Tag Archives: music video

Music video week | Editor’s Top 10 | Ashley Clark

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Well they’ve all done that, so now it’s my turn. And due to a potent combination of hubris, indecision and the fact that, as editor, I have no-one to answer to, I’ve actually chosen 10. Here they are…

10. ‘Start The Commotion’ – The Wiseguys (Pedro Romanhyi, 1999)

I caught this cleverly edited vid one night on MTV2 and just could not stop laughing; the visual repetition works brilliantly with the nagging catchiness of the song, and creates a cumulatively hilarious effect. It’s a simple concept, perfectly executed. The bespectacled guitarist (who appears to be atop some sort of pivot), and the three clean-cut doo-wop guys, just get me every time.

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9. ‘Coffee and TV’ – Blur (Hammer and Tongs, 1999)

This tender, heartbreaking and ever so slightly silly video for Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’ tells the story of a plucky, animated milk carton who goes off in search of Blur’s guitarist Graham Coxon, who has apparently run away from home. Across six suspenseful, charming minutes you’ll laugh, be wowed by the animation, and very possibly cry.

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8. ‘Ya Mama’ – Fatboy Slim (Traktor, 2001)

A redneck happens across a cassette tape with magical powers. He decide to exploit it for his own ends. The rest is loose-limbed, explosive bedlam. Uproariously, preposterously funny, and a great concept.

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7. ‘Always Be My Baby’ – Mariah Carey (Mariah Carey, 1996)

This one’s simple, really. I saw it when I was 10, and I immediately fell in love. However, until a very recent Google search, I didn’t know this sweet, nicely composed effort was directed by Carey herself.

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6. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ – The Avalanches (Kuntz and Macquire, 2000)

This unforgettable promo is simultaneously fiercely literal (the actions of the cast often correspond to the stream-of-consciousness sampled lyrics) and mind-warpingly surreal (human-sized talking birds, for example). It’s difficult to pick out a single funniest moment, but once you’ve seen a turtle with the head of a confused old man, your life will never be quite the same again. The shabby, retro school play aesthetic haunts, too.

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5. ‘Da Funk’ – Daft Punk (Spike Jonze, 1995)

…in which a sad sack, anthropomorphized dog on crutches attempts to find love on the streets of New York. This genuinely odd piece casts a haunting spell, but don’t go looking too deeply for meaning. Here’s Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter: “There’s no story. It is just a man-dog walking with a ghetto-blaster in New York. The rest is not meant to say anything. People are trying to explain it: Is it about human tolerance? Integration? Urbanism? There’s really no message. There will be a sequel someday.” The sequel is yet to arrive, but if it does, let’s hope Spike Jonze is at the helm once again.

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4. ‘Drop’ – Pharcyde (Spike Jonze, 1995)

Back to back Spike Jonze. This mind-warping cut featured the South Central group performing their song backwards (yep, they had to learn their raps backwards!), and then replayed backwards to create the disorienting, WTF?! effect. An outstanding blend of pure inspiration and hard work that’s both surreal and fun. This really cool video explains how the ‘Drop’ was made. You should watch it.

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3. ‘Cry’ – Godley & Creme (Kevin Godley, Lol Creme, 1985)

I first saw this monochromatic classic at the age of about 10, on Dr Fox’s Video Jukebox, a short-lived, late-night ITV show which became defunct almost as soon as it was funct. The promo’s simple but brutally effective idea shows a succession of actors of all shapes and sizes miming the ballad’s plaintive lyrics direct to camera. The twist is that they are morphed into each other using a technique called analogue cross-fading, which creates some really disturbing imagery, and also underscores the universality of the song’s raw emotion. The same idea has been done since with higher budgets and greater slickness (see Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’), but never with the same aptness or gravitas.

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2. ‘Just’ – Radiohead (Jamie Thraves, 1995)

A man inexplicably lies down in the middle of London’s financial district. Scores of passers-by surround him to press him for an explanation, while Radiohead jam out their rocky ‘Just’ in an apartment above the city. The man resists, the crowd persists. Finally, the prone protagonist spills. What does he say? We’ll never know, but his whispered truths are so toxic that they cause all of London – in an astonishingly composed overhead tracking shot – to follow suit. The promo’s stark visuals and captivating plot thoroughly complement the dependably threatening obliquity of Yorke’s lyrics, and the end product lingers darkly in the mind like a half-remembered episode of The Twilight Zone.

