Remember when there were hardly any music clips? Or when you could only see your fave ones on MTV at a stupid o’clock at night? Seems like forever ago to me. But how easy is it nowadays to fall into the internet rabbit hole, watching all the videos the algorithms have lined up for you?!
That competitive space presents both opportunities and threats for the musicians. Since 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s super hard for any music clip to stand out (especially when it’s not backed up by a major record label). On the other hand, though, it forces the creators to be… extra creative.
So let’s focus on some Australian examples of music videos worth spending those long hours in front of the screen.
PART 78 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
Here’s a marketing fun fact: “82% of consumer internet traffic will be video by 2021”. It is 2021 already. And I’m sure we’ll all agree that making videos is one of the tactics artists use to “sell their product”. It sounds horrible, I know, but that’s what a song or record is at the end of the day.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine the music world today without the visual side of it. We’ve actually now moved to the other extreme, where video content is key to any business.
To be perfectly honest, clips do help with consuming music because most humans absorb things visually. In other words, we remember it better when we see something, as opposed to hearing it. Also, watching doesn’t require as much time or effort as reading, for instance. So it’s now become everybody’s fave way to switch off.
This week, I’ve sacrificed my free time to comb through… well, heaps of music videos released by Aussie acts over the years. And I’ve narrowed them down to a list of a few recurring themes. Their selection depends largely on what the artist wants us, the audience, to take away from the clip. It’s like a “call to action” in marketing.
GET TO KNOW THE ACT IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT
This one’s a no-brainer. But you’ll probably want to know first what the hell an artist’s “natural habitat” is, right? Let me show you two examples.
For the first one, you’ll want to turn down the volume a little. Because In Hearts Wake are a metalcore band that did the best thing they possibly could with the music video to their song “Survival”.
They simply put together footage from various gigs/festivals and spiced it up with the crazy shit they normally do on tour. You can’t go wrong with this sort of mix. The band correctly assumed that it works especially well with heavier music genres – that live performance energy is very palpable in the vid.
And it’s one of the best ways to create the FOMO feeling. Next time, people will be dying to come to your show. Guaranteed.
Amy Shark chose a different alley. Here, the “natural habitat” is her life.
To illustrate a very personal track, she did a montage of private videos, from a very young age to the present day. It shows the singer in different circumstances, also revealing her vulnerable side.
I’m sure it takes a lot of courage to open up so much to fans. But this is exactly what makes the Gold Cost songwriter so relatable. At the end of the day, no matter how much fans respect the artist for their craft, they (we!) will always want to have a glimpse of their personal life. To know that they are human beings like us.
“Amy Shark” nails that concept.
SOMETHING FOR ANIMATION FANS
Who doesn’t love a good music cartoon? Well, me, actually. But I do recognize animation’s value in the artistic world. I also acknowledge that it’s a perfect option for a music video when it’s impossible to get the performers in the same room, they don’t like being featured in the films, or you cannot shoot a real clip because of a global pandemic.
Sia‘s music video for “Hey Boy (feat. Burna Boy)” is a combination of all the above-mentioned reasons. (Let’s forget for a minute that it comes from the Adelaide singer’s now infamous directorial movie debut.)
And I gotta admit – despite not being a fan of this sort of music clips – it’s a pretty cool one to watch. The graphics are mind-blowing. It’s funny. And it feels like a proper cartoon with all the flying around, bright colours and the characters themselves. I’d say it conveys the song’s message quite accurately. Animation freaks should be satisfied.
Another aspect plays a huge role in the case of animated videos. There is an enormous target group to be gained potentially. If the video is well-executed and the plot makes sense, you’re appealing to a valuable, new audience that, otherwise, wouldn’t even know you exist: the gamers.
Especially when your animation looks a bit like a video game. Such is the case of G Flip‘s “Hyperfine”, in my view. The video reminds me of “The Sims” at the beginning. Later on, it turns to be more of a monster-slaying chase. All in all, it does tell a certain story that could potentially be developed further. Oh, and the singer’s “avatar” is super cute, too.
LEARN THE (CORRECT) LYRICS
Twenty years ago, nobody knew what a lyric video was. A music clip was supposed to show some kind of story and, preferably, the band members starring in it.
Fifteen years ago, nobody yet cared for lyric videos. It was also much more difficult and expensive to produce a clip than it is today. So if you were releasing one, you made sure it was an elaborate, well-thought-out piece of work, at least worthy of an award nom.
Ten years ago, it was still mostly an experiment. Until, in 2014, “MTV included a lyric video category in their annual Music Video Awards”. And the rest is history.
A lyric video is basically what it says it is. The main element is typography, which serves a few purposes.
Firstly, it has the interactive element for fans – they can sing along with the artist without making stuff up. It’s especially useful if your tongue is English and you have an international fanbase. Secondly, you normally release it before the official video to get some hype going in advance. And thirdly, it’s way cheaper and less complex to produce than a full-on concept clip. Frankly speaking, you could make an entire one (from shooting it to post-production) in your own living room.
And that’s exactly what Polish Club did. In “Countdown”, they have also opted for the “real-time” experience. Essentially, one of the duo members is typing the words on the screen as the track is played on his computer. And it’s actually pretty funny to watch because the typing speed and the singing speed are, obviously, not aligned.
Another lyric video has got my attention in the past week as well. Caiti Baker has just dropped a new single, “Mellow”, and she’s decided to accompany it with a little something extra.
The clip is a “freestyle dance performance” at the same time, as the artist calls it. It showcases Caiti’s awesome moves. And I reckon it serves as an invitation to put together your own choreography as you watch it. A very TikTok material, I’d say.
FOCUS ON THE ARTIST
Sometimes, all you need in the video is the actual act that performs the song. Nothing more, nothing less.
