Music Videos (Appreciation Post #7)

I had never heard of The Arctic Monkeys before I started using Pandora. I’m not sure what my “station” was that started peppering in their songs but this was before they released their album AM. This initial experience was an unpleasant one.

I’ve heard some of their earlier songs since spending time with AM and I’ve come to like them but none tickle my fancy as much as “Do I Wanna Know” or “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”.

When those songs were released I found myself driving around Plattsburgh, New York quite a bit, often at night and somehow they fit my mood. Upbeat tempos for rather sad songs. It was a bittersweet time for me and coming across AM did not feel accidental.

I’m including the music video for “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” because I think highly of the song. The video is so-so. I like the concept but I’m not so sure the execution takes it to a higher level. I think this could have been a much more interesting video, especially since I’ve seen many the band have made before and after this. They clearly work with talented people and like to make interesting videos.

I give them bonus points for beginning the video with “Do I Wanna Know” playing in the background.

Recently I’ve found myself listening to and watching their more recent work, in particular “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”. It’s an odd song, one that I disliked when I first heard it. One day I found myself singing it when washing the dishes and ever since  I’ve enjoyed it. They went in a unique direction for their video and I think it is worth watching.

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #6)

So pretty, so crazy.

Today I’d like to write about DJ Shadow – ‘Nobody Speak’. I can no longer remember how I came across this song, but I do know I heard it before I saw the video. I remember thinking, “These are just terrible lyrics.” I mean, truly terrible.

This is the opening –

Picture this
I’m a bag of dicks
Put me to your lips
I am sick
I will punch a baby bear in his shit
Give me lip
I’mma send you to the yard, get a stick, make a switch
I can end a conversation real quick

I’m sure there are plenty of people who would be quick to defend these lyrics but let’s be honest, Shakespeare this is not.

That being said the song has a good beat and I found myself tuning out the lyrics and dancing in my car when it came on. Eventually I saw the video and was deeply impressed. First off, the look. This video looks like a feature film, (I just looked at the Vimeo upload and the director confirmed it was shot on the Alexa Mini). It’s clean, and epic looking. The video is filled with beautiful close ups of different faces. The lighting is perfect. Even the sound before the song starts is big and overpowering. If you are curious about how the video was made I found a nice interview with the director here. 

As for story, not so much, diplomats trading insults until everything goes horribly wrong. My favorite moment is most likely the ending when the man is shamed by the woman who is cleaning. It’s a good video, a fun video and despite my feeling about the lyrics by Run the Jewels I think it works well.

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #5)

You know when a song is missing that something…but you don’t know what?

I’m blathering a bit about videos being fun or having a good look but I feel like I’m not saying much of substance. I recently heard ‘Dangerous’ by Big Data and found the groove working its was into my dreams. It’s not a great song. It’s one of those relentless songs that sticks with you precisely because it is missing something.

I’m not a musician so I can’t say for sure what that thing would be. It makes me think of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart hears the march Salieri has composed and sits to play it. While he plays the song he says, “It’s missing something, isn’t it?” and proceeds to noodle it out until he’s improved it. I feel ‘Dangerous’ could do with a bit of that.

A side note, what makes this scene great (instead of good) isn’t just the performance of Tom Hulce but the three actors Milos Forman cuts back to. In his commentary for the film he speaks at length about casting people with distinct faces and how he needed each person to stand out and be recognizable. Their reactions, which mirror our own, make this moment so perfect. If you haven’t seen Amadeus please do – although I would advise against watching the director’s cut. It’s a rare example of the theatrical being superior.

So, despite the song being flawed the music video is something special. The music video is comprised of a pitch session to make a music video and the video itself. Two men and a woman pitch a hyper sexualized and violent video to sell shoes. They intercut between the pitch session, the storyboards and the video itself. It’s weird and wonderful and features funny subtitles (which always makes me happy). And of course it has a larger message about advertising and music videos and our culture. It’s rather perfect.

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #3)

Story! Heart! Emotions!

