Some of you may know that I am an ardent enthusiast for music videos, perhaps to the point of annoyance, but they offer to me a perfect combination of imagery, music, and a showcase/representation of a band's attitude towards themselves and the rest of the world. They can be iconic, powerful, artsy, and (my favorite quality) downright fun. It is a thrill when a band or artist knows their place, is comfortable with themselves in the given video, and delivers a creative piece of magic that gives me chills.
However, whether or not the band is the centerpiece (some of my favorites don't show the band at all), the last call for arms for music videos as a respected medium is the director. Most artists will collaborate with the same director throughout their tenure of promoting their music through clips, such as Weezer and Beastie Boys with Spike Jonze, Bjork with Michel Gondry, and U2 with permanent visual artist Anton Corbijn. Much of the culture and reputation surrounding these groups owe a significant amount of thanks to the directors they've worked with, in establishing artistic statements for not only the director, but the performers as well. The right director can transcend the initial throwaway impression of music videos and create something truly original and memorable that lines up with any other field in the visual arts.
Once the director is chosen, and both the artist, director, and producer have a basic idea of how they want to convey the song, the real magic happens. They can approach the music and imagery pertaining to it in virtually limitless ways. Either present a framework of image or narrative that doesn't exactly match the music, or piece the images to rhythmically match the music. It doesn't necessarily have to be a cohesive fusion of imagery and sound, but when it's done right, it can be an exhilarating experience. I'll give examples of this juxtaposition as the series goes on, as well as the importance of iconicism and stark imagery. For now, ON TO VIDEO #1!
Korn - Freak on a Leash
Director -Todd McFarlane
I knew choosing this one right of the bat would either make or break it with anyone who read this. But hear me out.
This is my favorite music video of all time. I chose it to start the series hopefully to introduce my reasoning of enjoyment that music videos present to me, and explain enough so that you can appreciate it and hopefully enjoy it for the masterwork that it is.
The director, Todd McFarlane was known mainly as a cartoonist at the time and provides the stellar animation pieces that bookend the video (McFarlane also helped with animation on Pearl Jam's Do the Evolution video, one that will get it's own spot in the series). As a cop chases a mischievious little girl and accidentally lets a bullet go from his gun, the genius of the clip literally bursts through the fabric of the animated reality into a reality that is torn to shreads by the escaped bullet. The initial sensation of the bullet entering the real world is, of course, matched with the song kicking in, and blazes a stirring trail for the bullet's path, in which the trivialities and tropes of normal life (a bored kid's birthday party, a mother doing dishes, employees in a cafe line, etc) are decimated in slow motion by the bullet. Sure, the slow motion display of the bullet tearing through what seems to be conveniently placed items can be seen as gimmicky, but that sidesteps the symbolism of the bullet as a destructive, anxious force, escaped from the supposed freak.
The main star of this show, and the one that gives it its punch, is the editing. The way in which the scenes showing the bullet soaring matched with the relatively quiet verses creates an unsettling effect that explosively unfurls as the band launches into the chorus and immediately cuts to the band themselves; they are appropriately bouncy and energetic and longing to either escape or accept their place in the cage exponentially pierced by bullet holes.
This bullet infested cage also introduces another fantastic visual effect - the light coming through the holes creates a visually interesting space for the band to jump around it. Lighting in that sense can be a very simple tool, to prevent boredom, and the way the light bounces throughout the cage (helped by the revolving camera) is just pleasing to the eye.
No, I am not a fan of Korn. I am a fan of great visual art and I usually know when I see it. This video is an instance of music matching gracefully with an ingenius concept that has the possiblity of trancending pre-concieved notions of a band, and this sure as hell did.
Favorite Part: As the band breaks down into that silly beat-box goofiness, the bullet enters the cage and swoops around the band as they follow it with their eyes in confused but concerned expressions. It offers a little moment of profound flippancy and sets up the climactic return of the bullet to its weird animated realm.
Please comment and tell me if you're interested for more. I usually stop doing stuff like this after a while, but with at least some support and interest I will do my best to continue. Thanks!