BOY WITH A COIN – IRON & WINE According to Goodwin’s Techniques Music Video Research By Hanan Mohamed 13KMH
Genre Characteristics Many different aspects of nature are used and a particular common theme in folk rock music videos is of birds is used (e.g. Marling ‘Rambling Man). Here when the main lady dances she flicks feathers up out of the tail of her dress, as if she has become a living bird herself – truly at one with nature, which is the intentional of this genre of music. The lead singer sitting on a chair playing the guitar and performing alone is another characteristic. Folk rock singers are often performing in a location either completely alone, or marked out on their own. In Laura Marling’s video ‘New Romantic’, she sits alone on a chair – like Samuel Beam here – in a room playing the guitar. This could be seen as a simple but effective way in which to sell the artist on their own musical merit, without the distraction of other musicians assisting in making the record. Another reason would be in emulating the singer in taking time to be alone, encouraging listeners to take a moment away from busy every day life to reflect, for introspection. This would be in keeping with the folk rock genre which tends to have fairly abstract lyrics unlike for example a clubber tune, and are more about introspection rather than something more physical such as dancing. The lead singer here is also quite solemn faced as are all of the dancers – it is rare to see anybody smiling in a folk rock video. Marling’s face is also fairly solemn in her music videos, as are the narrative actors in Bon Iver’s ‘Calgary’. This could be interpreted also as being quite blank faced or neutral – so as not to impose emotions upon the viewer, and instead of showing by their facial expression how the music is meant to make them feel letting the listener focus more on making their own interpretation of the music, making more of a personal connection to their own associations and feelings about it which will keep them listening to this song again and again.
Relationship between Lyrics and Visuals The main lady dancing on her own at the end seems to be tracing ghostly dark circles on the wooden floor with her dress as she dances – the ‘coin’ perhaps. ‘A boy with a coin he found in the weeds’. A coin is for material goods and found in the middle of weeds, in nature; although normally considered of value, here it would be absolutely valueless and so denotes materialism. The visuals here are amplifying the meaning of the lyrics. ‘A girl with a bird she found in the snow, Then flew up her gown and that’s how she knows’. The choreography does have a lot of twirling the whole body around in circles as well as moving the hands like birds and circles. Although the dancing is elegant, many of the moves are repetitive particularly the circles – doomed to continue the same designated path, fated, hopeless. It relates to the last line of the first verse ‘When God left the ground to circle the world’ indicating that God has left people to figure things out for themselves, without intervention letting things take their course. This line is repeated at the end of the third verse – the lyrics themselves having come full circle, as have the dancers.
Relationship between Music and Visuals The style of the dancing matches the style of the music played, old fashioned and classy as does their costume – simple hairstyle sleek and tied back with modestly long, black dresses. Even their make up is kept very minimalist and so the scene created to the music is timeless, the sentiment and visuals easily imagined in another time and place. The movements of their hands are very smooth like the notes of the piano being played. Yet the dancing is still clearly choreographed, their hips and legs stepping out in tune and in time with the plucking of the guitar strings in clearly defined movements. The physical movements of the ladies are always very graceful and smooth even when they are not dancing, they are either standing very still or move in time to the music. For example, all the class look to see the feathers coming out of the teacher’s dress.
Demands of the Record Label Whether or not this is how he is normally dressed, how Samuel Beam has been styled for the music video is typical of folk rock videos. His hair is thick and long and natural; his moustache and beard are also both unusually long like a ‘hippie’. Besides the stereotype, the long beard indicates his masculinity as well as his maturity and life experience. This adds to an air of authenticity, of him knowing what he’s talking about in his song. A simple dark red shirt and wide leg jeans are also in keeping with the simplicity of the video; letting the focus be on the dancing and the song itself, instead of flashy gadgets, it stays in the nature of the song of humility. Due to the simplicity of his costume as well as the dancers, this makes sure to draw attention mainly to the dance and primarily the music, the words and their meaning. There are a fair amount of close ups which linger for a time on Beam’s face as he sings too, letting the viewer take in his face although he does not once turn to look at and sing into the camera. He is absorbed in his music instead of selling himself personally to us, into telling the story – and that is what sells the viewer and what draws them in. Selling the artist here means selling him as an all natural, humble, independent , deep thinking man who is sharing his life stories with the world and so the viewer is drawn in intrigued by the mysterious image this man creates, curious to know more.
Notions of LookingVoyeuristic Treatmentof the Female Body The use of the dancers watching their own performance within the video is an effective way of referencing the notions of looking – hinting that they are aware of the audience, and they are performing for them. The windows too add to the notion of looking as they present the idea of seeing in and sunlight is shining behind them, illuminating the room with natural light and possibly a symbol for awareness – with the mirrors implying a self awareness. A mid level medium close up shot is used to emphasise the perfect shape of the woman’s body and focusing on her backside, emphasising her sensuality as she walks and then further as the tight fitted dress shows off the women’s curves when they sway their hips in dancing. As the beard made Beam particularly masculine, the dresses have emphasised the women’s femininity. A slightly more subtle way of viewing the female body voyeuristically in the medium close up shots of the singer’s face we can see the main dancer’s bust behind him emphasised further by how her head has been cut out of the shot.