As with your work on Action Adventure film, when analysing pop video it is important to consider the technical codes which are used to construct both the video itself and the representations inherent within it.
As with any moving image text, how the camera is used and how images are sequenced will have a significant impact upon meaning .
Camera movement, angle and shot distance all need to be analysed.
Camera movement may accompany movement of performers (walking, dancing, etc) but it may also be used to create a more dynamic feel to stage performance by, for instance, constantly circling the band as they perform on stage.
As in most TV, this is partly because of the size of the screen and
Also because of the desire to create a sense of intimacy for the viewer.
It also emphasises half of the commodity on sale (not just the song, but the artist, and particularly the voice).
John Stewart of Oil Factory states that he sees the music video as essentially having the aesthetics of the TV commercial , with lots of close ups and lighting being used most prominently for the star’s face.
Take a Bow Never Gonna Give You Up Matinee Feeling the Moment
Often enhancing the editing are digital effects which play with the original images to offer different kinds of pleasure for the audience. This might take the form of split screens, colourisation and of course blockbuster film style CGI.
Watch the video for Radiohead ‘Street Spirit’ (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 1996).
Jonathan Glazer on Radiohead's Street Spirit (1996)
"With Radiohead, it's very much about convincing Thom Yorke of your ideas. But once he's chosen you there's not any interference - he wants you to go off and be experimental. I'd had this idea for ages that I'd seen in nature programmes, where they'd film an eagle flying at 1,200 frames per second then cut frames out to slow it down. It's a technique you see in every second ice-cream commercial nowadays but back then it was new . …..
In the end, I'd spent so much time filming shots of breaking glass and nuns jumping off trampolines that I hadn't got the right performance out of Thom. I had to cut the video together with black windows inserted where he should have been. But the record company liked what they saw enough to arrange for me to go to Germany a few weeks later to film Thom singing. In the end it worked out. That was the film that, creatively, got me up and running."
Each video may also draw upon its predecessor both in reinforcing the star’s existing image and in taking the image on further, perhaps in new directions. Thus, music videos will act as a showcase for the star’s talents and play a significant part in the construction and maintenance of their image.
Pop Music Music Video Theory: Voyeurism, Intertextuality, Narrative
This idea comes from Freud, and has been much used in Media Studies, particularly in explaining the gendered pleasures of cinema. Broadly it refers to the idea of looking in order to gain sexual pleasure. It has been argued that the male viewer’s gaze at the screen is geared to notions of voyeurism in that it is a powerful controlling gaze at the objectified female on display. In music promos the female on display has been a staple element.
Goodwin argues that the female performer will frequently be objectified in this fashion, often through a combination of camerawork and editing with fragmented body shots emphasising a sexualised treatment of the star.
In male performance videos too, the idea of voyeuristic treatment of the female body is often apparent with the use of dancers as adornments flattering the male star ego.
The idea becomes more complex when we see the male body on display and we might raise questions about how the female viewer is invited to respond.
Equally, the apparently more powerful independent female artists of recent years, from Madonna onwards, have added to the complexity of the gaze by being at once sexually provocative and apparently in control. This offers interesting questions for discussion of the range of audience experiences of music video and the contradictory meanings they may evoke.
Madonna 'Like A Prayer' Madonna 'Don't Tell Me' Justin Timberlake 'Cry Me A River' Justin Timberlake 'Like I Love You'
The idea of voyeurism is also frequently evident in music video through a system of screens within screens- characters shown watching performers or others on television, via webcams, as images on a video camera screen or CCTV within the world of the narrative.
Beyonce 'Crazy Right Now In Love'
Music Video Intertextuality, Narrative, Audience
The music video is often described as ‘postmodern’, a slippery term which is sometimes used as a substitute for intertextuality.
Broadly, if we see music promos as frequently drawing upon existing texts in order to spark recognition in the audience, we have a working definition of ‘intertextuality’.
Not all audiences will necessarily spot the reference and this need not massively detract from their pleasure in the text itself, but it is often argued that greater pleasure will be derived by those who know the reference and are somehow flattered by this.
It is perhaps not surprising that so many music videos draw upon cinema as a starting point, since their directors are often film school graduates looking to move on eventually to the film industry itself. From Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ (Mary Lambert 1985, drawing on ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’) to 2Pac and Dr Dre’s ‘California Love’ (Hype Williams 1996, drawing on ‘Mad Max’) there are many examples of cinematic references which dominate music video.
Television is often a point of reference too, as in The Beastie Boys’ spoof cop show titles sequence for Sabotage (Spike Jonze 1994) or REMs news show parody ‘Bad Day’ (Tim Hope 2003).
John Stewart: visual reference in music video come from a range of sources, though the three most frequent are perhaps cinema, fashion and art photography.
Fashion sometimes takes the form of specific catwalk references and sometimes even the use of supermodels, as by George Michael in both ‘Father Figure’(Morahan/Michael 1988) and ‘Freedom’ (Fincher 1990). Probably the most memorable example of reference to fashion photography is Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ (Donovan 1986), parodied many times for its use of mannequin style females in the band fronted by a besuited Palmer. Shania Twain copied it for her ‘Man I feel like a woman’ (Paul Boyd 1999) and Tamara Davis directed a parody of it for Tone Loc’s ‘Wild Thing’ (1988).
The Kills Prada collaboration is a very good example of this.
Robert Palmer: Addicted to Love Shania Twain: Man I Feel Like a Woman
For the near future, John Stewart suspects that the influence of video games will predominate for the younger audience with the more plasticised look of characters emerging (as seen in recent years for example in Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Love be your Energy’ (dir. Olly Reed 2001) and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Californication’ (dir.Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris 2000)
His description of the music video “incorporating, raiding and reconstructing” is essentially the essence of intertextuality, using something with which the audience may be familiar to generate both potentially nostalgic associations and new meanings. It is perhaps more explicitly evident in the music video than in any other media form, with the possible exception of advertising.
Narrative in songs is rarely complete, more often fragmentary, as in poetry. The same is true of music promos, which often suggest storylines or offer complex fragments of them in non-linear order. In doing this the music video leaves the viewer with the desire to see it again if only to catch the bits missed on first viewing.
Sophie Ellis Bextor 'Murder on the Dancefloor ' Kelly Clarkson 'Since You've Been Gone'
Steve Archer states: “Often, music videos will cut between a narrative and a performance of the song by the band. Additionally, a carefully choreographed dance might be a part of the artist’s performance or an extra aspect of the video designed to aid visualisation and the ‘repeatability’ factor. Sometimes, the artist (especially the singer) will be a part of the story, acting as narrator and participant at the same time. But it is the lip-synch close-up and the miming of playing instruments that remains at the heart of music videos, as if to assure us that the band really can kick it.” (Steve Archer 2004)
The mise-en-scene may be used as a guarantee of what Simon Frith terms ‘authenticity’ as in the stage performance/use of a rehearsal room by a band whose musical virtuosity is their main selling point.
It can be important to a narrative-based video to establish setting and relationship to existing film or televisual genres.
Equally it may be used as part of the voyeuristic context by suggesting a setting associated with sexual allure, such as a sleazy nightclub or boudoir. Or finally, as John Stewart suggests, it may be used to emphasise an aspirational lifestyle for the audience, as in the current dominance of a futuristic look with emphasis on the latest gadgetry.
Other commentators have divided music videos in terms of style, though often there will be crossover between these; apart from Performance and Narrative, it is possible to identify at least six: Gothic, Animated, Dreamscapes, Portraiture, Futuristic and Home Movie.