I’m no big fan of prog rockers Mastodon, but I’ve just seen their recent video ‘The Motherload’. And I’m sorry for all you keen fans of MTV, VH1 and other big music channels out there, but I’m going to have to agree with the critics and say this video is a crock of sexist horseshit, laden with ridiculous stereotypes of black women.
And to twist the proverbial knife even further, I’m going to reveal that I am an audiophile who hates music videos to the core.
Like I mentioned in the recent post on Feminist Frequency’s videos on tropes, there are plenty of terrible clichés in music videos that have put me off them almost entirely. And since discovering the ‘artform’ I’ve always asked the question: ‘Do we need music videos? Isn’t music for listening to?’
Music videos for me are a classic example of an ‘unnecessary art’. Most of the videos I watched growing up contain narratives or scenes that have absolutely nothing to do with the song being played. ‘The Motherload’ isn’t a bad song but having to slope to the lowest of the low with that video gave me the impression that Mastodon must be in some sort of crisis. Most likely they’re low on money and want to broaden their airplay on whatever music channels play videos anymore and titillate enough young men to give them their money.
The Male Gaze
One friend best described the ‘Motherload’ video as an example of the ‘male gaze’, a theory derived from film theorist LauraMulvey. This is where the target audience of the film makers is a heterosexual male and the content of the film contains visuals and dialogue that only they can relate to and will titillate.
You could argue that is the case with most music videos with the amount of objectification they contain. However there have been some videos in the past which, arguably, contain sexuality that is owned by the female artists, like Anaconda by Nicki Minaj.
But I’ve already stated my case and will say that I think music videos are boring and are only for marketing and I have to agree with the Rap Critic, that this video may only gain a wide viewership because of idiotic men who can’t be bothered to find real pornography. I see Nicki Minaj as an artist who is owning her body and sexuality and I will disagree with people who deem her a bad influence, even though I can’t stand the music. And dislike how so much of that song is sampled from ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-A-Lot, so she might as well be covering his song without giving him something in return.
In the Anaconda video, you can see she is dancing similarly to the women in the Motherload video, but the audience she is trying to reach are not the same as Mastodon are looking for. However it’s going to take a lot more progress before people realize the true nature of Minaj’s video and the song’s message and it makes me wonder why we have music videos in the first place.
Music videos may change but in summary, they shouldn’t have been invented in the first place because music is best enjoyed visually, when you watch it live, in my opinion. The majority of videos contain nothing more than the artist performing or smutty scenes masquerading as art.
Another terrible music video that came out recently was the ‘Booty’ video from Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea. This is another example of an artist stooping to the lowest of the low to gain popularity because it contains nothing more than women shaking their arses for no reason. Plus this ‘song’ was penned by woman beater Chris Brown and Iggy Azalea has a history of sending homophobic and racist tweets as Todd In The Shadows points out in this video.
(And the less I say about Blurred Lines, the better.)
But Can There Be Good Music Videos?
As I said at the beginning, almost all videos are terrible. It’s the need for them that I hate the most because they are just for marketing and undermine the nature of listening to music.
But every now and again you find the odd video where the directors were being a little more creative than usual. The videos I’ve compiled here, in no particular order, are examples of how you can make an entertaining piece of visual art out of the music industry.
These videos contain none of the smutty clichés of the videos I’ve mentioned, and only a few times feature appearances from the artists. A lot of them feature animation, something I think works wonders if the song’s content centres on a whimsical or fantastic theme.
Take On Me - A-Ha
A very quirky mix of live action and animation, making it one of the most parodied videos of all time.
Around The World - Daft Punk
I was going to put up 'One More Time' but because it's part of an anime film I might have had to upload the whole thing. So here's to their other, more arty piece of media that doesn't involve an appearance from the duo.
Star Trekkin' - The Firm
This one is for all the trekkies and stop motion fans out there. A little comic relief from all the bile spouted here too.
I'm Blue (Da Ba Dee) - Eiffel 65
Back when CGI was a new and radical thing, came this very entertaining video to one very catchy 90s hit.
Pat Stilletto - Alchemy Drive
This was made by my friends' band and stands out as a surrealist piece of music video art by how it's heavily influenced by David Lynch's Eraserhead.
Call of the Wintermoon - Immortal
This is a classic from the heyday of Norwegian Black Metal. It's hilarious and will warm the hearts of any fantasy fiction buff. Apologies for the poor quality as it is over 20 years old.