Music Video #1: Michael Jackson- “Beat It” Music Video.
Relationship between lyrics and visuals… “Beat It” fits perfectly into Andrew Goodwin’s seven features of music video narrative. In “Beat It”, there is a good, strong relationship between the lyrics sung by Jackson and the images thatare shown on the screen. Throughout the video, the visuals illustrate (and in some cases contradict)what Jackson is singing by the actions by the people in the video, for example, he doesn’t match thevisuals, with the lyrics, word for word – but more through actions of the characters, their clothing, etc.At the beginning of the song, Jackson is sings “Don’twanna see no blood, don’t be a macho man” but theimages show two gangs preparing themselves and on theway to meet each other and fight. Jackson is usingimperative sentence mood, saying “don’t do this…” butthe images clearly show the opposite of this happing.This helps with the narrative of the story, showing thatthese gangs don’t listen to commands and are violent. In the middle of the song, the images on the screen start to reflect the lyrics of the song. It does this through the way the gang members are dressed, for example, the jackets, the jewellery like chains etc. Also, the way their body language is, for example, walking tall with a slight “limp”. All this present this image of toughness, like they’re “bigging themselves up” and showing that they’re not scared.
Relationship between lyrics and visuals… During the dance sequence of “Beat It”, at the end, the way Jackson has essentially brought the two gangs together through dance, illustrates and reflects what he’s singing. As Jackson himself said in Moonwalk: “Its message- that we should abhor violence. *…+ Just get away before violence breaks out. If you fight and get killed, you’ve gained nothing and lost everything.” So the dance sequence is supposed to represent peace and an end to violence , to “beat it”, stop it, that there’s other ways to solve your issues etc.The visuals amplify the lyrics at the end ofthe song, where Jackson himself is tellingthe gang members that “it doesn’t matterwho is wrong or right”. He’s shownstopping them from fighting and basicallytelling them that all this violence is silly,which is illustrating the lyrics that he’ssinging.
Relationship between music and visuals…“Beat It” doesn’t show a strong relationship with the music and visuals, for example,every time there is a strong beat, i.e. a drum beat, the images don’t change. Theshots are longer and rarely change on the beat. This is because “Beat It” is more of ashort film and much more cinematic than a normal pop video. So it uses, forexample, longer tracking shots, and focuses more on the narrative itself rather thanon the beat of the song. This is comparable with other Jackson songs. For example, “Leave Me Alone” whichis more much of a typical pop video in the sense that the visuals reflect the music. So,when there is a strong beat you see the newspapers falling or the image changingetc.
Style and iconography…Because “Beat It” is more like a short film rather than a typical music video, thereisn’t really any particular style or iconography within the video. The song itselfbelongs to the rock genre, and therefore in a rock music video you’d expect to seemembers of the band giving a performance, like playing their instruments or thevideo is a live performance of them. However, you don’t see any of that in “BeatIt”. It could be argued that the video shows more of a pop element, because thereis a dance sequence at the end of the song and this is a common theme in mostpop music videos. Though, you couldn’t say it totally has the same style as a popvideo because usually in a pop video you’d have the artist somewhere, detachedfrom the rest of the narrative, like they’re the narrator to the story, but Jackson isvery much involved within the storyline, again showing that this is much more likea short film than a rock or pop music video.
Close ups… With Jackson being a solo artist, it is obvious that he’ll get the most close ups throughout the video, compared to the other actors in the video. In total there is 9 close up shots of Jackson throughout the video which last several seconds. The other shots of Jackson are mainly medium close ups and very rarely long shots. Whereas the other characters in the video, rarely have a close up and there is more medium long shots of them. This is to show the audience who is behind the video and show that Jackson is the protagonist to the narrative. However, Jackson doesn’t appear in the video until 1:06, which helps the audience understand what is going on in the narrative, again showing this image of a short film.
Star iconography…Michael Jackson is well known for many iconic outfits. Through out his career Jacksonwore many different types of jackets, especially through the Thriller era and Bad era.In “Beat It”, Jackson is wearing one of his iconic red jackets and the colour red is alsosomething you associate with Jackson (red jackets in “Beat It” and “Thriller” and redpants etc.) He not only wore these jackets in his music videos, but also out of hisvideo when he went to events, interviews or even in his day to day life. This helpspeople to easily associate things with Jackson and make him easily recognisable. Forexample, if you see a red jacket with buckles you automatically think “Thriller” etc. Here you can see Jackson in a still of “Beat It” (left) and at the opening of Dreamgirls (right), both in 1983. You can see that Jackson is wearing the exact same outfit in both images. This shows him carrying on his image out of his music video, and therefore the more people see this jacket, for example, the more they associate it with Other iconic jackets worn by Jackson in 1983/84 him. which carries on this iconography.
