Kygo and Selena Gomez bring it with IT AIN’T ME

As I drive MANY MILES each day, and listen to this thing they used to call the radios, it’s like a blind taste-test for music. You usually don’t know the name of the singer or band, so your reactions are honest.

My reaction to this song on the radio was “play that again.” Put a gun to my head and I would’ve sworn this was some kind of European electro-dance thing, and the singer was maybe somebody like Ellie Goulding.

So it was a shock to learn Selena Gomez sings it. It’s a cut off the new album by Kygo, a Norwegian musical genius.

Let’s take apart why the video works so well with the song.

You care, right away

The trouble with most of music videos is there’s no attempt at making us feel, because the musicians are too busy trying to look cool, tough, rich and/or glamorous while singing about themselves. Nothing is really at stake and there’s no story told, so there’s no reason for the audience to care. It’s just a song, no matter how much gets spent on directors, dancers and the set.

This video has two characters you can relate two, right off, and an actual story with real stakes. You feel bad for this young man in a coma after the motorcycle crash, and you sympathize with the young woman sticking by his side at the hospital. You want him to be OK and for them to be together again.

The inner POV is trippy and beautiful

Loved it when the video switches to the point of view of the man in a coma.

They got truly creative with what it might be like to be trapped in your own body, aware but not awake. The lighting and effects are creative and well done. Impressive.

Genuine setups and payoffs leading to a beautiful ending

There’s a real sense of joy when she starts dancing and puts the headphones on her boyfriend. There’s a contagious sense of joy when she dances in spite of the situation. You can see in his inner POV that he hears the music, that he’s dancing, too, giving you hope that maybe he’ll make it and wake up.

It’s a great bit if storytelling with song that builds up to a classic closing image of him opening his eyes.

 

One final note about the costumes: this is the opposite of most videos, where singers try to show off insane outfits or as much skin as possible. They use crazy costumes for the inner POV sequences, which fits, then everyday outfits for the real life scenes. I was far more impressed with the simple joy of a singer rocking out in T-shirt and jeans, in this video, than all fancy choreography, skimpy costumes and backup dancers you find in other videos. Well done.

Verdict:

A creative music video with a great song and an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. The dream sequences are a special bonus.

TL;DR: I have seen many, many music videos, and this one is special. 10/10 would watch again.

 

 

SALUT SALON gives us a musical clinic and a giant dose of joy

Who says classic music is boring?

These four women prove that technical talent can combine with humor. They could’ve played this normally, and nobody but music professors would care about the difference in the quality of the music. This way is just far, far more entertaining for the audience. And for the musicians, too.

I’d bet my house those smiles aren’t fake. Not a bit. These four musicians are clearly having a blast goofing off like this. Their joy is contagious.

Good on you, Salut Salon–thanks for being this creative and having the guts to be silly in a serious business.

Taking apart the expensive disaster of LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO by Taylor Swift

I come here to praise Taylor Swift, not to bury her CGI zombie corpse.

Though I’m neither superfan nor hater, I have to say she did some great music videos early in her career. YOU BELONG TO ME is excellent. BACK TO DECEMBER is pretty good.

This music video is a step backward, an expensive mess that shows T-Swift has fully evolved from a Scrappy Young Talent Who Just Hit It Big all the way to a Establishment Megastar With More Mansions Than She Can Remember.

Yes, the production values are great. Fans will watch the heck out of this just for the spectacle.

HOWEVER: It doesn’t make you feel anything.

At all.

And that’s the acid test for a music video.

Do you laugh?

Do you feel joy, or anger?

Do you cry?

That’s because whether you intend to or not, every song tells a story. A music video is supposed to help tell that story.

Songs don’t give you a lot of words to do the job. It takes discipline and talent to do it right. 

The Dixie Chicks can spend 200 words to tell a full story that makes you full of sorrow (TRAVELING SOLDIER) or righteously angry (GOODBYE, EARL).

Taylor can do this, too. She has the talent to tell a story and make you feel. One of her first big hits did this perfectly. It’s even in the title.

Here’s where this new video goes wrong, despite all the money spent–reportedly, $12 million in diamonds was used for that bath scene.

What story is she telling, and how does it make us feel?

In her best songs and videos, Taylor’s telling a story about somebody else, somebody we can all relate to, and that makes us feel for the protag. YOU BELONG TO ME is about a high school girl, something of a loser, with a crush on a neighbor boy. People get that. Whether you’re male or female, we’ve all been through awkward years in junior high or high school. It’s easy to feel for the girl she’s singing about, and to root for that underdog. You want her to get the boy and it’s a great moment when they both show up to the dance together.

