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Please Kill All These Music Video Clichés in 2014

Or at least shelve them for a few years.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB

I’m not going to tell you what my favourite thing in the entire world is. I don’t know you, we haven’t met, and WOAH at least let me take you for a drink and tell pointless anecdotes about my life first. But I will tell you that I love music videos. They’re up there with reduced items, meal deals, and fresh socks in the congruent of over-looked items that evoke inner-happiness.

The only problem is that the majority play into boring clichés. I understand that every video released cannot be as revolutionary as The Pharcyde’s “Drop” or Daft Punk’s “Da Funk”. Or as jaw-dropping as M.I.A’s “Born Free” and Justice’s “Stress”. The likelihood of Roman Gavras, Spike Jonze or Hype Williams producing a five-piece from Bermondsey’s first EP visual is as non-existent as a Girls cast member finding all my tweets about her and deciding that LOL I’m really great and we’re going to get drunk and brush our teeth into mid-life crisis together. It just won’t happen. But that doesn’t mean every entry-level short has to resemble every other entry-level short.


Here’s some music video clichés that need to die before the year is out.


You didn’t record your record in the 1960’s. You’re using a hand-me-down video camera to try and legitimise your brand of nostalgia infused indie pop to an audience that registers cool in direct correlation with desaturation. In some cases, throwback video recordings work really, really well. Frank Ocean’s “Lost”, released in April this year, is a perfect example of cutting together a tour into a collection of fascinating snapshots. But if you’re just running around on a beach with a bunch of friends set to the tune of every other summer romance composed by a Fender Telecaster then IDK, you’re probably only going to make one Bandcamp EP before the band migrates to different colleges anyway.


The same sentiment sort of lends itself to post-production edits, too. Over their two records, Tame Impala resurrected a blueprint and buttfucked everybody that had ever dared bemoan the death of guitar music. They’re doing great, and I’m really proud for them. But unfortunately, as a result, a SXSW sized amount of bands doused their visuals in kaleidoscopic effects because, psychedelic, Australian, buzz words, mediocre success. It’s not just visuals seen from the inside of a children’s toy that’ve frequented videos recently. It’s literally anything that looks like it’s been cut’n’pasted together by an A-Level student with a bag of ritalin and a cracked copy of Adobe After Effects.



A while ago I found a teenage-era lyric video made by one of my friends that was dedicated to her then boyfriend. It was really embarrassing and right after I’d immediately saved it to my favourites folder, I cringed. The lyric videos released by artists are sort of like that, except they’re the unflinching brainchild of grown men with a copy of iMovie, and therefore worth at least twenty extra years of embarrassment. All of the best music videos in the world leave a lasting imprint in my mind, like Christopher Walken forever waltzing around in my head like a cotton-headed lothario whenever “Weapon of Choice” plays. Or Britney Spears inexplicably being hand-delivered a ring by an astronaut in the middle of the cosmos because high budgets and nineties infatuation with space stations*! But all lyric videos do is remind me that I know how to read.

* See also – N*Sync’s “I Want You Back”


I don’t normally sit down to watch a Taylor Swift video, but when I do I want to sit through two minutes of Tay-Tay monologuing her way into a sixth-form students reimagining of a crime thriller cum bad-boy lust epic. JK, I don’t want that, ever. And neither do a vast majority of the 146,497,406+ viewers who, at the time of writing, have littered the comment section of the video with helpful hints like, “Starts at 2:03, just sayin’”.

But that didn’t stop Drake crafting an entirely irrelevant two and a half-minute introduction before I could hold on to my tattered heart until I arrived home. Which is nothing compared to the depressingly voyeuristic ten minutes of his new video which seemed extended for no reason other than "HEY! Let’s put in loads of vague acting segues because then it’s theatrical release!" Or Alex Turner doing his best Hollyoaks… On Acid! impression before “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” kicks in. Both Drake and Arctic Monkeys are semi-bearable, but only because they’re past the point of paint by numbers videos and IDK they’re kinda SUPER FAMOUS, interesting, and people care about them. So, if you’re a part-time plumber playing bass for Moshi Moshi’s latest signing, it’s over-expectant to believe anyone’s going to sit through more than ten seconds of indulgent introductory footage before returning to bookmarking GIFs, sub-tweeting, and incessantly flicking between the same three websites.





If the lyrics to your song illustrate a pertinent social issue that would do well to be backed up by an informatively cinematic video, then sure, baby step the listener through the narrative. TLC did it and opened up the message of one of the world’s greatest pop songs to a wider audience. But if you’re literally singing about “dancing through the fire” while dancing through the fire then SRY but just don’t. It’s demeaning, like, “Look! I’m singing about relatable inanimate objects and I’m just like you” (despite the fact I’m swinging from a concreted artefact soon to be shipped to Terry Richardson’s wank bank).


Everyone in the world drives cars, but no one wants the world to know that they drive cars more than rappers want the world to know that they drive cars. The motor vehicle has been intrinsic to hip-hop music videos long before Nelly decided to put one in literally every single one of his promos (seriously, count them). They’re the reason that every time I listen to Rick Ross I’m transported to the plush back seat of a Maybach where everyone is jerking their arms like they’re pumping invisible super-soakers. And they’re also the reason why a majority of rap videos lazily fall back on generic conventions that save more time to be spent realising the dream of splaying out across the backseat of an Exelero than purposing an artistic vision. Think how much better Rick Ross’ “No Games” would be if he was on the verge of mental breakdown in a sun glistened forest or on a plastic-topped table at a pit-stop on a roadside. It wouldn’t be amazing, but it’d be a lot better than watching another rapper break at least two laws while behind the wheel.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanBassil

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