‘Thriller’, ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Get Your Freak On’ – each song provided one of the biggest hits in the careers of their associated acts. What were the defining factors that helped to catapult these singles to the top of the charts? The answer is simple: music videos.
Videos grant artists a unique opportunity to project their music into the visual arena, targeting larger audiences in the process. With grand cinematic designs and artwork, such clips have allowed some of music’s heavyweights to engage consumers through an entirely new channel and bring their music to life. In fact, acts including Madonna, Janet Jackson and, of course, Michael Jackson (MTV’s King of the Music Video), were sometimes able to ascend to the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 fueled by the hype generated by their music videos alone.
However, in recent years, the epic design of such productions have begun to wane as a ramification of financial constraints. This has given rise to low budget releases called ‘recession specials’, characterised by poor editing, cheap graphics and cliche concepts. Even some of music’s biggest names have resorted to producing such clips of the most amateur design. Mariah Carey, for instance, released two of the worst videos of her career last year with ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ and ‘H.A.T.E.U.’.
Interestingly, artists generally fund their own videos with little label assistance, hence it is quite baffling why acts who clearly have the financial resources to afford better productions, put forward a continuous string of recession specials. In contrast, Lady GaGa, who debuted in 2008, has thus far created some of the best productions of the last ten years, spending large amounts of money to ensure that each venture is of the highest quality she can afford.
Coincidentally, big budgets are not needed to create grand productions. Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ was shot in front of a plain screen, focused almost solely on the dance routine without any other elements, yet became one of the “best videos of all time” according to Kanye West. The same can be noted with Ciara whose ‘Love Sex Magic’ video was one of 2009’s best. Conversely, Beyonce’s ability to manipulate a small budget did not channel into her other clips, which were all prime examples of the recession special.
In closing, it is becoming increasingly evident that few artists are willing to go the extra mile to create cinematic productions on the silver screen. As the economy continues to struggle and budgets continue to shrink, the recession special has taken centre stage. It seems that Michael Jackson’s vision of the “short film” is hanging on by a thread.
Is it safe to say that the era of the music video is
coming to an end?