In this video, Taylor’s clearly talking about herself, and the point of the song is to strike back at perceived rivals.

It’s hard for non-billionaires to feel sympathy for celebrities with hurt feelings. No matter how good the song is (and it’s not that good compared to her best) and how much they spent making this video, you can’t force people to feel sorry for a young, pretty woman who makes more money in a week than most people will make in their lifetime.

What are the stakes?

 

Just like books and movies, songs can have low stakes or high stakes, personal stakes and public stakes.

They can be about whether love rules the day or love forever lost. War or peace, injustice or redemption.

The stakes here are extremely low. Oh, Taylor is so upset (at Katy Perry or whoever, I honestly don’t care and neither should you) that she crashed a car that costs more than your house while a a cheetah served as her copilot. With her car trashed, will she be unable to get to work in the morning and lose her job? Does it matter in the slightest? No. She may have to tell her staff to gas up the Ferrari, or the Bentley, or one of however many dozen cars she owns. People will clean up the mess while she goes off and trashes one of her jets and rounds up an army of cloned robots or whatever to assault the compound of P-Diddy or whoever she’s mad at this week.

Basically, I can’t make myself care, and yes, I tried. Really hard.

What’s the impact of the song and video?

The best songs and music videos stick with you. AMERICAN PIE was about an entire era, and half the fun was trying to decipher the lyrics. Even if you didn’t get every line, you got the message about how America was changing. It sticks with you.

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE is about love turning into obsession, and the video is stark black-and-white. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I first heard LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO on the radio, I swore it was Britney Spears.

Not kidding. Feels like mid-stage Britney, after she’d made it big, and started doing over-the-top stuff like this:

Verdict: Sure, the production values and budget is sky high, but the entertainment value is meh and the feels generated are zero. 10/10 would not watch again.

If the old Taylor Swift is dead, and the new T-Swift is busy being obsessed with her hurt feelings and celebrity beefs, let’s resurrect the old Taylor Swift–the one focused on songs that aren’t about her. I’d happily listen and watch that singer.

Carly Rae Jepsen + NIN = WIN

This is brilliant. Watch, then let’s chat about it.

So, I’ve grown up with music videos, with this thing in the ’80s and ’90s we called MTV playing them 24/7 before demented studio execs decided a channel devoted to music videos by the most talented singers and bands in the world made far, far too much sense.

Why not should switch gears and move away from that so-called entertainment? What does U2, Bruce Springsteen or Lady Gaga know about showing people a good time? Devote your airtime to human train wrecks with shows like Jersey Shore, where a grown man actually ordered pizza on the phone and, when asked for his name, told the pizza place it was “Situation.”

My favorite bit is the pizza man, Who Is Not Having It, giving post-post-modern MTV its first and last flirtation with what I like to call “the real world,” except not in capital letters because it isn’t a fake show with fake people in fake situations.

Therefore: hat tip to my sister for finding this, and kudos to the creative soul who took the time to stitch together this mashup of Carly Rae and NIN–this is an expertly timed masterpiece.

Well done. You have talent and a great ear for mixing two very different songs. Give us more, por favor.

RICO SUAVE by Gerardo shows the power of silly fun

A classic one-hit wonder, RICO SUAVE shows off the massive music-video firepower of being completely fun.

We’re not talking lyrics as literature here, and this music video isn’t amazing in any single area. Gerardo isn’t exactly Bruno Mars in terms of world-class singing, acting and dancing talent.

However: None of that matters, because the whole video is flat-out fun. He’s plenty good at dancing and truly talented when it comes to transmitting the emotion that, “I’m having a good time, and so should you.”

That’s a valuable skill when most rock, pop and rap stars are busy trying to look brooding, emo and/or tough.

Fun works. That’s what people want.

So here’s to you, Gerardo, who I see became and A & R exec at a record company. I still remember this video because it’s a classic four minutes and fifteen seconds of unfiltered joy.

The Avalanches get weird with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST

OK, I have seen music videos from around the world.

Mediocre videos of singers dancing around.

Miniature movies, with actual acting and production values.

And then there are videos like these that are just flat-out weird.

It’s interesting, but only in a “Let’s drink coffee at Denny’s until five in the morning with my friend who’s an art teacher and his girlfriend, the philosophy professor, as we try to divine the deeper meanings of this thing.”

I’m not sure there really is a deeper meaning to this video and song. But yeah, this one is different enough to be special.

The Hoff massacres HOOKED ON A FEELING

The ingredients to this do not bode well:

  1. A well-known, slightly annoying song even when it’s played correctly in trailers for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
  2. David Hasselhoff
  3. Some director who just discovered green screen effects and has spent all weekend teaching himself Adobe Premiere Pro

And yes, when you mix it all together, it looks and tastes like a dumpster fire.

