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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [July 7, 2009]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Music videos as an art form peaked in the early-to-mid 1980s. This is because singers and bands didn't understand this new format, so they had little influence in crafting music videos. Rather, the director was king.
One of the leading music video auteurs at the time was director Russell Mulcahy, who established many of the format's early clichés: smoke effects, widescreen black bars, objects breaking in slow-motion.
Mulcahy did "concept videos," as opposed to "performance videos."
Concept videos emphasized an abstract, metaphorical interpretation of the music. The singer's performance and the lyrics' literal meaning were downplayed or even ignored.
Mulcahy directed many of Kim Carnes's videos, and Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. Brilliantly abstract, metaphorical concept videos.
Performance videos focused on the singer. Michael Jackson's Thriller and Van Halen's Jump were two videos that did much to begin the trend in which performance videos rose and overwhelmed concept videos.
As singers came to understand the format, they took charge "of their own music" as they saw it, and demanded greater input into the creation of music videos. That killed the music video as a director's art, turning them into narcissistic promotional ads for singers and bands. "Look at me sing! Look me dance! Look at me, me, me!"
Allowing singers to control "their" music videos is like allowing film stars to control "their" films. A film is collaborative. The actors and music are part of the contribution, but the director's vision should lead.
Satirical "literal music videos," which redo the lyrics to match the images, work better (are funnier) with concept videos, than with performance videos. This is because concept videos ignore the literal meaning of the lyrics, so naturally, they are more easily and effectively satirized than are performance videos.
It's been years since I've seen the original video, or even listened to the song. But seeing its "literal" parody, aside from inspiring laughs, also makes me appreciate Tyler, Mulcahy, and songwriter Jim Steinmen that much more -- and wish it was the 1980s all over again.
And here is a concept video from the early 1990s. Meat Loaf singing I Would Do Anything for Love, also written by Jim Steinman. The early 1990s were late for a concept video, but Meat Loaf (and Jim Steinman) begs for the over-to-top operatics which concept videos do so much better than performance videos.
Unlike Michael Jackson, Meat Loaf doesn't dance. Doesn't need to. Steinman's operatic music and the music video's dramatics are enough.
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