Ben Godby (a fellow writer and sort of mutual acquaintance) did a blog post a little while back about music videos. He made the argument that music videos should focus more on the band rocking out than actually telling some sort of a story. He argued the experience was to slip into the music, not to try and understand what the heck the music video was talking about when the song was something on the other side of the spectrum.
I disagree, though not entirely.
I really like music videos that tell stories. This is usually because I hardly ever discover music by seeing a music video first; usually I hear it several times and then go hunt down the music video. Most music videos are either just a band rocking (which is what I imagined so...that's good? I guess?), some make no sense at all (which sort of takes away from the song), but others go completely the other way and tell some sort of a story tied to the music video.
When the last option above is done well, I love it. It makes for both a good watch and a good listen, and I feel it adds to the song. The issue, of course, is that it is rarely done well.
Within Temptation's music videos (minus their most recent ones) are a good example of a band that "gets it." They add stories that accent their songs, but I don't feel it takes away from the music. I think an important point is I still retain how I feel the song spoke to me the first time, and just add what they interpreted as an option. Which is why I'll never discover music on youtube by hitting a music video; I'll "watch" the video that's just the music first, then move on to see if I like the video.
This whole blog post was actually an excuse for me to post a boatload of music videos for bands I like, so get ready.
Also, I'll "age warning" the ones I feel have inappropriate lyrics.
First, and probably the best example of a video taking away from a song, we have one of my favorite songs ever, Fallen Leaves by Billy Talent. And since Billy Talent is apparently a bunch of butts, I can't embed the video, so here's a link.
The song is fairly obvious about drug addiction. I have no idea what is going on in that music video except it is really, really weird.
Here's the other end. This video has very little to do with the song, but it is so clever and entertaining I can't help but love it. It doesn't really tell a "story," per say, but the whole faux wild west fits with the song (Seether is a Numetal band writing a "Country Song," and the fact that the video depicts a fake western is sort of analogous). Plus the video is really funny, and surprisingly clever, considering most of Seether's videos are them rocking out and showing off all their piercings.
Now we have a video I like better than the actual song. Rise Against is an ok band, but I think this video is great, even if it is very politically fueled. In this instance I actually didn't think much of the song until I saw the video, then I started liking it by association.
So we have some that sort of add but don't really tell a story, more like pushing a point. What about people just rocking? Nine Inch Nails' March of the Pigs is pretty much just Trent Renzor flipping out. Honestly, even though this is basically just the music, it's really boring to watch. I'd rather just listen to the song.
LANGUAGE WARNING. Also this song is really weird.
While on the subject of NIN, however, there is an interesting story about that. They wrote a song called Hurt that was on their Downward Spiral album. The original is a dark song about hating oneself and isn't really that great. However, Johnny Cash (yes, the Johnny Cash) covered it right before he died, and completely changed the song with both the way he approached it and (more impact fully) the music video.
He took a song about self-hate and turned it into a song about self-improvement through Jesus. The lyrics are exactly the same (except he replaces the use of "crown of s***" with the radio edit, "crown of thorns") but the song is completely different, and I'm fairly certain it's because of how the music video played out.
So hey, how about a video that very clearly tells a story, not just hinting at an agenda or something? Well, you are in luck, because here is one of my favorites.
I have no idea what the original song is about. Finding utopia or something, dunno. But the video (which makes me want to write a book about it) is really clever. In fact, most of Within Temptation's music videos compliment their songs very well, and are interesting to boot.
And here's a last one, from Nightwish.
But then you have people like Rhapsody of Fire, whose music videos are so ludicrous it's hard to even take them seriously (it's already hard to take a band rocking about dragons seriously, but dude...what.)
Is there a point to this? I have no idea. Ok, yes, I'll make a point: I like most music videos. I think that, if done well, they provide an interesting visual stimuli to accommodate the music I usually already know and like. If I just wanted to watch bands rock out, I'd go watch them live. But I don't: I want to see something interesting, and give me a different perspective on what the band thinks their song is about (or what acid trip they were on when they planned the video). So...I'm fine with them, and I think they are great creative outlets.
On that vein, actually, that's probably why I like music videos that tell stories. They are essentially short stories in video form, tied with music. Take the two Within Temptation songs and the Nightwish song. The stories told in the videos probably have really cool backgrounds behind them, and that gets my imagination stimulated. The Rise Against and Seether music videos are clever, but they don't provide anything past the video besides being interesting. The NiN video is just what I expected: dudes playing instruments. We got that. Music videos are as much a medium to present interesting video as they are the music. So long live music videos with stories! (as long as they don't ruin the song. You suck, Billy Talent, especially since you won't let me embed it).
Expect and actual writing post sometime, really. Or not. Who knows.
I'll end with a super goofy music video (though I don't know if anything can top Rhapsody of Fire's stuff). I love Sonata Arctica's music, but man their music videos are so stupid.