What is a music video? Definition Peter Fraser defines a music video as: ‘a short, moving image product, shot for the express purpose of accompanying a pre-existing music track and used to encourage of sales of the music in another format’ Over the last three years this format has generally meant the download market of the UK which now sells 96% of all single sales. The ‘Godfather’ of music video analysis is Andrew Goodwin in his book about the rise of MTV which came out in 1992. He identifies a number of key features, which distinguish the music video as a form: There is a relationship between the lyrics and the visuals (with visuals illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the lyrics There is a relationship between the music and the visuals (again with visuals illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the music) Particular music genres may have their own music video style and iconography (such as live stage performance in heavy rock) There is a demand on the part of the record company for lots of close ups of the main artist/vocalist. There is likely to be reference to voyeurism, particularly in the treatment of women, but also in terms of systems of looking (screens within screens, binoculars, cameras etc) There are likely to be intertextual references, either to other music videos or to films and TV texts. Peter Fraser has updated this knowledge to also include the fact that music videos play an important part of the construction of the band’s/singer’s image, which is then used to ‘sell’ the products of the band/singer. What do I need to analyse when looking at Music Videos? Lyrics Lyrics tend to help establish a general feeling, or mood, or sense of subject matter rather than offering a coherent meaning. Key lines may play a part in the visuals associated with the song but very rarely will a music video simply illustrate the lyrics literally. Music A music video tends to make use of the tempo (speed) of the track to drive the editing and may emphasise particular sounds from the track by foregrounding instruments such as a guitar, keyboard or drum solo. Genre/mise en scene While some music videos transcend genres others can be more easily categorised. Some, but not all, music channels concentrate on particular music genres. If you watch these channels over a period of time, you will be able to identify a range of distinct features which characterise the videos of different genres. These features may be reflected in types of mise en scene, themes, performance, camera and editing styles. Camerawork As with any moving image text, how the camera is used and how images are sequenced has a significant impact on meaning. Camera movement, angle and shot distance all need to be analysed. Camera movement may accompany movement of performers (dancing, walking etc) but it may also be used to create a more dynamic feel to stage performance, for instance by constantly circling the band as they perform on stage. The close up predominates, as in most TV, partly because of the size of the screen and partly because of the desire to create a feeling of intimacy for the viewer. From a record company’s point of view the purpose of the music video is to sell the band’s image and good ‘looks’ and also the ‘voice’ can be sold through the use of close up. Editing The most common form of editing associated with the music promo is a fast cut montage of images that are cut to the beat of the music. However some videos (particularly ballads) use a slow pace and gentler shot transitions to establish a mood of ‘love’ or contentment. Intertextuality The music video is often described as being ‘post-modern.’ This is a hugely difficult term to describe but at its heart the theory is about how music videos draw upon existing texts in order to spark recognition from the audience. In the 1980’s Madonna’s video for ‘Material Girl’ drew inspiration from ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend; a film from the 1950’s. The Beastie Boy’s video for ‘Sabotage’ is a direct homage to the 1970’s cops of ‘Starsky and Hutch.’ Narrative/Performance Narrative in songs, as in poetry is rarely complete and often fragmentary. The same is true of music promos, which tend to suggest storylines or offer complex fragments in a non linear order, leaving the viewer with the desire to see them again. As Steve Archer puts it: ‘Often, music videos will cut between a narrative and a performance of the song by the band. Additionally, a carefully choreographed dance might be a part of the artist’s performance or an extra aspect of the video designed to aid visualisation and the ‘repeatability’ factor. Sometimes the artist (especially the singer) will be a part of the story, acting as narrator and participant at the same time. But it is the lip synch close up and the miming of playing instruments that remains at the heart of music videos, as if to assure us that the band/singer really can kick it.’ The video thus allows the audience more varied access to the performer than a stage performance can. The close up allows the viewer eye contact with their idol and the close observation of facial gestures and role play within a narrative framework presents the artist in a number of ways which is not possible in a live concert. Star Image/The Brand Music videos allow the record company to position ‘their’ property in a crowded market place. The ‘look’ of the music video and the ‘look’ of the band allow the viewer to determine if they like what they see. Fans will also have certain expectations of what they see in the music video so record companies have to be careful to give the fans what they want as well appeal to the widest possible demographic. Voyeurism/Looking Voyeurism is the simple idea that humans gain erotic pleasure by looking at a sexual object (preferably when the object is unaware of being watched). When applied to music videos/films it has been argued that this theory can be used to describe the relationship between what we see and why we watch so many films/music videos etc. The theory has developed so the range of pleasures we take are not exclusively sexual. Laura Mulvey proposed the idea that because most directors are male (a fact that remains true today as it did in 1975 when Mulvey wrote her theory) the presence of women in film , and by extension music videos is often solely one of the purpose of display for amale audience. The woman is presented as being passive and is often sexualised with the fragmenting use of close ups to make her an object of desire rather than a fully realised human. (breast, legs,bum etc) If we take for example the many rap videos of 50 Cent we can easily suggest the role of women in these videos are to be seen as sexual objects who writhe round the male star to suggest his huge ego (and probably small penis.) However in the 1990’s and today this idea becomes more complex because with the rise of boy bands the male body is sexualised for not only a female audience but also a gay audience as well (take a look at Take That’s early videos for proof of the latter.) Whatever the implications of this theory the desire to be a voyeur is a crucial part of the music video; whether the pleasures are to be aspirational (to live a lifestyle that is is similar to the band/singer) or quite simply to be in lust with the star. (The Jonas Brothers) Britney Spears – Toxic Lyrics The lyrics for the song Toxic establish the point that Britney Spears is now ready to move into a more ‘adult’ persona. The words are full of sexual and quite possibly drug allusions/desires and mirror the fact that for Britney, as a 21 year old young woman at the time, she is ready for the adult world. Britney’s fan base would also be moving into their teen years as well, so the lyrics also become a metaphor for their own explorations. Here are a few examples of the lyrics to illustrate this: There's no escape, I can't wait I need a hit, baby give me it You're dangerous, I'm lovin' it [Chorus:] With a taste of your lips, I'm on a ride You're toxic, I'm slippin' under taste of a poison paradise I'm addicted to you Don't you know that you're toxic? And I love what you do Don't you know that you're toxic? It's getting late to give you up I took a sip from my devil's cup slowly, It's taking over me (I think I'm ready now) Intoxicate me now With your lovin' now Music Toxic is an example of a high tempo dance track which Britney is famous for. This drives the fast paced editing of the video. Genre/mise en scene Being a pop video there is an emphasis on movement and dance choreography in the video. The dance routines are for the most part simple, the only elaborate movement coming when Britney pretends to escape from a laser trap by doing some flexible moves which show off her famous dance moves. The target audience of young girls and early teenagers would expect some kind of dancing in Britney’s videos so this emphasis on movement is there to satisfy the desire of the fans. We get a sense however that the dance moves in this video highlight Britney’s growing desire to express her sexuality. She regularly ‘bumps and grinds’ with older men in this video and the perfect red nails and near nude outfit that she wears for the ‘performative’ aspect of the video are indications of a more mature nature. (This controversy has never been far from Britney, consider the sexualised school uniform of the Baby... video.) Indeed the costumes are typical of a young female star. Britney is not known for her singing voice (in the same way that a Leona Lewis is) and thus relies on sex appeal and body movement to remain in the public eye. Britney wears various costumes in the video which conform to Mulvey’s study of the male gaze. The air hostess outfit is very short (you can see her pink pants!) for example and the ‘superhero’ disguise that is worn at the end of the video is slashed to reveal Britney’s midriff. The mixture of blonde, black and red hair gives the video variety and makes