Aside from a joke on Parks & Recreation I haven’t heard much said about The Lumineers. Which is strange because as far as “new” bands go they seem to be one of the better and more distinct ones to emerge (at least on my limited radar).

Full disclosure, I have not seen all of their videos (in particular The Ballad of Cleopatra -the run time always frightens me away). Like most people with ears I was taken with ‘Ho, Hey‘ as a song and seeing the video I was charmed. Such a simple, low budget work that makes my toes tap and my heart warm. They clearly had a good time and knew what they were about in making the video.

Which is why I was so surprised when I watched ‘Stubborn Love’ and found myself a blubbering mess at the end. I wasn’t familiar with the song when I watched the video and my unfamiliarity made the experience that much richer and more rewarding (I understand that I am robbing you of this, sorry!).

I’m a sucker for for story, even with music videos, and I think that is part of why I like this one so much. It’s dramatic but does not feel forced. It evokes memories of childhood for me, riding in the back of the car and being alone with my thoughts.

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #2)

A few words about ‘Little Black Submarines’ and why ‘Fever’ makes me itchy.

Today I’d like to write a little about The Black Keys. I feel funny because for the longest time I didn’t watch their music videos and they absolutely have one of my least favorite videos of recent memory (looking at you, ‘Fever‘, I know it’s mocking infomercials and televangelists – but I find it painful to watch). The music video for ‘Gold on the Ceiling‘ impresses me in terms of the editing and look (the guy in the cooler is a fun) as well as capturing the energy of the song.

‘Little Black Submarines’ is most likely my favorite of their videos. It has a great look and a number of nice establishing shots that give you a sense of the location. Its largely a performance video and the energy of the band and the crowd makes this a pleasure to watch. I’m not sure I really felt the song before I watched this video, which should always be a goal when setting a song to music.

Music Videos (Appreciation Post #1)

Wherein I attempt to choose one video from OK Go to share (why Lord?!).

Once upon a time I was fairly certain I’d be a music video director. I knew musicians who said they wanted to make them, I had some ideas and, most importantly, I was eager to work. Aside from one, really, this didn’t happen. As I sit here thinking about music videos I realize I have feelings about music videos in general. As anyone in my household knows, I believe that feelings should be shared. So, here we go.


First off, I like music videos. A lot. I was born in 1978 and I think this might play a part in the matter. I’m not sure what the first music video I saw was but when I did start seeing them they were a revelation. Whether it was the Dire Straits or Billy Idol or Bon Jovi I was pleased to see and hear everything.

At the time I wasn’t thinking about the kinds of music videos or what was possible with the art form. Mind you, I was a kid, but it was interesting to experience the various kinds of videos and to occasionally think about why I liked what I liked. Obviously this was on a very simple and basic level.

It was only later, when I myself was editing video and pairing it with music that I truly had the experience of seeing how the two could shape and change one another.  The purpose of these posts about music videos is that I’d like to spread a lot of love around and share a thought or two.

To begin, I’d like to write a bit about the music videos of OK Go. If there is one band who is consistently making interesting, fun and inventive music videos it’s them. From ‘Here it Goes Again’ and their treadmill antics to ‘White Knuckles’ and its adorable rescue dogs to the Rube Goldberg madness of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ and zero gravity stunts of ‘Upside Down & Inside Out’ they always deliver entertaining videos. I am posting what might be my favorite video of theirs below.  The amount of work that went into this video boggles my mind.


A shadow early on reveals that this was shot with a drone in what appears to be one take. To work out the timing of the band on their small scooters, the choreography of the dancers and the opening and closing of the umbrellas and the camera placement is just incredible.

The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

If you had told me a week ago I’d be excited to write about the latest Lonely Island offering, I would have been confused.

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Last week I started writing posts about music videos. It’s been an unusually satisfying experience given that I typically have misgiving about writing blog posts. I’m not sure there is an outlet that would be interested in my ramblings about music videos, in general or about specific works, and I apparently have a lot I want to say.