A love of cheesiness and a lack of singing chops hasn’t stopped the Hoff from having an actual singing career in Germany.

No one understands how or why this has happened. Rock on, Deutschland.

Bonus: a live version with backup dancers who were not paid nearly enough money to participate.

Georgie Dann has talent, so why is PALOMA BLANCA so amazingly awful?

A big part of it has to be the actual talent on screen.

I’m not kidding. There’s wasted potential all over the place: the singer is obviously a pro, and it’s not his first rodeo. He’s smooth and good and the song isn’t terrible in itself.

The dancers are also clearly professionals hired to do a job, and they’ve rehearsed this thing. We’re not talking about an amateur singer who bribed in his cousin to shoot the thing on his camcorder while some neighbors dressed up and pretended to be backup dancers. Check out the costumes–they put time and money into this.

Topping it off: there’s some serious 1978 version of green screen special effects happening in the background during most of this video, and I can’t think of one use of the green screen thing that didn’t make things intensely weird.

So if you heard this song on the radio, now or back in 1978, you wouldn’t think much about it. Good voice, decent song.

It’s the visuals of this video that make it cray-cray.

My favorite is how the dancers really get into pretending to be a bird before they hopped on their bird motorcycle, put on a Fonz leather jacket and truly jumped the shark by throwing one of the dancers in the air, time after time, as he flaps his wings.

Verdict: I’ve seen this thing three times and it still makes me (a) laugh, (b) cringe and (c) wonder if Georgie Dann ever got a competent director for his stuff, because I bet he’d nail it.

Ed Sheeran gets his Fight Club on with SHAPE OF YOU

Unlike other pop stars who find a formula and stick with it, Ed Sheeran tends to experiment with his music videos.

He’s done every sort you could think of: concert footage, ballroom dancing videos, mini-films, mini-documentaries, the works.

PHOTOGRAPH, in particular, does a beautiful job of matching up home videos from when he’s young and older. Rewatch it and you’ll spot him wearing headphones (or a pirate costume) as a young pookie and again later when he’s a teenager or adult. That took time and effort.

This latest video is interesting. Some thoughts:

  1. Ed is realistically bad at boxing in the beginning, but he’s not over-acting here.¬†Good show, and it pays off later.
  2. Shocking number of tattoos. Had no idea.
  3. The female lead is clearly a great athlete and, it turns out, a good actor.
  4. Their meet-cute is nice, and the arc of their relationship, in just a few minutes of film, feels right. You want them to succeed as a couple.
  5. Ed clearly did serious time in the gym for this and really worked at boxing. You see it in the middle to end. Well played.
  6. The ending fight is goofy, but it works. And the closing image, of the woman doing a great leaping kick, rocks.

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5. Well done, start to finish.

How U2 turns WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME into an event and PR stunt

It’s a beautiful, timeless song–one of my all-time favorites–by a beautiful, timeless band.

And they way they released this video helped make them breakout stars.

So what’s unique about this music video?

There are three main forms in this genre: (1) backup dancers galore, (2) mini-movies and (3) “the band plays while cameras roll.” Filming a band as they play, in a studio or a concert, is the most basic type of music video.

What U2 did that made this video go viral was simple and elegant: make it real while making people curious.

With a dance video, you know what will happen: singing and dancing.

With a mini-movie, there’s a little story, but it won’t last more than 3 to 5 minutes, and you know that¬†nothing in the short bit of film will actually affect the real life of the singer and band members. There’s an extra layer of make-believe that creates distance. And there’s also the fact that few rock and pop stars are also great actors.

With “the band plays while cameras roll,” there’s a serious lack of surprise. They’re going to play a song you’ve heard on the radio. Maybe it’ll be in concert, maybe it’ll be lip-syncing on a Hollywood studio. That’s about it.

U2 created a public event–a free concert in a big city–and made you wonder: will the cops shut it down?

And you do wonder. It truly looks like the cops will shut this down.

This makes you root for the band. They’re trying to give fans something for free. People are coming from all over to listen while the police close in.

The structure of this lets this be a longer video, with more setup before the song, building up suspense before releasing it.

That’s what makes this so effective. There are heroes and villains, with the audience rooting for the band their fans against the authorities.

And nothing says rock-and-roll more than rebelling against the System with the amplifiers turned up to 11.

Verdict: I still listen to this song and have never gotten sick of it. Great band. Great song. Great video.

Housekeeping note: Redesigned the blog and went through just about every old post (400-some) to edit, improve or archive them. Shout if you have suggestions or ideas, and thanks for reading.