Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two videos, two budgets, two outcomes

There's a temptation at the minute to feed all music writing through some sort of Michael Jackson filter - and I am about to succumb to it like a nymphomaniac in a massage parlour.

Despite what you think of the final years of bloated self-glorification, Jackson was a visionary artist in the way he married music and visuals, and essentially invented the modern music video.

This was both a blessing and a curse. The Thriller video was such an landmark that it was released as a standalone VHS tape (in the days before MTV, we used to rent it out every six months or so). But, while it was genuinely revolutionary and exciting, it also encouraged the record industry to view music as a commodity - which is the ultimate root of all the buisness's current problems.

Nowadays, a big-budget video is de rigeur if you want to announce your arrival as an "important" artist. It tells the programmers at Radio 1 and MTV to sit up and take notice. And it makes us, the consumers fans, feel good for supporting a shiny, attractive brand pop phenomenon.

What everyone seems to have missed is that the budget doesn't matter. Jackson's biggest video moments were, largely, about his genius as a performer. The bit everyone remembers in Thriller is one long, 40-second, single camera, locked-off shot of the choreography. Scream may be the most expensive video ever made at £7m, but the best moment is simplicity itself - the two Jackson siblings dancing in perfect unison (Janet is better, by the way. Mike lacks her fluidity by this point, his moves an exaggerated parody of that early nimble genuis).

The shopping list of megastar video must-haves - multiple sets, grand locations, designer clothes, designer sunglasses, pyrotechnics, CGI sequences - are essentially crutches. They can prop up a weak performer, but they're no subsitute for charisma and talent. That's why Beyoncé's ultra-cheap Single Ladies video became a cultural phenomenon, while the Black Eyed Peas frenzied CGI-fest on Boom Boom Pow is just so much fodder for MTV Hits.

Which, in an extremely roundabout way, brings me to the two videos at the bottom of this post, which serve as a miniature example of all that's been said above.

The first, for Mr Hudson's excellent Supernova single, is high on production values but ultimately soulless and throwaway. The second, by French DJ Martin Solveig and Dragonette, is charmingly camp and endlessly watchable, despite its obvious budgetary limitations (Jean Paul Gaultier costumes not withstanding) and a so-so song.

Neither is going to topple Jackson from iTunes video chart any time soon, but at least one of them has been paying attention to his legacy.

Mr Hudson ft Kanye West - Supernova

Martin Solveig & Dragonette - Boys and Girls

Labels: , , , , ,

<< Home

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage