michael "Diva" Dahlquist and the artists provide plentiful effects to give the music video a professional aesthetic, complete with riveting fight sequences and a compelling narrative.
The "Kali 47" music video represents everything right with the music video form, adding to the material with a piece that exudes personality. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we encounter everything wrong with music videos. Unfortunately, these poor videos appear more frequently than quality videos, and one record label churns them out at an alarming rate. Spinnin' Records is a label with a firm grasp on the EDM market, yet a number of the label's videos fit a certain stereotype. To see this in action, watch the video to Martin Garrix and Afrojack's "Turn Up The Speakers" below:
The video immediately opens with an erotic shot. It segues into a poorly-constructed narrative of a woman's struggle to find a sound. It seems as if she's desperately trying to phase out the run-of-the-mill bigroom track accompanying her journey, but we later learn that she's actively seeking out the source of this music. The video then devolves into a series of oversexualized images, including cheap midriff, twerking and grinding shots to satisfy the male gaze. An LED hoop is throw in for good measure, and occasionally the viewer is reminded that Garrix and Afrojack produced the song with egregiously-edited cut-outs of Garrix's Ultra performance pasted on to random screens. Unlike the "Kali 47" video, this video's Youtube description fails to cite any director, producer or members of the production.
Music videos are assumed to follow the theme or mood of the music, and the viewer is left to think that "Turn Up The Speakers" is a song about amped-up parties with scantily-clad girls grinding on each other. The original song may not have much musical merit, but it certainly deserves a better video than the one Spinnin' cooked up. This trend of hyper-sexualized music videos for EDM songs grows by the minute, exampled again courtesy of Spinnin' with the R3HAB & KSHMR track "Karate'":
This video gets a few points for depicting women accomplishing some strong feats, but that idea immediately washes down the drain with an abhorrent shower scene. Spinnin' is not entirely to blame, are they? Not at all. Arguably the most successful producer on the planet, Calvin Harris phoned it in with his "Summer" music video:
This video demonstrates more overtly-sexual imagery, nonsensical plots, and even throws in tired driving and racing scenes. On the other end of the spectrum, EDM music videos become tour recap videos. These videos include very basic crowd shots, still and drab cinematography and follow no plot line whatsoever. These videos may please the introductory EDM fan, but a few festival runs later and these videos become very repetitive. The video to Garrix's collaboration with Jay Hardway, "Wizard", follows these tropes step-by-step:
Compare those videos to the Savant video, and try not to burst into tears. Luckily, many great electronic dance music videos exist out there. They just require a bit of sleuthing. The Feed Me and Kill The Noise collaboration "Far Away" received a fantastic video:
Like the Savant video, this video inspires artistry, following a coherent narrative and complementing the original song. More than likeky, this video may have taken longer to make than the poor aforementioned videos, and through this we learn of yet another problem occuring in the music video world. The music industry and its patrons now expect a music video to accompany big singles, and since EDM is dominatly a single-oriented a genre, music videos must be produced at a rapid pace. This could perhaps explain why Spinnin' and others resort to sloppy music videos. They're cheap, easy and check off all the boxes. This factory line model of the music video hinders its development as a medium, and music videos like the one pairing with Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" may soon be a memory lost in time.
Music videos strengthen a song in many significant ways. They give songs an image, some of which become iconic. They help fledgling directors get their start, such as Spike Jonze and David Fincher. They provide hardcore fans and curious witnessess a new perspective, offering a visual interpretation of a medium that exists by stimulating one sense. They give us a roadmap in helping us understand the lyrics, themes and ideas behind music. Music videos may seem expendable to some, but the impact of a great video can ultimately determine a song's longevity. What hope do we have if music videos are produced as if they were nuts and bolts, simple pieces to be arranged and displayed to satisfy consumer notions? Videos like Savant's gives the art form life, and we hope more producers, labels and industy executives take note.