Why Videos Matter Again: A Postscript

In perfect treadmill-like timing, shortly after our “Why Videos Matter Again” piece went live, OK Go released their latest video for song “All is Not Lost”.  We thought it only fitting to also post their latest innovative creation as an epilogue.  Though this spandex-clad “ass on the glass” video has us scratching our heads a bit, we won’t deny its ingenuity.  Though the standard YouTube version is certainly worth a watch, if you use Google Chrome, you can check out the cool interactive version here.

by Adrienne Panveno

Why Videos Matter Again

There was a point in time a few decades back, when music videos were still relevant.  Before MTV was nothing more than regurgitated reality shows, they actually featured music instead of talentless faux celebritwits.  Suddenly, people had access to bands they never would have otherwise heard; they could see them, hear them, get a feel for their creativity and sense of style.  It changed everything about how we consumed music.

Back when music television was still relevant.

But as MTV changed their format in the 90’s so did the video world.  Top 40 artists could still show their videos on countdown shows and special features, but unless you were lucky enough to have MTV2, less mainstream acts were lost to most of the viewing public.  Today in a world where cable companies are losing customers to the interweb, videos have suddenly made a major comeback.  Going viral is what it is all about, and any media savvy performer knows it.  Gone are the days of big record labels spending millions on a video shoot; with a little imagination and a digital video camera, bands are producing videos that push the boundaries of creativity on their own.

It is safe to say that Chicago band OK Go paved the way for truly viral musical videos.  Their video for “Here it Goes Again” was a basic, DYI concept; a dance routine [choreographed by the sister of one of the band members] is performed by band on 6 treadmills in a garage.  The result is ridiculously simple and simply ridiculous – and pure internet gold.  Shortly after it’s release on YouTube, it caught on like wildfire, and not just with music fans.  It was featured on every news outlet from Good Morning America to Nightline, and chances are even your parents know about it.  Parodies and copycats flooded the internet  solidifying their place as pop icons.

But more than just a one trick pony, OK Go realized they could reach out to a lot more people with social media by cutting out the middle man – their major label.  So they left EMI and went on to form Paracadute, their own company suited for releasing records, video producing, publishing, and well, whatever else they feel like doing.  Though their treadmill video may have been their biggest hit to date, they have continued to create unique and highly watchable videos including one animated completely with toast and another featuring dancing rescue dogs, but their pièce de résistance has surely been the second video for “This Too Shall Pass”.  Shot with corporate sponsorship from State Farm Insurance, this huge Rube Goldberg machine will leave your jaw hanging.  Fun and Quirky and imaginative, just like OK Go themselves.

But where treadmills broke new ground, many indie artists have followed, and a surge of imaginative new videos.  While movie magic isn’t out of the picture entirely, it has been taken down a notch, instead using older effects, that given a modern touch, can be just as fun as anything high tech.

Even though it involves some basic special F/X, like the treadmill video singer/songwriter Diane Birch‘s video for “Valentino” is all about clever choreography and timing.  The song and its matching video are both fun and lighthearted, but it’s the “behind the screen” video that you will have you truly impressed.  At the beginning of the video they state the final cut was take number 57, but in the end Birch’s timing was near perfect and the result is highly entertaining.

Another example, it the stripped down video for “Lessons Learned” by Brooklyn indie act Matt and Kim.  The premise here again is fairly simple.  Matt and Kim walk through the crowded streets of Times square while stripping off their clothes.  The video is in no way distasteful or lewd, and is in fact quite powerful with the musicians themselves [Kim especially] acting out the scene with intensity.  With the exception of the surprise ending, this video could have been shot on an iPhone; and that is exactly the point.  Even though videos have made a comeback, they are no longer the same animal.  Allowing their creation to be accessible to real artists, and not just corporate executives, elevates it to a true new art form; an extension of the band’s artistic vision and another way to reach out to those who would listen.

by Adrienne Panveno