Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Sunday, 6 November 2011

M.LANG: Focus on singer; CCTV style

The drummer's face is less important than his instrumental prowess. Note too the low-key lighting, customary for rock/Indie (glossy, high-key for pop)

Its one of the most immediately apparent Cs+Cs of m.vids: the focus on the lead singer, through frequency of shots plus framing. The Evanescence What You Want (embedded below, but you can also watch it sans ads at is a classic example:

Whilst we get a few shots (MS through to LS) interspersed of band members, often at high angles which obscure their faces and put the focus on their instruments, we never go more than a few seconds without seeing the singer, Amy Lee. She is mainly shown in CU to MS, though some LS included to highlight the band and the excited crowd, a key ingredient in many performance-centred vids.
Predominately CUs to MS of the singer, tho' some LS/MLS are framed to show aud/band
Fans + band both in shot, tho' note the central framing of Lee
The focus-on-singer is taken further by having the singer perform the fictional or dramatic role which we crosscut to; she's running (note the use of coloured contacts as a small but key component of mise-en-scene: this carries connotations of animal/beast, or supernatural) ... and that's pretty much it! This being an emo/goth/metal/Christian metal (there is debate over label applies!) band, moody night-time urban settings, including a bridge (connotations of depression, the suicide impulse?) are used. The band's music is mournful but aggressive, and many commentators would note that many forms of rock music carry out a cathartic function by speaking directly to (especially) teen/youth audiences about tough times and experiences; general alientaion, but doing so in a musical format that enables a physical release of pent-up emotions, and a sense of fellow-feeling/not being alone.
THEORY LINK: The Uses + Gratifications model; especially relevant to discussions of Audience
Band branding is a matter of balance though: a band who are exclusively linked to the image of a singer may suffer issues of credibility. So, while the looks and body of Amy Lee are clearly strongly highlighted throughout this vid, we do, towards the end, see the other band members briefly enter this fictional part of the vid (whether concept or narrative I couldn't say without studying the lyrics).
These sequences are linked by helicopter shots of a city at night: connotations of Gotham City?!

Another band whose vids showcase this tension between highlighting the most marketable component of the band whilst striving for the credibility so critical within the broad rock and Indie genres: Guns 'n' Roses. At their 80s/90s peak, every band member was world-famous, but now its become the sole property of the original singer, W. Axl Rose. Its fascinating to see how 'the band' came back into focus over the years as the marketeers tried to balance out the need to foreground Rose with the need to convince fans that this was a tight unit, a credible, authentic band. One of the iconic images of their ealrier period was of guitarist Slash guitar soloing on a mountain top, seen through a helicopter shot, part of what was then the most expensive music video ever made, November Rain - their videos had to reflect the exceptional fame and standing of the band members, not just the singer.

Heteronormative: crude male gaze
G'n'R are also a useful example of the second point: how 'looking' is handled in vids. Mostly we see a very direct gaze to camera, part of the mode of address making a direct link to the audience. But we also see this notion of looking deconstructed, often in quite a postmodern fashion. G'n'R's Welcome to the Jungle vid features Axl Rose playing himself getting off a bus in LA as a straw-chewing hick (reflecting his actual backstory) ... but he stops to look in the window of a TV store, where every TV is playing a video of ... Axl Rose, performing with G'n'R!

Thats Axl on the TVs...and Slash the passed-out bum outside!
Here, with the Evanescnce vid, we see another very common meme employed: much of the footage of Amy Lee running is distorted and rendered as CCTV. This clearly signifies the zeitgesit: 'we' (in the West) are accustomed to being tracked by cameras in much of our daily lives (there is CCTV in F6, the F-Hall etc!). This device carries connotations of criminality: through Crimewatch and the likes we associate CCTV with criminal behaviour. If you watch Misfits you'll have seen this used. BUT ... aren't there also connotations of the singer's feeling of claustophobia and pursuit at the hands of the very fans being targeted with this video?
ALWAYS  look out for and give consideration to the use of looking/gaze in any vid, including your own!!!

Here's an interesting example of how a vid can be used to signify the personal disclocation of a singer, through the prism of Beavis and Butthead...

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