Introduction

The music videos that Big Sean has dropped for Detroit 2 (“ZTFO”, “Wolves”, and “Lithuania”) have all incorporated spiritual elements. In “ZTFO”, for example, Big Sean channels the transcendent energy of the Buddha as he levitates around his house. In “Lithuania” the spirituality leans more toward the paranormal and works against Big Sean and Travis Scott. The video references The Shining, which provides rich visuals and works with the director’s goal of showing Big Sean’s success over obstacles he has faced in his life.

Through the use of anticlimax and specific camera movements, the director depicts Big Sean’s triumph over a chaotic and antagonistic environment. …


Introduction

Tierra Whack is one of the most unique rappers in the game today. Most know her from her 2018 album Whack World, which consisted of fifteen one-minute tracks and propelled her onto the coveted 2019 XXL Freshman list. She is now releasing weekly singles as she gets closer to dropping her next album. One of these singles is “Dora”, a call to persist and explore like Dora the Explorer. The video is particularly relevant during the pandemic.

In this article, I examine the way the music video maintains the strong message of persistence, specifically looking at how the video was created, the aspect ratio that was chosen, and few key images. …


Introduction

For better or worse, 100 gecs has emerged as one of the defining voices of Gen Z. Their post-ironic music is polarizing yet catchy. They take the absurdities of modern pop music — boastful lyrics and overproduced tracks — to the extreme. It feels like it should be satirical, like the Gen Z equivalent Lonely Island, but the duo actually revels in the absurdity rather than make fun of it.

This attitude is shared by rapper and self-proclaimed “pop-punk princess” Rico Nasty, which is why they have collaborated on several tracks. Rico Nasty has forged her own unique path to stardom. Although well-established now, she was an outcast in the rap world for a long time and it is her strong connection to other outcasts that has given her such a strong, almost cult following. …


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With a global pandemic making filming difficult to impossible and an economic downturn taking a toll on smaller artists, it’s fair to say that the music video medium is in a tough spot. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, these challenging conditions, the music videos released this year have had an extra kick of creativity. 2020 has reminded us that art always finds a way.

Here are six of what I believe are the most creative, engaging, and at times moving music videos to come out this year:

  1. FKA Twigs — sad day

When FKA Twigs and Hiro Murai (longtime Childish Gambino collaborator who directed much of Atlanta) team up, you know the result will be beautiful and mesmerizing. This video more than delivers. the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon inspired sequence depicts an ethereal sword-fight that begins in a Chinese restaurant. Like most of FKA Twigs’ work, it’s unsettling elegant. …


Music Video Analysis: “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent

by Colin Hodgson

Introduction

Although the number of U.S. adults that use social media has doubled in the last decade, hostility towards social media has risen as well. According to a recent survey by The Verge, less than half of all Americans trust the three major social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) with their information. This anger has resulted from a multitude of issues such as the selling of personal data to third parties, overreaching censorship, lack of action to combat disinformation, and so on. The underlying current, however, is mistrust and fear of technology. …


Recap

In “Lessons Learned”, Matt & Kim show the freedom and joy that comes with individuality. Erykah Badu reaffirms how important individuality is with “Window Seat”, but also calls attention to the harsh backlash you will face if you try to gain independence. This takes the form of groupthink, which stifles independence and essentially turns a group into a hivemind. She points out how dangerous this mentality is and correctly predicts that her video will be attacked by people suffering from groupthink. She calls on her viewers to rebel against this way of thinking.

In this post, I discuss the third and final video to make use of these themes and framework: “Balenciaga” by Princess Nokia. She takes the argument put forward by Erykah Badu and narrows the scope to fashion. She plays with the structure of the video to depict the other side of the struggle between groupthink and individuality. …


Recap

The music video for “Lessons Learned” by Matt & Kim shows how rewarding the act of asserting your individuality can be. In a spontaneous single-take video shot in Times Square, the couple strips naked in front of tourists and cops before Kim runs into the street and gets hit by a bus. The video has elements of criticism towards the hostility against individualism, but it shies away from any sort of socio-political debate. Instead, it focuses on how good it can feel to assert your independence while still acknowledging the importance of community.

In this post, I discuss the music video for “Window Seat” by Erykah Badu and how it pushes the themes of individuality presented in “Lessons Learned” towards a sincere social commentary. …


Introduction

Imagine this: you’re walking down the street, minding your own business. Maybe you’re on the way to the grocery store, or maybe you’re walking your dog. You turn a corner and you’re suddenly inches away from a streaker, fully naked and acting as though it’s just another day. Would you be confused? Startled? Disgusted? You’d probably think they were crazy or on drugs.

Now imagine you’re scrolling through Instagram and notice your favorite artist just released a new music video in which they strip naked in public. Would you still think it was crazy, or would you view it as a visionary exhibition of individuality? …


Music Video Analysis: “feel away” by Slowthai

by Colin Hodgson

Slowthai’s most recent music video for “feel away” featuring James Blake and Mount Kimbe is an odd one. Set in a maternity ward, Slowthai proposes to his girlfriend, then suddenly becomes pregnant and gives birth. This all happens while his fiancé marries the doctor and holds an afterparty in the room as Slowthai is giving birth.

Although the image of a pregnant Slowthai is strange and watching his fiancé marrying the doctor is depressingly funny, the most iconic images come towards the end of the video. During the celebration, his ex-fiancé cuts a slice out of his arm, which happens to be cake, and the rest of the party guests are served other body parts. Finally, the last shot shows someone rip the baby’s face off, which also turns out to be cake, and eat it. …


Music Video Analysis: “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers

by Colin Hodgson

Introduction

When I first watched Phoebe Bridgers’ recent video for “I Know the End”, I was immediately hooked. I couldn’t stop watching, even though I had never heard of her and usually don’t listen to indie rock. The song and the video were both very good, but I was surprised to notice that by the end I had chills. I can’t remember the last time I had such a physical reaction to a video (or a song, or even a movie or TV show).

I wanted to find out why this happened, so I began to analyze the video. What I realized, though, is that it was something more abstract and subliminal than simply the images or the lyrics. It sent me down a weird path that somehow ended with VAK learning styles, which I believe helps to explain the effectiveness of both Bridgers’ song and the accompanying music video. Before I get into that, however, I’ll give a brief analysis of the narrative of the video. I know for most people that’s much more interesting than how different learning styles affect music videos. …

About

Colin Hodgson

Analyses of some of the most interesting and important music videos of the past decade.

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