What do new Beyonce, OK Go videos teach us?
Video did not end up killing the radio star, and it doesn’t look like anything is going to be able to kill the music video, either.
New, wildly disparate videos in recent weeks — Beyonce’s hypnotic, politically charged “Formation” and another dazzling confection from the former Chicago band OK Go, for the song “Upside Down and Inside Out” — show a form that is alive, reasonably well (considering) and still able to get people talking.
Making a video remains part of the package of making music. Yet the “video is dead” think piece has been written scores of times in the past decade.
MTV, which famously began life by showing The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” long ago swore off the “M” in its title, because of the car-radio phenomenon: People changed the station whenever a song they didn’t like came on. (Television killed the video channel.)
And record companies are now slogging around in the tar pits, too poor to routinely produce new videos for all but the most proven movers of product.
But people still want to see filmed interpretations of songs they like. It’s just that the place to find them has shifted to the Web, where you get to program your own music video channel, rather than putting up with MTV’s notions.
The biggest names really thrive in this new ecosystem, which relies on social media and old media to point people to the videos. The collective Twitter mind is happy to highlight somebody new, but it is ecstatic when it’s got a new video from a Lady Gaga.
Fortunately, the videos sometimes have something more to offer than just minimally clad performers or a filmed rendition of some of the lyrics.
Witness the Beyonce song, which showed up by surprise last weekend, ahead of the singer’s Super Bowl halftime performance. Its video, incorporating references to the bungled Katrina rescue efforts in New Orleans and to the Black Lives Matter social protest movement, goes beyond the lyrics of the song and has given commentators from the left and right plenty of fodder.