2013 Proved It: We Are In A Golden Age Of Music Videos
Do you remember the golden age of the music video? You should, because it’s happening right now.
The first golden age of the music video, of course, took shape on MTV in the 1980s, and its most sensational artifacts were distinctly filmic: Michael Jackson’s epic “Thriller” video, the glossy clips of Duran Duran, the arty productions of Talking Heads, and so on. (Not that every video was quite so ambitious: In those days, simply getting a good, long look at Madonna writhing around was still pretty novel.)
We are, to put it mildly, over that. The new golden age of music videos has taken off online, its aesthetic shaped more by technology and digital magic.
It’s not that there weren’t creative and/or high-production videos along the way. And we still get plenty of sensational silliness (“Wrecking Ball”) and suggestive writhing (“Drunk In Love”) that would have fit right into MTV’s heyday.
Ignore those. To me, what makes this the new golden age of the music video new is all the innovation and experimentation we’re seeing — much of it influenced by, or exploiting, new technologies and techniques.
Like what? For starters, consider some the more audacious experiments that challenge the whole idea of the “video.” For instance: The amazing clip for Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which lets viewers click through different “channels,” where everyone from Marc Maron to Drew Carey to the weirdos on the Home Shopping Network appears to be singing Bob’s song. Or there’s Pharrell’s 24 Hours of Happy, which bills itself as the first-ever full-day video, streaming around the clock.
Similarly, there have been plenty of “interactive” videos in recent years, where the visuals and action are partly shaped by your clicks. I prefer examples like Io Echo’s “Ministry of Love,” which rifles through a variety of digital tableaus you can mess around with easily. I’m also impressed by the concept of MNDR’s “C.L.U.B.,” which pulls material from your Facebook account to insert you into the action (though I chose not to play along on that one).
But there have also plenty of dazzling examples of cuttting-edge creativity within the video form itself. I started to get interested in tech-driven aesthetic experiments back in 2012, by way of a number of videos using Kinect-derived effects. This one paired the Xbox’s motion-capture device with an LED projector and other gadgetry to project light masks onto singer Olga Bell, in response to her voice and facial movements as she sang “Chase No Face:”
Other experiments matched Kinected data with digital footage, as in this clip for Jon Lindsay’s “Oceans More.”
Since then, the experiments have only accelerated, and they are all over the digital-culture map. Here are some of my more recent favorites.