Star iconography…Jackson didn’t only wear many jackets which made him iconic, in “Beat It” he alsowears black, ankle length pants, white socks and penny loafers. Jackson startedwearing the ankle length pants during the Thriller era and the socks and loafersduring the Off The Wall era. He carried it on throughout his career. It would bevery rare if he wasn’t wearing at least one of these items in his videos. This shows just how iconic Jacksons shoes are, because if you just type in “penny loafers” two of the related searches are for Michael Jackson. Jackson wears Some images of ankle-bearing Jackson wearing the pants, white pants, socks and socks and loafers outside of his penny loafers, music videos. all of which are associated with him.
Voyeurism…Voyeurism is when you’re “looking in” at parts of the artists life, you wouldn’t normally beable to see. In “Beat It” we get voyeurism around the middle of the video, where Jackson isin his bedroom, lying on his bed. And again, after this when he’s walking into his corridor.These are moments that, as an audience, we wouldn’t normally get to see, i.e. we don’tget to see Jackson in his bedroom in his home, but music videos like “Beat It” offer us thischance. As an audience, it makes us feel privileged that we get this opportunity to be ableto witness Jackson in one of his more private moments.
Intertextuality… Although many people believe the music video “Beat It” was based and inspired by “West Side Story”, it was not. The director of “Beat It” actually based it on where he grew up. Though there are many similarities between “West Side Story” and “Beat It”. “Beat It” features two gangs ( around 80 genuine gang members are featured in “Beat It”) as does “West Side Story”, and they also both use gangs as musical art. They both feature knife fight scenes and use similar locations, for example, alley ways, deserted streets etc.
Representation and ideology…The image that “Beat It” creates of the gang members through the useof mise-en-scene is; tough, violent and rebellious. It does this throughseveral ways. Firstly, the fact that Jackson used around 80 real gangmembers. This makes it even more real for the “ordinary guy” watchingit. They could easily relate to this image of gangs and violence as in the80s, and still is today, gang activity is a large part of society. Alsothrough their clothing. They’re dressed in typically tough and coollooking clothes and things that anyone off the street could be wearing.Again, this helps the audience relate to this video and the characters init easily. Through the actions and props, the gang members also shows Some real gang members and Jacksonoff this image, for example, during the video it shows them doing theopposite of Jackson’s lyrics . They also have pocket knives which showsthis images of rebelliousness and toughness. This is a typicalrepresentation because we associate gang members with violence and At the end of the video, Jackson isknife/gun crime, also they’re never seen wearing anything “outrageous” shown “getting through” to theor overly expensive, so the fact they’re wearing “ordinary” clothing in gang members and they arethe video again shows us this common image. shown putting aside their differences and realising that violence is not the answer. This is an alternative representation because most of the time gangs are shown to not realise that their violent actions are wrong until a fight breaks out and someone is hurt or killed.
Representation and ideology… Jackson is represented as a “peace maker” in “Beat It”. He’s shown in this way by what he sings, he’s shown in his room singing about the senseless violence and then throughout the video, he’s shown following the sound of the gangs fighting and decides to confront the gangs about their violent ways. He then single-handedly brings the gangs together and helps them realise that there is other ways to solve their differences. This is a typical representation of someone who is seen to be a peace-maker because they have the ability to be able to show someone their wrongful ways and change them into a better, diplomatic person. Jackson also shows off this peaceful image by his body language. When he confronts the gang, he doesn’t physically stop them by hurting them or joining in the violence, he does it by a “peaceful protest”. He puts his hands on the shoulders of the lead members of the gang as a signal to show them that what they’re doing is wrong. Again, this is a typical representation of a peaceful person as you’d expect to see someone who wants peace to act in a non- violent manor. The message that “Beat It” projects is that violence is not the answer and there are other ways of being able to solve your troubles without having to resort to violence.
What I have learnt… “Beat It” music video has given me many ideas and has shown me a lot when it comes to my own music video. It has shown me that you don’t need to take the lyrics word for word when illustrating the lyrics. There are other ways, such as actions and symbols to show what the lyrics mean. The video can also be more cinematic and the music beats don’t have to determine the changes and cuts of the images. It’s important to develop a star iconography. For example, whoever we use for our band members in our music video, we should make them easily recognisable in and out of the video. We can do this through several ways, like clothing, accessories, symbols etc.