Prater: What’s music got to do with it?

Nia Prater

Nia PraterWhether it’s the dancing antics of “Gangnam Style” or the cultural controversy of Selena Gomez’s “Come and Get It,” there’s always that one music video that has everyone talking.

But in the age of YouTube, are music videos becoming less about the songs and their message and more about the artist themselves? When was the last time a video actually had something to do with the song?

A good example of this new trend is “Wrecking Ball,” the latest single from former Disney star Miley Cyrus. “Wrecking Ball” is an emotional song about putting your all into a relationship that just isn’t going anywhere. And the start of the video looks like it’s going to be in the same vein, opening with a tight shot on Cyrus’ teary face as she sings.

However, that quickly changes as Cyrus takes the opportunity to make the video into a loud declaration of “I’m an adult,” and the video soon veers into strange territory. Scantily clad, licking sledgehammers and all, it seems like we’ve gotten lost somewhere.

Truth be told, the song isn’t the greatest, but honestly, listeners can hardly focus on the song at all.  If it wasn’t for a very much unclothed Cyrus on top of a swinging wrecking ball, they might’ve forgotten the name of the song entirely.

Without fail, “Wrecking Ball” topped the news everywhere, but not for a musical reason. Sure, music videos were always a promotional tool for the artist, but now it just feels blatant.

Besides the product placement for car companies and soda brands that exist, the main brand that videos advertise now is the artist.  Remember the annoying “#THICKE” that flashed across the screen of Robin Thicke’s infamous “Blurred Lines” video? It’s unclear how many viewers actually took advantage of that hashtag on Twitter, but evidently someone wanted people to remember his name.

Another trend that’s been everywhere recently is the viral video. Perhaps the artist isn’t that well-known, but in their latest video, they do something so unique that everyone feels the need to watch it multiple times and send it to all of their friends.

OK Go’s treadmill dance in “Here It Goes Again” is a great example of that. The song wasn’t exactly the strongest, but the video was pretty unforgettable. The music video’s popularity even had the band performing their routine on award shows.

A more current proponent of this idea would be Norwegian comedy group Ylvis.  Essentially unheard of in the U.S., Ylvis recently released a video for its song “The Fox” on YouTube in order to promote the new season of their TV show, and it spread.

The song is sung seriously, with the lead vocalist seemingly pondering the different sounds that animals make. Think of a less clever “Flight of the Conchords” and listeners might have some idea.  Calling the song and its associated video absurd would be putting it far too lightly, but the idea sure is working.

Posted on Sept. 3, the video already has amassed more than 36 million views on YouTube. The novelty will most likely die down within a week or so, but it shows how a ridiculous concept can attract audiences.  They definitely weren’t tuning in for the musicality.

Of course, there are some music videos that are just silly. (See David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street.”) But now, in the age of the viral video, it’s hard to tell what ideas are genuine quirkiness and what was developed to sell. But perhaps this is good news for the musician.

Nia Prater can be reached at nia.prater@temple.edu.

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