January 23, 2014

Music videos that were cooler than their songs

A common complaint among people who were music lovers before MTV is that music videos became so associated with the song in your mind that over time you couldn't see anything else when you heard it. I'm skeptical -- did people really have an elaborated vision of every song they heard before MTV? Music makes you want to move your body, not so much to see pictures in your mind, let alone vignettes or a narrative.

At any rate, one great thing about music videos is that they could enhance the total experience if the song was only OK, and it was hard for them to really ruin a good song (although "Let's Dance" by David Bowie tries its hardest). In addition to all those "do you remember...?" songs, the '80s also gave us so many "do you remember...?" videos.

In the movie Body Double, there's a scene where the protagonist is drinking and wallowing in self-pity alone at home, while a music video plays in the background. It's cool enough that you notice it even though it's in the background and not played for very long. Plus it has a catchy refrain: "My my. Uh-oh. The house is burning, But there's no one home!"

Here's the full version of it, by Vivabeat. The song is OK -- sounds like the Cramps raped A Flock of Seagulls -- but check out that video. New fuckin' wave, dude.


  1. I just watched this video about the "Addicted to Love" girls this morning:


  2. Whoa what the heck is that? Feel free to delete these comments...trying to figure out why my name came out like that.

  3. Those girls and the ones from "Simply Irresistible" have a cool 1920s vibe, not attention-whoring but not withdrawn either.

  4. "music videos became so associated with the song in your mind that over time you couldn't see anything else when you heard it"
    The way to avoid that: don't watch the video in the first place. Most of my favorite songs never had videos, but for the rest the videos occupy roughly zero mind-share, having already heard the song so many times before seeing the video.

    My complaint about music videos is that they favored certain types stuff over the AOR that was big in the 60s/70s. Music video watchers aren't going to sit through a big slab of prog, for instance. But they will watch good looking young people with no musical talent gyrating for a few minutes.

  5. And yet MTV didn't feature "good looking young people with no musical talent gyrating for a few minutes." Videos from the '80s tried to be narrative, conceptual, off-beat, or stylized concert performances.

    Talentless people gyrating came after the decline and fall of MTV as a music video provider. More of an internet / YouTube phenomenon.

  6. If anything, music videos helped performers who weren't young, good-looking, or based on gyrating. With live performances, photographs in mass media, and TV performances, the audience always saw the performers for long enough to form a yay-or-nay opinion about their looks.

    Someone who wouldn't have made a photogenic guest on American Bandstand or Ed Sullivan could shoot a video where they didn't appear at all, or at least only here and there. Tom Petty doesn't appear much in the video for "Free Fallin,' " which is made up of character vignettes. Hard to imagine him finding the same success if he had to wow the TV teenyboppers in order to get noticed.

  7. Young, good-looking, gyrating before slack-jawed TV audiences obsessed with the hairdo of the performer -- that's Elvis in the '50s. (At least his music was decent, albeit simple since rock 'n' roll was in its infancy.)


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