Which is why it was fortuitous that ‘The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience’ was released this past week. Given that this was the spirit of the project, creating the work with no purpose or plan in mind, part of me feels this is a sign to keep going with these posts.

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To make dad love me!

A slightly negative preface: I’ve never been overly fond of the works of The Lonely Island. Some of their works, “Natalie’s Rap” in particular, impressed me but that was largely because of Natalie Portman. Others, “Like a Boss” and “I’m on a Boat” I felt were lackluster in idea and execution. I have yet to see, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” but after watching Bash Brothers (many, many times now) I have to admit I’m intrigued.

I read an interview in Entertainment Weekly today which confirmed many of the thoughts I had about this project. Namely that it was a labor of love, that came from a place of genuine affection, while also poking fun at Jose Canseco and Mark Maguire. It’s a project made by friends about something they lived through and wanted to celebrate and goof off about. In their words from an interview in Billboard magazine,

Schaffer: It’s a hot new label. Listen, there’s art or there’s commerce [Andy laughing] and we made sure this wasn’t commerce. Then by default, it was art.

Samberg [Laughing]: You can definitely say this project was, by default, art.

While they make light of their efforts you do get the sense when watching Bash Bothers that they took the joke seriously. What immediately impressed me when watching Bash Brothers was the quality of the production (which apparently had no budget). The sets, the effects, the lighting – all of it conveys this being a professional project. Which I don’t mean to overstate but having seen many low budget works (sadly including my own attempts) I find this impressive and inspiring.

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I don’t know what it means but I like it.

In their interview with Entertainment Weekly Schaffer and Samberg explain the different styles they were emulating with their videos,

SCHAFFER: Also, on a musical level, similarly, we do some songs where we’re really trying to be in some of the styles from the late ’80s. Like “Uniform On,” we tried really to get close to an ’80s Beastie Boys vibe, and some of the others are very Bay Area-hyphy, and other things we just did whatever we felt like. So we weren’t strict on any of the rules, it was more a feel.

SAMBERG: Instinctively, when we got Mike Diva, who co-directed it with Akiva, we mostly discussed the styles of the song also being representative of the styles of the video, so it’s almost like you take a little bit of a journey through the last few decades of music video styles, especially rap music, which kept it interesting for us. So you have a more like Hype Williams one and then another is like a home video throwback.

And this journey through the past few decades of music styles is quite wonderful. Given that the justification for this project is that it is a lost album the different styles make a strange kind of sense. This certainly felt as cohesive to me as watching “Lemonade”.

I was hoping to laugh when I watched Bash Brothers and I certainly did. “Oakland Nights” starring Sterling K. Brown (as Sia) with it’s silk robes and kimonos is going to be with me for quite some time.

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What I did not expect was to find real emotion tucked in among the jokes about steroids and broom sex. Watching “Daddy” I found myself getting misty-eyed despite the auto-tuned vocals wobbling in my ear. If that was a “serious” music video I am fairly certain it would win awards and it would deserve them.

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Still from “Daddy”

I’ve watched Bash Brothers at least five times already and I’m not sure I’m done with it yet. This work, like others I’ve encountered, has some inexplicable quality that I am wrestling with, trying to understand and appreciate before moving on. It feels odd writing that statement about this work, even when the creators themselves say dismissive things like:

Samberg: We were describing it to our friends the whole time as, “We’re working on this thing for no one.” It turns out, what the world really was craving was, Major League Baseball having a baby with The Tree of Life and Lemonade.

Perhaps there is little more to the work than that. Songs like, “IHOP Parking Lot” I think you understand on the first viewing. It’s funny and fun and then it ends. Others, like “Focus on the Game” feel simple, basic even, but on the next viewing feelings well up inside me unexpectedly. I’m affected by the performances and it surprises me with each viewing. I keep feeling there is more to unpack when watching even if, perhaps, it’s just to find that I’ve already experienced everything and there is nothing left to be gleaned.

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