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1. ‘Sugar Water’ – Cibo Matto (Michel Gondry, 1996)

A clever, intense and quietly disturbing promo from the creative genius that is Michel Gondry. ‘Sugar Water’ is a witty meditation on identity and the time/space continuum, and inspired the famous split-screen sequence from Roger Avary’s massively underrated Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Rules of Attraction. Once seen, never forgotten, and you’ll want to watch it again and again.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Music video week | Contributor Top 3 | Guillaume Gendron

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are contributing editor Guillaume Gendron‘s choices. He can be followed on Twitter at @GGendron20.

3. ‘Flashing Lights’ – Kanye West (Spike Jonze, Kanye West, 2007)

The first of three collaborations between Spike Jonze – one third of the holy trinity of wünder directors that defined the nineties (along with Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry) – and Kanye West, the past decade’s most disruptive rap star, ‘Flashing Lights’ is also their best. At the time I waxed a little too lyrically about Yeezy reinventing the whole rap aesthetic – in fact he just raised it from bling to haute-couture – but this clip remains flawless. With its post-Lynchian vibe, ‘Flashing Lights’ challenges the rulebook form-wise (the abrupt cut) but also in substance, with the revenge of the video vixen and the end of the traditional notion of the rap star’s invulnerable masculinity.

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2. ‘November Rain’ – Guns n’ Roses (Andrew Morahan, 1992)

Guitar heroes soloing on top of grand pianos, helicopter shots in the desert, people jumping through wedding cakes, an incomprehensible narrative, a millon dollar budget. Quite probably the most overwrought video of all time, ‘November Rain’ remains the exhaustive compilation of cock rock totems. Pretty much an archaeological document, the testimony of the decadent opulence of the MTV era at its peak, prior to the full bloom of  the Nirvana inspired grunge revolution and the music industry’s economic crisis. Its preposterousness still inspires though, from Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey.

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1. ‘Stress’ – Justice (Romain Gavras, 2009)

The breakthrough moment for French rascal Romain Gavras (the man behind MIA’s ‘Bad Girls‘) – it’s A Clockwork Orange meets La Haine with a slyly subversive sprinkling of Man Bites Dog thrown in for good measure. Following a gang of ghetto kids causing havoc in the bourgeois center of Paris, the notorious video came only a few years after the 2005 urban riots which caused controversy in France and abroad, reigniting the old, rather boring debate on life imitating art and vice versa when it comes to on-screen violence. The video looked very timely once again in the wake of last summer’s British riots. Neither social commentary nor plain glorification of social evils, ‘Stress’ is above all an assured piece of gut-wrenching cinematography.

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[….and because he’s handsome and French, Guillaume gets a bonus]

‘It Was A Good Day’/’Check Yo Self’ – Ice Cube (F. Gary Gray, 1993)

The Chronicles of Compton, Tome I and II. Ice Cube’s diptych defined (or rather refined) the aesthetics of West Coast gangsta rap; influencing the whole perception of the era and the place, from films (Training Day) to video games (Rockstar’s GTA San Andreas) and beyond.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Music video week | Contributor Top 3 | Sophia Satchell-Baeza

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are Sophia Satchell-Baeza‘s choices. She can be followed on Twitter @SophiaSB1.

3. ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ – Connan Mockasin (Daniel Brereton, 2011)

It starts with a Japanese, Jackson Pollock-inspired tableaux of people covered in paint, dressed as animals, with coloured chalk caked onto ratty hair. Japanese painted fans are moved slowly, fingers click; it’s all a little bit weird. Directed by Daniel Brereton, ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ (also the name of this New Zealand band’s 2011 album) is ten minutes and eight seconds of mad psychedelic beauty. Angeleen060357 on Youtube seems to agree, commenting: “this is a motherfocking [sic] lsd shit”. Part dolphin love story, part art installation, it tells the story of a man who falls in love with a dolphin in a pink nightgown, and then follows her around a rather grey and miserable looking Elephant and Castle and into a forest. As you do. He appears to be getting nearer to her until he taps her on the shoulder and their eyes meet. She walks away, the camera panning backwards as she disappears into the forest.  I DON’T CARE IF SOME YOUTUBE PEOPLE THINK THIS IS PRETENTIOUS BULLSHIT! I think it’s lovely, and every time I watch it, at roughly around 4 minutes, I feel a little sad, stop for a bit, then keep on watching.

