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

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


(TBC) I've previously provided an extensive list of themes to consider, with notes on each of these. Having reviewed these, I've come up with a more streamlined list of 10, combining these and some additional aspects. These will help you evidence research/analysis/applied understanding of all 3 CIA (Conventions, Industry, Audience) and go a long way to preparing for your 4 evaluation Qs.

You can gather and build your research through any combination of posts so long as this eventually includes posts titled:
GENERAL CONVENTIONS1: Lyrics/visuals; Narrative 
GENERAL CONVENTIONS2: Genre characteristics
Intertextuality + postmodernism   
GENERAL CONVENTIONS5: Cinematography + Editing
GENERAL CONVENTIONS8Distribution, social
GENERAL CONVENTIONS9Branding/promo package 
That's 10 research themes. For each one you need to indicate ideas/aspects you've seen that might influence your work (and then sum this up).
1-5 are conventions focused (+ incorporate Goodwin's 6 conventions), 6-9 go further into industry and audience, and 10 is simply an overall summary of which points are more likely to be reflected in your idea.

You will have some posts, including from class and homework, on individual videos, titling like this:
GENERAL EG1Artist 'Track Title' (year) 
This phase of pre-production is to help inform your initial pitch development. You will repeat the process with a similar list for GENRE conventions research.

GENERAL CONVENTIONS1Lyrics/visuals; Narrative  
There are multiple sub-themes you should address - there is obvious overlap here with GC2:Genre Characteristics, where you'll detail how performance mise-en-scene signifies genre. You'll need to address all of this in your pitch, and for exam Q1B you need examples from existing texts as well as your own to discuss each topic, including Narrative. You should look for examples of the points/themes/theories below, BUT also analyse how common they actually are/n't.
GOODWIN1: LYRICS/VISUALS - illustrative, amplifying, contradicting/disjuncture
Andrew Goodwin set out a widely used definition of the music video format, identifying 6 common characteristics, 1 of which is a relationship between lyrics and visuals. This needn't be direct, literal - it can also be contradictory or disjuncture (ignores the lyrics). Look for clear examples of each approach. Illustrative is fairly direct visualisation of lyrical aspects; amplifying is the repeated use of these illustrations.
Like Frith (below) he was writing long before convergence had kicked in (Dancing in the Distraction Factory came out in 1992; he co-authored another 1990 book with Frith)

FRITH: concept, narrative, performance
Sociomusicologist Simon Frith [NB I've generally misspelt this as Firth] is a useful source; the short Wiki is worth a look. His most widely used theory is that m.vids come in 3 basic formats, with performance the most common.

He wrote this in 1988 (Music for Pleasure: Essays on the Sociology of Pop), since when the prominence and primacy of performance has definitely declined (see my John Moule overview), though remains a central ingredient of a typical rock video, and common in electro(nic) pop too. While Vernallis argues we simply cannot use the term narrative for such an elliptical format, he uses it to denote videos with a fairly clear narrative (not necessarily tied to lyrics), as opposed to looser, highly polysemic concept videos (especially common in dance, but can also be seen with rock bands like The Pixies and electronic pop acts like Depeche Mode).

This summary is brief and clear. You can read the intro to his 1988 book here. You can see some of his other books on Amazon.

Make sure you discuss which you think are most common - you should find its common to mix performance + narrative, though concept can be common in some genres.

This is an obvious one, but whatever you don't research + evidence simply means you're marked as being unaware of.

Don't just note the use of lip-synching, look more closely at how its mixed in with non-synching shots of the singer, giving examples of shot sequences including take lengths. Look out for examples of cutting to 'behind-the-scenes' or general playing around shots to break up the potential tedium of consistent lip-synching.

PROPPIAN ARCHETYPES + BINARY OPPOSITES: hero (protagonist); villain (antagonist); princess/prize, her father; helper; false hero; dispatcher; donor
If there is a narrative there will be a hero/protagonist: how is s/he/they anchored as such? Is there a basic binary with a villain/antagonist? Are other Proppian archetypes used? You should be able to find examples of each - but consider in your analysis how un/common it is to feature multiple/many/most Proppian archetypes in a music video (maybe Vernallis' insistence that music video cannot be considered to contain contain narrative is fair?).

