Written by: Alessio Casella
As Carol Vernallis notes in the introduction to Unruly Media, labelling media objects in today’s ‘scrambled’ media scenario can be tricky. Music videos are a good example of this fuzziness: Vernallis argues that music videos don’t have any clear set of rules anymore, and today we can simply define them “as a relation of sound and image that we recognize as such” (2013, p. 11). In fact, modern music videos don’t have any medium-specific aesthetics or narratives, and they also seem to have lost their original ontological purpose of selling more records (Vernallis, 2013, p. 11).
We can get an idea of this by analysing the music video created for Kill Me, by the French electronic duo Make The Girl Dance.
As we can notice, Kill Me differs from a traditional music video. Instead of a well-rehearsed choreography shot on set, or a fictional narrative related to some extent to the music, Kill Me takes the form of one of Youtube’s most popular ‘genres’, the vlog. In this video, Make The Girl Dance fly from Paris to the United States, where they manage to squander 30 thousand dollars in just eight days.
The video adopts the very language of the vlogs: every intimate moment is caught on camera, the act of shooting is never hidden and the camera is acknowledged. Moreover, the quality of the images is generally low, cinematography is left unpolished and framing is spontaneous and ‘functional’.
Remarkably, the visuals have no relation with the music or the lyrics, to the point that the song seems to be just a musical accompaniment to the vlog-like footage. Only on few occasions the editing takes the rhythm of the song, by making images twitch and loop.
In terms of content, it’s hard to imagine Kill Me being broadcasted on television. Other than being openly provocative, the video contains graphic material, such as nudity and drug abuse. As Vernallis argues, the relaxation of censorship in the Internet-era have led to a freer environment, where artists can engage with more explicit representations (2013, p. 203). Make The Girl Dance had already exploited Youtube’s and Vimeo’s fairly wide censorship with videos like Baby Baby Baby.
In conclusion, music videos are as diverse as can be. If we compare Make The Girl Dance’s low-budget vlog to OK Go’s minutely planned choreographies (as recently analysed on this blog by Yuehan Zhu), the narratives of film-like productions such as Telephone, or the digital visuals of Splitting the Atom, we could hardly say that it shares any characteristics with them, except for the music/image relation. This goes to say that anything can be a music video nowadays, as Vernaliss’ fitting definition suggests.
Vernallis, C. (2013). Unruly Media: Youtube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.