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2. ‘Violet’ – Hole (Mark Seliger, Fred Woodward, 1995)

This is like an Angela Carter novel crossed with a slightly psychotic looking Courtney Love, a bunch of rats and some cosmic-apocalyptic drug imagery (“And the sky was made of amethyst”). There are naked ladies, ballerinas, a creepy old man, ‘Leda and the Swan’ mythical undertones, awesome lingerie (clearly a necessary ingredient to my favourite music videos: Duran Duran’s ‘The Chauffeur‘ was also in with a shout), old pianos, and brothel madams. It’s one of the many reasons why Hole are inexplicably underrated.

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1. ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ – Beyonce (Melina Matsoukas, Bee-Z, 2010)

While teetering around in impossible heels and vintage lingerie, Beyonce (a.k.a. B. B. Homemaker), utters the immortal words: “I got beauty, I got class, I got brains and I got ass”. Something of a mantra to make up for the cultural/ socio-political abomination that was ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)‘, Bee has clearly got the right idea here with her portrayal of B. B. Homemaker, a cultural mash-up and black reappropriation of three dated emblems of white womanhood : Betty Page, Rosie the Riveter, and the gin-sozzled housewife (part black Betty Draper, and very Charlie (Julianne Moore) in Tom Ford’s A Single Man). The styling combines Super 8 footage and a palette of 50’s colours and furnishings with some high-end pin up glamour – all martinis and fags and endless baking. The video and (fairly uninspiring) song seems to belong to the tradition of tragic songstresses of love like Dusty Springfield, Patsy Cline, Petula Clark and key girl groups like The Ronettes, who sang of love at whatever the cost (like bouffant-haired Dusty singing “No matter what you do, I only want to be with you”). Beyonce may play the pin-up dimwit, but her message is pretty damn clear in this beautifully realised video: if you don’t love me, you a FOOL!

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Music video week | The PPH interview | AG Rojas

‘Sixteen Saltines’ and ‘Hey Jane’ director AG Rojas in the shadows

Despite a tender age of 24, music video director AG Rojas has caught the eye prior to his much-commented upon video for Jack White’s recent single ‘Sixteen Saltines’. He was responsible for the divisive, fish-eye heavy breakout clip of the Odd Future crew – ‘Earl – which, like ‘Saltines’, took immense care in depicting teenagers up to no-good. The lo-fi aesthetics of that early effort are now long gone, as evidenced by his sublimely rendered treatment for the late Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You‘, which boasted a Million Dollar Baby-shot-by-James Gray vibe. His masterwork to date is the ten minute epic ‘Hey Jane’ for Spiritualized. Though not for the faint hearted, and a touch reliant on shock-tactics from the start, it has an intensity rare in short films, and even rarer in promo clips.

Still reeling from the delectable savagery of the ‘Sixteen Saltines’ video, I recently went on Twitter to nonchalantly compliment Rojas, comparing him in the process to Romain Gavras. Rojas replied, correcting me on my assumption that he was American (he’s not; born in Spain, he’s been living in L.A since he was seven) and thanking me for the kind words. I grabbed the opportunity to ask for an interview and a few emails later, here we are…

PPH (in bold): How did you come up with all the transgressive stunts performed in the ‘Sixteen Saltines’ video?

AG Rojas (in regular): I enjoy conjuring up images of youth involved in precarious situations. It’s not always based on something I lived through or influenced by any specific reference – just my corrupt imagination.

This year, it seems that the best, or at least most visually striking videos (M.I.A’s ‘Bad Girls‘, Woodkid’s work for Lana Del Rey and others) have been shot by European directors and all feature some kind of post-modern teenage nihilism. Is that just a coincidence or some kind of a scene, a style that you feel close to?

Well, I don’t think it’s an aesthetic or theme that is rare in music videos. For me, energy is always the most vital element for a music video. There are few things more vibrant and full of life, however dark or dormant, than youth.

The other reason I compared you to Gavras is that, in a way, ‘Sixteen Saltines’ reminded me of Justice’s video for ‘Stress‘. The whole “boredom make you do crazy things” concept as you put it on your site, and the ending with kids putting a car on fire (though in yours there’s a rock star in it). Is that a real conscious influence?

I think ‘Stress’ is obviously a huge influence on a lot of young music video directors. In my case, not necessarily because of the aesthetic or violence, but more so because it shows you how great a music video can be when a director is given complete (or, almost complete) creative control over the visuals, and takes advantage of this by creating something provocative.