Joseph Campbell argued that all narratives (thus the 'monomyth') feature a protagonist whose journey is the focus. Can you see this in all/most/some examples? (You can even narrow this down to specific stages - see Wiki) To what extent do we get a full Todorov narrative structure? Do we typically only get a disruption, discovery and attempt to reinstate the equilibrium (is there no clear new equilibrium)? Do you see closed (the conflict is resolved by the end) or open (cliff-hanger, polysemic) endings? The Pixies have good examples of both approaches.

Look closely at how enigma codes are used to draw audiences in and hook them, and, again, consider to what extent we are denied exposition/anchorage on some key aspects, reflecting the format's design for repeat viewing.

You could also consider using Kate Domaille's narrative categories:

  1. Achilles: The fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless, or almost flawless, person, e.g. Superman, Fatal Attraction.
  2. Candide: The indomitable hero who cannot be put down, e.g. Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky etc.
  3. Cinderella: The dream comes true, e.g. Pretty Woman.
  4. Circe: The Chase, the spider and the fly, the innocent and the victim e.g. The Terminator.
  5. Faust: Selling your soul to the devil may bring riches but eventually your soul belongs to him, e.g. Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street.
  6. Orpheus: The loss of something personal, the gift that is taken away, the tragedy of loss or the journey which follows the loss, e.g. The Sixth Sense, Born On the Fourth Of July.
  7. Romeo And Juliet: The love story, e.g. Titanic.
  8. Tristan and Iseult: The love triangle. Man loves woman…unfortunately one or both of them are  already spoken for, or a third party intervenes, e.g. Casablanca.

GENERAL CONVENTIONS2Genre characteristics
GOODWIN2: Genre signified [performance]
Goodwin put distinct genre signification at the core of his model, so look out for clear genre signifiers. This will most often, and at its simplest, come through performance footage: costume/make-up, dance/body language, focus (or not) on instruments and playing ability. At this stage, looking for general conventions, you shouldn't be focused on ONE genre - you're looking for examples that show this applies across multiple genres. You should also briefly note points here linked to pace and editing, + give more detail on theme5 below.

GENERAL CONVENTIONS3Intertextuality + postmodernism
You could base an entire exam Q1B Media Language answer around this.
GOODWIN3: Intertextuality
Goodwin noted the prevalence of intertextual references, not just to other videos but to TV, film and wider culture. You should see that music video is a highly postmodern form (intertextuality is one of the key characteristics of postmodernism).
When discussing intertextuality you must refer to Stuart Hall. 
I've highlighted intertextuality in many of my posts on video analysis, often aspects that a teen is unlikely to 'read' - just as importantly, you will spot intertextualities that simply aren't accessible to me! See my Fragma analysis for example.

Here's an excerpt from p.3 of the MANGeR pack:
The music video is noted for its postmodern style, especially borrowing widely not only from other videos but also from other media. Kristeva coined the term ‘intertextuality’ to denote the practice of utilising elements of other texts. Andrew Goodwin identifies this as one of the six core defining features of music videos. We can see this in any number of music videos, [EX. I’ve blogged on death metal band Morbid Angel’s “Existo Vulgare”, which is presented as a 1920s silent movie, a meme which the hit film “The Artist” helped spread. This is a great example of what Baudrillard terms a ‘simulacra’: a signifier of an existing signifier in an endless chain of signification with no ultimate, definable reality behind it. I’ve blogged on further examples of this: Rammstein’s “Sonne” which presents a bizarre deconstruction of the Snow White fairytale; Rage Against The Machine’s “Mein Land” in which they appear as Beach Boys-style surfers, etc etc. Famous directors Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze are both well known for this postmodern approach. Jonze’s “Buddy Holly” video has the band, Weezer, appearing as characters in the 70s sitcom Happy Days, which was a representation of the 1950s, a clear simulacra.].
See post on suggested books.
Your video will inevitably construct a simulacra, so its a useful concept to explore in general and genre examples. (Use my tag; here's an example post)

You can develop this further when focused on genre examples by analysing the concept of redundancy (exam pack p. 20). You could also tackle deconstructionism to be more sophisticated here - see my blogging on Depeche Mode's It's No Good. (In a nutshell, as Scream and Scary Movie did in film, a deconstructionist approach is using conventions in an ironic way, and assuming your audience has the knowledge to perceive the irony; you're exposing the workings of a format and critiquing these.)
If you want to explore pomo further, there are multiple books (including graphic books) in the Lib, and this post has multiple Ppts embedded.

