Music Video’s New Definition: Access to the Meaning of Music.

Music video as a term that was first born in the 1960s and experienced its golden age in 1980s was used as a promotion method to serve the industrialization of music field. However, since the development of technology that permitted more forms of the music video and more people to participate into the process of making a music video, the definitions of the term has gradually been changed as well, and thereby the music video are nowadays redefined by Vernallis (2013) as a “partner” relationship between music and images, in which sound and images are interacted and tightly interwoven in order to visualize the meaning of the music (through the image), and add values to the image (through the sound and music).

As the metaphor provided by Vernallis (2013: 210), “In music-image relations, one medium often seems to be pushing the other to do something, acting as the driver”, one of the most effective way adopted by images of the music video in 21st century to push the expressiveness of music is narrative. Here it should be necessary to mention Lady Gaga, a pop singer whose music videos are characterized with the narrative using.

In Gaga’s music video of the song Judas, although it contained some dance and song scenes which conforms to conventional genre of music video, the narrative based feature is also represented subtly. Within the music video, the images were produced to tell a story with cause and effect relationship, and represent the emotional changes of the singer, rather than purely being used to illustrate the content of lyrics. The MV told a story between the love relationship among the singer, Jesus, and Judas. The character portrayed by Gaga fell in love with Judas at the beginning but finally failed to seek redemption from Jesus and was stoned because of adultery. In terms of emotion changing, the video contained a break of music, where Lady Gaga are standing back to roaring waves and downed by the waves. Although it is not actually an interwoven of music and image, it still has a contribution to express the meaning and theme of the song, that is, a betrayed women’s inner conflicts.

Thus, if a music video is no longer a promotion, it should be a close relationship between sound and music, which provides the audience not only an audiovisual experience but also and subtle approach to gain the meaning of the music through the subtle narrative like Lady Gaga’s works did.



Carol Vernallis(2013), “Music Video’s Second Aesthetic” in: Unruly Media, New York: Oxford University Press, 207-233.


Written by Ge ZHAN


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