sure the viewer does not get bored Britney Spears’ usual theme for her videos is one of freedom and escape and this is the same here. The opening shot of a plane and two birds are symbolic of Britney’s desire to be free from the image she has created. From a young age Britney has had a media career (first at Disney and through her solo career, a career started at the age of 17) and as her breakdown confirmed the pressures of fame became too much for her. The videos that Britney appears in appear to mirror her desire to escape; either through costumes and design or just the basic desire to be an individual. In her first video for ‘Baby hit...’ the mise en scene of a ticking clock and claustrophobic classroom highlighted this theme which Toxic carries on. The different disguises that Britney wears; the props of a motorbike and plane all give the sense that Spears wants to escape her manufactured image. In terms of the audience young adults, especially teenagers, also want to escape from school or like to play ‘dress up’ so Britney’s mise en scene of escape is one shared with her target audience. This desire to escape is taken to the extreme in the video for ‘Everytime’ where Britney attempts suicide; again a very public cry for help which foreshadows the breakdown which came a few years later. Camerawork Britney is the focus of the music video. Through close ups and mid shots the camera is always centred on the star attraction of the show. Any long shots that are used are usually shown to illustrate some kind of triumph for the star (the pleasure she gets from riding the motor cycle) or to show off her body (the midriff of the superhero at the end, the shortness of the air hostess outfit.) Long shots are also used to show her dancing skills. Any other performers in the video (the other air hostesses for example) are kept to a minimum and in the background, so the viewer can clearly see the ‘product’ that is being displayed (Britney Spears.) Editing Editing mirrors the fast beat of the song so that the style is rapid and consistent. Most music videos that are pop in variety employ this technique and Toxic is very conventional in this manner. For an interesting comparison view the video for ‘Everytim’e which is a lot different because of the nature of the speed of the song. Intertextuality The Holly Valence video for ‘Kiss Kiss’ could be an inspiration for the near nude suit that Britney wears for the dance elements of the song. The TV programme Alias was very popular in 2003. It stars a young woman who is an international spy and likes to dress up in different disguises to fulfil her job. The cover of the first season dvd has a look that is very similar to the ‘red haired’ Britney that is in the video and this could be an influence. A female heroine from any number of manga comic strips could be an influence for the black haired Britney at the end of the video. It could also be a homage to the comic strip ‘Witch Blade’ which centre on female superheroes. Britney would return to manga for the video for ‘Break the Ice.’ Narrative/Performance The narrative for Toxic adheres very closely to Steve Archer’s definition of a music video. There are performative elements to the piece so that Britney can display her skills as a dancer (one of her main selling points) where as the main narrative of a female spy who will go to any lengths (using her sexuality for instance) to reach the object of the quest marks Britney’s own desire to escape the confines of the music industry. This ‘dressing up’ element of the video is also shared by her target audience who after four years of watching Britney grow older and more mature are eager to do the same. The close up and lip synching of the main star is also the main performance of the video as well; again very common in pop videos as well as rock videos as well. Star Image/Brand I have already written extensively on the image that Britney is putting across. Britney’s selling points are her body, connection to young people and her ‘hidden’ desire to escape ( a trait which she shares with her target audience) The video Toxic clearly demonstrates all of these points about the persona of Britney. Voyeurism/looking The video obviously conforms to the male gaze of Mulvey’s teaching. Britney is sexualised as an object to be looked at and appraised. The fact she wears a near nude suit and the camera focuses on her legs and bum at the start of the video highlight pop music’s desire to sell sexuality to a young audience. What complicates this though is the fact that Britney controls the narrative completely. She is definitely not passive in the traditional sense and in many ways she manipulates men for her own desires. She is the one who is a superhero and the wink at the end is the proof needed for this complication. Is it a wink to suggest sexuality? Is it a wink to suggest power and control? The answer lies within the reader because as we know different audiences will read the video in different ways.