What’s your influences film-wise and music video-wise? ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is a bit David Lynch meets Larry Clark, isn’t it?

I pitched ‘Sixteen Saltines’ as Larry Clark meets Roy Andersson. In the same way I love Harmony Korine [of Gummo and Trash Humpers infamy] and Michael Haneke. It’s a balance of visual aggression and subtlety.

‘Earl’the clip you directed for Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt, has reached the 10 million views mark and served as the orignal landmark of their aesthetic. How did you get in touch with the Odd Future crew before their overnight fame? It seems that in a recent interview for Pitchfork, you hinted that they took to much credit from it. Do you feel that way? 

We all rolled in the same circles, and once I heard Earl’s music, I recognized something special there and wanted to capture that moment. I don’t think they take too much credit. The video wouldn’t exist without the track, and it wouldn’t have been as successful without Earl’s skill and complete commitment to my vision.

Your work tends to be quite narrative-driven, do you see your videos as short films rather than just promo shots for the artist? Do you have plans for a feature film in the future?

There are enough performance videos being made. There is room every once in a while for experimentation. I’ve always gravitated towards narrative filmmaking, and music videos are a great place to hone your skills as a storyteller.

The fight scene in the motel in ‘Hey Jane’ feels so real, it’s pretty hard to watch. How many takes did it take to achieve this rawness? What’s the meaning behind the kid dropping the gun and going back to play video games?

My DP Michael Ragen, our stunt coordinator and I discussed my treatment and what I had in mind. Then we refined it and made sure the energy and composition of the scene matched the intensity of the track. We did the take somewhere around 15 to 20 times. As for the video game, I’m obsessed with small practical details happening at the same time as extraordinary moments. It’s open to interpretation.

The photography in your recent videos is very cinematographic and gritty at the same time. How do you achieve that?

I’ve worked with Michael to really define our aesthetic and to always create images that are as cinematic and natural as possible.

What’s your background?

When I was seventeen I was accepted into the BFA Film Production program at Art Center College of Design. I dropped out a year and a half later and began directing music videos two years after that. After this, I began working for several production companies at various capacities – mostly as a researcher and writer. All the while I was directing, until I finally was signed to Caviar Content as a director.

And what do your have lined up for your next projects?

Commercials, short films, and hopefully features down the line. I have a short film, Crown, which is playing festivals and should be released in late summer.

You can watch the rest of AG Rojas’ work on his website.

Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Joe Pesci tries gangsta rap. Non-ironically.

Ask yourself: What if the original inspiration behind Jay-Z’s oversuccessful brand of gambino gangsta rap was none other than the diminutive Joe Pesci? Well, check this unbelievable piece of evidence and get your mind blown.

Yes, Joe Pesci, in his Nicky Santoro satin suits and 70s collar, raps and reps over a sample of Blondie’s Rapture – and means it. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s drafted in his then-girlfriend Naomi Campbell (yep, as PPH has already dutifully reported, it happened) as the video vixen, as well as go-to mafioso Frank motherfucking Vincent as a hype man.

So Jay-Z, even if you can boast Harvey Keitel and Versace shades in your wiseguy videoes, you will never reach the levels of sheer wiseguyness exhibited in this gem.

Addendum: he actually released an album entitled Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just For You, featuring such gems as ‘Take Your Love And Shove It’.

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Roxy Music at the pictures

More than what, Bryan?

For those of you who view Bryan Ferry as unimpeachably slick and cool, check out this zero-budget atrocity of a promo video for Roxy Music’s 1982 single ‘More Than This’.

Things get off to a supremely awkward start as a salmon shirt-clad, hand-on-hips Ferry lurks beneath a shining cross sporting a posture that sits somewhere between ‘camp’ and ‘ashamed’.  As the light of Christ floods the screen, the camera creeps closer and closer to the singer, who looks as though he’d rather be anywhere else.

At 00:48 Ferry sings, “No way of turning”, and stalks off camera. Suddenly we are in a cinema and Ferry promptly TURNS AROUND to watch the screen. Often, characters going to the cinema is a fascinating trope (think Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver). But not here. Ferry just sits there with his back to us, presumably watching the discarded rushes of the ‘More Than This’ shoot.

After some lumpen sashaying in front of a cheaply rendered, brothel-tastic inferno (is the drummer on fire?) Ferry settles down in his comfy seat, TURNS AROUND again, and that’s it. For a minute and a half.

Great song, though.

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