I pondered the idea of making a topical, socio-political blog post. Then I decided to talk about music videos instead. So this is a rumination: Emmy’s favorite music videos since ever. I like videos a lot, especially when they manage to just-right tag that blend of sound and motion that music is to me. Sometimes it’s like a good director can bottle what’s in my head, just for a moment, so other people can see it too, and it’s a delicious feeling. Was initially going to say that I like random image-piles rather than story-telling videos, but then realized that better than half of what I’ve got here are story-tellers, so maybe it’s the other way ‘round.
I started wondering if there were any significant similarities, so I pondered a little. So this is going to be one of those boring, Emmy-analyzes-something-it-likes-and-you’re-stuck-listening posts, kind of like watching someone else’s vacation videos.
Knorkator, “Buchstabe”: In which Knorkator is Knorkator. This one is enjoyable for the unscripted feel to it. It looks like they ended up making the video by using the outtakes of a studio session to produce a video with more of a concept and direction. For that, though, the editing is fantastic—things happen right in tune with just about every change in the music, and the raw feeling of it is a perfect highlight for Knorkator’s dangerously high “weird” level. High-energy song, high-energy hijinks. It fits.
Rick Springfield, “Rock of Life”: In which metaphorical tension is illustrated…with FIRE! Trivia: this one was directed by Alex Proyas, who later directed The Crow, Dark City and I, Robot. There’s a bit of tension in the song, but the video pushes that up to eleven, with slowly-rotating camera angles, slow-motion shots of a wide variety of characters intercut with normal-speed Rick Springfield as an invisible player, and a lot of snippets that aren’t quite vignettes, but almost all end in shit inexplicably exploding and bursting into flames around the characters, some of whom seem aware of it while others do not. Oh, the metaphor! And the visuals! There’s definitely a bit of small-scale explosion porn going on. But it meshes nicely with the music, with percussive visuals matching the drums throughout.
Skinny Puppy, “Pro-Test”: In which bridges are built through dance. There’s something delightful about genuine dance battles, and it’s even more delightful when it’s between two groups that traditionally don’t get along all so well. Also? Break-dancing goth kids. Talking about the video will spoil the best bit, but I’m going to do it anyway: when the alphagoff stops and slowly unzips his Lip Service/Tripp trenchcoat, drops it to the ground as if ready to kick some ass, them flings himself on to the cardboard and starts breakdancing, just as the lyrics kick in? Awesome moment, as well as a great departure from Skinny Puppy’s usual video fare. Unlike a lot of real breakdancing, the motions are synched up nicely with Skinny Puppy’s complex audio. Bonus ups to the girl doing handstands, the through-the-leg slide into an assisted flip, and the crump dancers. When all else fails, go tribal! Hey! You guys are pretty good! *WORRRRRD* And yes, if stompy industrial dance battles in the street were an available thing, I would have a Silly Club crew out every sunny weekend, looking to stomp the yard.
Chicago, “Stay the Night”: In which Peter Cetera is a casual hookup’s worst nightmare and learns that no means no. I don’t even like this song that much, but applying Hollywood car chase techniques to a video makes this one of the better ones out there. (Most hip-hop videos with cars in them? Suck.) There’s a way to make vehicular motion match the music and this video is kinda pitch-perfect that way. The police chase during the solo is the best; that really quick interior shot of her working the wheel through a tail-slide, the unstabilized wheel-level cameras (a trick they use to record rallies these days) and there’s that handbrake turn in the overflow reservoir, where the car kicks up on the slanted pavement, that’s just a perfectly-captured moment of automotive violence belying the deceptively graceful sweep of a spinning car. (As in, have you ever been in a car that’s spinning in a 180? It is a hellacious, ear-splitting ballet of mechanical things doing something that they DON’T WANT TO. It doesn’t sound or feel graceful at all. Kind of cool when it doesn’t look graceful either.)
Skrillex, “First of the Year”: In which a suspected pedophile meets an angry Exalt. This video captures the mood of the music really well, but also visualizes the almost unvisualizable noise that dubstep makes. Every note and sound has a corresponding motion or twitch in the video, which really brings the sensory overload aspect of Skrillex to life. And even as it does so, the bigger drops shake the very reality of the video’s world, just like they kinda do in our head when done properly. Also, how did that guy even survive that long? I figured she had jellied him the first time he hit the wall.
Ramona Falls, “I Say Fever”: In which a mysterious stranger pulls off a complex and surreal heist. The cut-paper animation is fancy, and the not-quite uncanny valley stilted motions fit the almost-awkward quiet part of the song. And then the shit hits the fan visually and musically, blurry motion matching that screaming guitar slide over and over. Also whoa metaphor with everyone’s animal natures revealed! Love it. In the second verse, the quiet-part of the music is a bit less stilted, more…full, maybe?–and that’s mirrored by the smoother, multi-layered motion as Our Hero rides through the woods. And then mirroring the last chaos-part, that switch to red strobes as she starts toward him, plus more Uncanny Valley motion? Seriously, if someone started walking toward us like that, with that look on their face, our first impulse would be to go for the gun too! Love the way that in an instant, the visuals communicate that multi-sense shift from uncertainty to SHE IS ABOUT TO FUCK YOU UP that you’d feel in a situation like that. Freeze-frame bonus at the end of that scene: Rabbit bravely unmasks…Wolf? Oh, dude, you’re so fucked.
MSI, “Shut Me Up”: In which a cashier has a bit of a meltdown. This one was directed by Jhonen Vasquez, which comes as absolutely no surprise. A very effective translation from comics to motion, this video comes off like a glimpse at reality through a JTHM filter. The longer it goes on, the weirder it gets. Again, though with the very precisely synched video and audio; all of the punctuation marks in the music have a matching image to go with them. The fish-eyed lip synching and floating phone are amusing too. Also, this is what being a cashier feels like sometimes.
OK Go, “Here It Goes Again”: In which exercise equipment becomes a means of choreography. That’s pretty much all there is to this one is ingenious choreography, but there’s a happy simple creativity to it that makes it a pretty delightful one to watch over and over.
Janet & Michael Jackson, “Scream”: In which the Jacksons combat ennui in space. This video seems to combine all of the things that made videos (and especially those by the various Jacksons) awesome, back in the day: exotic sets, well-synched visuals creating an excellent counterpart to the music, and unashamedly rock-solid synchronized dancing. The tension in the song is nicely acted out as well—you know Michael drops an f-bomb in this one, right? This video seems to be a very expensive way to say, “This. The sum total of all these things? This is what we are good at.”