After a couple of years of writing about bad music videos for Punching a Jayhawk, the blog I write with my sister, I have learned there are things people consistently do in music videos that often fail. Sometimes, this works well. Since this worked better as a blog post than multiple tweets, I’ve compiled a list of thoughts on music videos here on my personal blog.
1). Focus On One Concept
Remember how people loved the video for “California Gurls” by Katy Perry? That had one concept and it was of Katy Perry in a magical candy land. A trend I’ve noticed recently is music videos having multiple concepts, so it feels like we’re watching the result of multiple ideas being pitched and never being narrowed down to one before being filmed. In the music video for Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull’s “Live it Up,” there are three concepts going on at once. One is Jennifer Lopez as a supermodel in Paris, another is Jennifer Lopez partying on a beach with Pitbull and the third concept is Jennifer Lopez partying indoors, flying high on a trapeze. If the supermodel concept had been eliminated, the video could have been improved. There are other music videos guilty of this, but I’ll just discuss “Live it Up.”
2). High Concept Videos Are Tricky
I will often watch videos where there is a big daring concept at the heart of the video, but the concept ends up not being well executed. Very rarely do big concepts work for videos. Janelle Monáe is an artist with high concept videos that always succeed. Other high concept videos that work are “Na Na Na” and “Sing” by My Chemical Romance. The music videos feature My Chemical Romance as the Killjoys, the subject of their album Danger Days. They live in a futuristic version of Los Angeles and have to face a man, played by Grant Morrison, who oversees Better Living Industries. It’s a bit tricky to explain, but the video succeeds when it could easily have been half-baked.
3). If You Have a Big Budget, Your Video Shouldn’t Look Awful
Even though I have issues with how pretentious their videos are, I have to applaud Thirty Seconds to Mars for making music videos that appear to require a large budget, but look very good visually. (They also do them without egregious product placement, which I appreciate). If you remember Miley Cyrus’ video for “Can’t Be Tamed,” it had poor lighting and bad looking CGI wings because Miley Cyrus was a bird who couldn’t be tamed. If you have a big budget, strive for a good-looking music video.
Speaking of “Can’t Be Tamed”…
4). Just Because You’re a Female Artist Doesn’t Mean Your Videos Have to Involve You Acting Sexy and Sultry
Sometimes a female singer acting sexy works well. In the music video for “Get Outta My Way,” Kylie Minogue seems to be making the person the song is directed to regret not paying more attention to her. She’s fierce, sexy and there are buff guys dancing around her. However, sometimes a female singer acting sexy feels uncomfortable, such as Ciara gyrating on a car in the video for “Ride” or Selena Gomez in “Come and Get It”–although a problem with Selena Gomez is she looks much younger than her real age. Female artists have made great videos without wearing skimpy outfits, such as every Janelle Monáe video every. The old phrase is sex sells, but it shouldn’t be relied upon to have a hit music video.
5). Just Because You’re a Male Musician Doesn’t Mean You Need Naked Women or Women in Skimpy Outfits in Your Videos
Please read Punching a Jayhawk in December when I write my analysis on “Blurred Lines.”
6). It’s Okay to Edit Your Music Videos
I don’t enjoy music videos that tend to be overly long. Sometimes an intro that sets up the video is great because it helps enhance the concept behind the video. But if you have a song that’s three or four minutes long, your music video does not need to be eight minutes long. The music video for “Marry the Night” by Lady Gaga was really great, except for the incredibly long intro. Had the video started off with Lady Gaga saying her line about the bedazzler, it probably would have been one of the best music videos of the year. But the long intro, although setting up the video, dragged it down.
I hope this helps.