Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two new music videos: Björk & OK Go

There are two new music videos that were released this week: Björk's collaboration with Michel Gondry for her song "Crystalline" and OK Go's HTML5/Google Chrome extravaganza for "All is Not Lost."

Let's start with "Crystalline." I'll be honest: I am not a Björk fan and I do not like her music. Creatively, she has so many ideas and executes them well (I mean, everyone remembers her swan dress from the 2001 Oscars, right?). But the music itself just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't excite me, it doesn't make me want to sing along or dance, it doesn't put me in a good mood. For me, that's what music is supposed to do. Björk's music makes me want to fall asleep or rip my hair out; it's similar to hearing fingernails on a blackboard.

But her music videos are always something to behold (see: collaboration with Chris Cunningham for "All is Full of Love" and her work with Spike Jonze for "It's Oh So Quiet"). And her latest music video with Michel Gondry is also admirable, though I have to disagree with Jezebel who said it would "blow your mind." I like the frame by frame shots and the squiggly lines of color. The little beams of light that hit the surface of the moon remind me of the fight scenes in Jason and the Argonauts from 1963. Don't get me wrong, I love the analog feel of it, but "blowing my mind" is not how I'd describe it. Gondry has more memorable videos than this one, as does Björk. It's a cute, interesting video, but nothing super memorable. Again, maybe this is because I don't like Björk's music, but this is not something I would immediately forward to someone and say, "Check this out."

If we want to talk about minds being blown, OK Go released a new interactive music video on Tuesday for their song "All is Not Lost." You can go to the interactive video at the website they created for it, though here is the standard, non-interactive video:

Similar to Arcade Fire's "The Wilderness Downtown," OK Go uses technology to make the music video come alive. I'm not even sure I would necessarily call these approaches "music videos" anymore, not in the sense of what used to play on MTV. I think Arcade Fire's video is also really amazing, but OK Go's is also visually a lot more complex. I can't imagine what it must've been like to have to choreograph a dance from below and then making the windows work in time with music.

The music video in this case doesn't just work on the visual and aural levels. It's not just music, text, and visuals anymore because the viewer is now also a user and controls the experience of the video. Every view is unique to the audience. Of course, the video can be viewed multiple times with the same message (or address in "The Wilderness Downtown"), but the overall concept is that the audience is helping to shape the experience.

What Björk's "Crystalline" video and OK Go's "All Is Not Lost" project show is that there are still different approaches to the music video. "Crystalline" is perhaps a little more traditional, though it leans more towards the artistic. In the footsteps of "The Wilderness Downtown" "All Is Not Lost" is pushing the video towards something different and what that is, we'll see if other bands follow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's been far too long.

I realize I haven't written on my blog in forever. I think part of it is that I feel like I've gotten settled here in Germany and nothing is as surprising or as new as it once was. Looking back at my entries from 2005 make me laugh, especially if I wrote something in German. I've noticed my written German and grammar in general has improved. That's always a plus. Another part of not writing on the blog so often is that I feel with the growth of other short social media forms, especially Facebook, it's been a bit unnecessary to write longer entries. Lastly, I still write in my handwritten journal that I've been keeping since the first grade, so writing this seems perhaps a bit superfluous. (I mean, let's face it, does anyone actually read this?)

On the other hand, since I stopped writing I've gone back to studying and I'm almost done with my master's. I just need to write my thesis. It's refreshing right now to take a step back from it and just write about writing it (if that makes any sense whatsoever). I've been reading a lot, but I found it surprising that very little material is available on my topic specifically -- music videos and YouTube. It probably isn't a shock that that's the topic I've chosen to write about, especially considering that:
1. I am a child of the 80s.
2. I love watching music videos.
3. I'm always online and I love the fact that I can watch old music videos that I haven't seen in years.

My hypothesis is that with the rise in YouTube and technology like iPods, iPads, and smartphones, music videos are seeing a renaissance. Two artist have inspired me so much that I'm going to dedicate a whole section to their videos in my thesis: OK Go and Lady Gaga.

OK Go seemed like the obvious choice because I've been a fan of theirs since 2004. Seeing their videos go on viral on the internet was exciting and fascinating. How is it that this little known band came to be so popular purely through the use of the internet? If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's their video for their song "Here It Goes Again:"

OK Go - Here It Goes Again from OK Go on Vimeo.

Since then, their music videos aren't just music videos; they are works of art. (Check out their videos for "This Too Shall Pass", "End Love", and "Last Leaf")

For me, I wasn't ever a huge Lady Gaga fan and I certainly never considered myself a Little Monster. Then I saw her video for "Telephone":

I still don't consider myself a huge Gaga fan or a Little Monster, but I don't know what it is about this video. I can watch it over and over again without getting tired of it. There's just so much material in it: Jailhouse Rock homage or maybe Chicago, the weird ad placements (Virgin Mobile, Wonder Bread), references to Tarantino movies (most blatant with the Pussy Wagon) and Thelma & Louise, the fact that it's a continuation from her "Paparazzi" video. But "Telephone" isn't Lady Gaga's only interesting video; they're all really highly produced, well-polished spectacles and they're the complete opposite of OK Go, who tends to do more low-production stuff. Neither is better than the other, but that's why I want to look at both artists. How do they use YouTube/developing technology to their advantages? Are their music videos more relevant to developing their image because the videos are actually accessible and visible? It's questions like these that interest me in particular.

So with that in mind, I guess that's where I'll be picking up this blog again. It's not so much a blog about being an expat in Germany, though there will still be observations about that. Maybe then I'll actually keep up with it.