This is a really key area to research and explore. You will eventually need to justify your own representations. Gender is the basic aspect to look at first, but, as with your AS exam, this goes further into age, sexuality, social class, other demographics (ethnicity, dis/ability, nationality), place and wider social/cultural issues. Goodwin reflects this in his model:
Goodwin4: Looking/voyeurism > Mulvey's male gaze
This is a rich field for analysis (including your exam and evaluation). While standards are changing, the focus on women's bodies remains very much mainstream, something I've frequently analysed and we'll explore in multiple lessons. Goodwin highlighted this and the wider notion of looking: use of mirrors/reflections, and specific examples like Guns n' Roses' singer Axl Rose looking at himself on TV in Welcome to the Jungle (and other, later videos sees him looking back at his younger self).

A post on a dance music vid which plainly objectifies
Be careful in discussing the male gaze, its easy to be over-simplistic. You don't use/apply the male gaze, its a means of critiquing the representations within them. Moreover, there are post-feminists who see Mulvey's third wave feminism as outmoded. Post-feminists argue Mulvey denies women agency; she assumed they were controlled, exploited by male managers etc for male visual pleasure, and didn't consider that women might use sexually provocative clothing, imagery and body language as a conscious means of expressing their own freedom rather than oppression.
I took a fresh look at the male gaze in music video examples here.
Critics increasingly discuss female gaze too, to denote focus on male bodies, with similar objectifying tactics such as lingering takes and framing body parts rather than focusing on the full person.

Either way, uses + gratifications is useful to bring in here.

Goodwin5: Focus on artist/brand image across range of vids
A development of observations on performance, do you we get clear focus on the artist (especially singer)? Denote shot types used to do this. Given the falling promo budgets as the disruption of digitisation makes monetising music challenging, many video producers won't shoot new performance footage to cut costs (transport, lodgings, make-up etc).

Consider why The Pixies often don't appear in their videos - why does Bagboy feature a male teen rather than their singer Black Francis (born 1965...)? Depeche Mode frequently featured the 'Bong' loudspeaker/hailer symbol in their early videos, and also used B+W and abstract French New Wave techniques in many of their videos, a distinctive brand image.

These are all further issues to consider and look for.
The Pixies' Bagboy and Megadeth's Wake Up Dead are 2 contrasting examples; the latter is literal (shows a 'gig' audience, but they're threatening, suffocating for the singer/band), the former metaphorical (the clothing of the boy signifies him as representing a younger Black Francis as well as the grungey audience, especially a younger fanbase they hope to tap into?).

Where you see gender or sexual identities being blurred, played with, that is a queer approach (refusing to accept those binaries; queerness and queering are also postmodern characteristics). Miley Cyrus is a complex but interesting example, Gago too, but there are much more straightforward examples (see tag). Don't forget Judith Butler's gender as performativity argument. From p.37 of your exam pack, written as if for an exam answer:
Queer theorist Judith Butler has written about how gender and sexual identities are wholly artificial constructs; concepts which do not have any objective meaning or exist in nature, but which we learn to perform through the reinforcement of acceptable, ‘normal’ behaviour through videos such as ours. We were aware of reflecting common stereotypes and encouraging such ‘performativity’ of gender, as Butler would put it, but felt that it was necessary to stay within the dominant discourse (as Fairclough would put it): we had fit within the expectations of the genre and our stated audience even if this meant being consciously heteronormative, and indirectly contributing to the hegemonic perception of homosexuals as 'the other'. This highlights that genre is more than a neutral means of categorising content. Daniel Chandler has also raised similar points, arguing that genre texts provide a “reading position” for audiences; embedded within texts are assumptions about the 'ideal reader', including their attitudes towards the subject matter and often their class, age, gender and ethnicity.

Normative, eg heteronormativity, is the binary of queering! You may observe a mix of both is common.

Is explicit content common? Can you reflect on the BBFC's voluntary scheme for age rating videos? Any examples of videos that have YouTube age requirements? When constructing your you need to think about anything that would prevent yours being shown on or shared by mainstream media outlets (smoking, boozing, sexual, swearing in lyrics, violence, anything generally that could lead to negative copycat behaviour).

Locations and mise-en-scene provide representation of place (including attempts to avoid any anchorage of location: in your case you need to consider things like street signs, anything with language or currency signs, car number plates...), and also reflect on aspects such as age too. This overlaps with genre: settings are a basic means of distinguishing genres.

GENERAL CONVENTIONS5Cinematography + editing

research. Link.


GENERAL CONVENTIONS8Distribution, social
research. Twitter (Bagboy). Media.

GENERAL CONVENTIONS9Branding/promo package


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