“Ladies And Gentlemen, Rock And Roll”
Those were the official words spoken by John Lack, just before “Video Killed The Radio Star” by Buggles was played on MTV, way back on August the 1st, at 12:01am in 1981. Thus begun MTV’s successful but self-limiting career as a music video player, and on their first day they managed to play 87 music videos. Now this surprisingly is not a promotional piece about MTV, but rather an insight into why music videos are so closely intertwined with the history of music.
To begin with humans are very visual creatures. We see, we explore, we find, we search, we paint, we photograph, we create, we learn and most of all; we remember. When you think back to an event in your life, most often it ‘appears’ in your mind in bits and snippets of images, and you know these as memories. What is brilliant about music videos is that the format combines two out of our five prominent senses; sight and sound. When you watch a music video, as with anything; your brain encodes information from the senses that it receives from our eyes, our nose, our hands, our ears and our tongue. What the music video is essentially creating is a memory associated with that sound, so whenever you hear the music you might often think back to the video that went along with it. This is also true for advertisements on television and YouTube; the use of a jingle or catchy song combined with a product is merged together to form a link in your brain.
In saying this, music videos have a changed a lot in the last 30+ years; they have become more narrative. There are still performance based videos (where the music video is composed entirely of the band performing the song on instruments) and various concept and iconic dance videos, but narrative videos have certainly surged in popularity. In recent years, a multitude of bands and artists have made very short films that tie-in with the song, creating more emotional impact and response from people. A number of variations has also evolved from narrative music videos, such as shooting the video in first person.
As with reading a book before seeing the film, listening to a song then consequently watching the music video can often lead to confusion and bemusement; the video producer interpreted the song differently than you did in your head. It has also come to note that music videos often have no relation to the song whatsoever, leaving die-hard loyal fans angered and frustrated; but over a music video? Why?
I think it solely comes down to being that a band or solo artist is only ever heard on radio or through listening to songs personally; when a video is created they have a chance to show the world who they are, what they can do and if they choose to, whether they can perform live. There has also been many cases when the band or artist’s dance in a music video has been made iconic; think “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, and dare I say it, “Gangnam Style” by PSY. Below we’ve composed a list of 10 deliciously awesome narrative music videos, starting off with A-Ha’s “Take On Me”.
A-Ha – “Take On Me”
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Alt- J – “Breezeblock”
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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Same Love”
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Purity Ring – “Loftcries”
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Cinnamon Chasers – “Luv Deluxe”
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Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – “Into The Great Wide Open”
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Lucas Nord feat. Tove Lo – “Run On Love”
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Gwen Stefani – “Cool”
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Justin Timberlake – “What Goes Around…Comes Around”
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Lucy Schwartz – “Life In Letters”
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Our other posts on the topic of music can be found here.