That can happen in two cases. Either, the song itself is so good that it doesn’t need to be “enhanced” visually. But still, it’s worth having a vid for it. Or the message it carries is so important that adding any additional imagery would derail it completely.
Ziggy Ramo‘s clip for “Pretty Boy” belongs to the second category. It’s actually a fairly brave concept. After all, it’s difficult to keep people’s focus on something that has so little “action” for nearly three and a half minutes, no matter how “attractive” the subject is.
The unexpected element here, ensuring that you’ll stick till the end, is the subtle striptease. Got your attention yet?
If Ziggy Ramo’s was a vertical video, Meg Mac‘s “Roll Up Your Sleeves” moves horizontally. The idea is the same, however – concentrate on the artist’s expressions. No altering backgrounds, no outfit changes, no cuts. Just a one-take shot.
This clip uses another interesting element. To me, there’s something special about black and white movies. They feel much more intimate and profound, so they are possibly more memorable than the rest. And that’s the whole point, right?
FOCUS ON THE GENRE
Have you ever tried watching a music video without the sound on? If you haven’t, you should try it. Because every genre has its unique characteristics that will appear in the clips made by artists who represent them. So even if you’ve never heard the name of the act, it’s very likely you’ll be able to tell what the beat is.
On that note, I really dig the music video to Bliss n Eso‘s single “Tell The World That I’m Coming”. And although its vibe is rather minimalistic, you’ll instantly know that this is a hip hop music video. Why?
I once asked a movie director why many rap clips look the same. His reply was, “Because the audience expects it”. And he’s right. So you’ll also see a throne, band members without their T-shirts on or wearing big puffy jackets, and talking to an inverted phone receiver standing in some sort of ring here.
But that’s okay because the clip is very bouncy and dynamic. And playing with different backgrounds and colours was a very simple but effective move.
On the other hand, we’ve got Riley Pearce. He’s not a rapper, but a singer/songwriter. And you could also easily guess that by watching the video to his song “All My Love”.
A beautiful ocean scenery, a picturesque sunset and a couple watching the stars through a telescope… Not only does it go very well with the track’s title and message, but it’s also very fitting to the music genre it represents. And there’s nothing better than having your expectations met when it comes to your favourite artists, don’t you think?
BE THE CO-CREATOR
When the pandemic hit, the music world learned very quickly that it was taking certain things for granted. Amongst them was shooting professional music videos. Thankfully, many artists made use of the available technology in more creative ways. Some Aussies cleverly branched out to external resources for help.
This was the reinvention of fan-made videos.
That’s why Tash Sultana‘s “Pretty Lady” is a compilation of dance routines performed by her muso friends and fans. The best bits are actually the “bloopers” at the end. The first time I saw the clip, I was actually quite amused, seeing members of The Teskey Brothers or Pierce Brothers feature in it. Not everyone is a born dancer, you see. Most importantly, though, they all had fun.
The Rubens used the same tactic for their video to “Heavy Weather”. They even put an official callout on the internet for their fans to submit their own little movies. And they must have received heaps of them because the end result is pretty surreal.
It’s a great treat for the fans to feature in a clip where they are seen together with the band members in some unusual situations. Aside from the song itself, which is very catchy and melodic, this vid will always be a positive memento from the pandemic. For both sides: the group and their audience alike.
If you can’t think of anything else, there’s always the option of showing your fans that you have a sense of humour. After all, music is meant to entertain. And video can only help amplify that mission.
In “The Level”, Slowly Slowly went back in time and I went bonkers… for the vocalist’s hairdo. I’m loving the whole vibe, actually. I don’t know where they found those outfits (a second-hand shop, most likely?) but the fur and the sunnies are tops.
The song itself might not be so special, but it definitely gains more character, matched with the vid. Watch it till the end because there’s something else after the music has finished.
If not taking yourself seriously was a competition, Skegss would have very good chances of winning it. And the clip to their track “Valhalla” would be one of the arguments in favour. But, apart from being humorous, it’s actually quite well-thought-out.
Staging the Viking times, including the interiors, make-up and costumes surely required some preps. Obvs, you can tell that this is a parody – otherwise, it couldn’t be a Skegss clip. But the boys must have done proper research because the clip essentially illustrates (in simple terms) the legend of Valhalla from Norse mythology. Something I actually didn’t expect from the punk-rockers.
Finally, let’s look at two examples that don’t fit under any of the above categories.
Here, I’ve got another marketing fact for you. It states that people’s attention span these days is that of a gold finish: more or less 8 seconds. After that time, we tend to lose interest and simply abandon whatever we’re checking out if we don’t find it useful or entertaining enough.
So one way to ensure that a viewer stays till the end is to make the video pretty wack.
The Presets‘ famous clip to “My People” definitely falls into that category. It seems chaotic at first but, apparently, there is method in this madness. In reality, the visuals were carefully planned to go along with the aggressive electronic beat. They were created “by duplicating and shifting [an] action along the timeline by one frame with each duplication”.
As a result, the combination of sounds and visuals in this clip might make you feel a little uneasy. But that didn’t stop it from winning the “Best Video” award at the 2008 ARIAs. The point is, you’ll definitely remember the song.
And what if the track is over nine minutes long? What do you do then? Do you even make a video to accompany it?
RÜFÜS DU SOL surely think so. However, when making “Innerbloom”, they knew very well that no story or imagery will keep people glued to the screen for so long. Instead, they went for a “backdrop” option, where colours of an unspecified substance move to the rhythm and change their state. So they don’t count on people looking at the screen for those nine minutes, but rather having the song played in the background.
It’s just an artistic expression, a collage of light and different shapes and forms. But that sort of visualiser goes very well with their emotive house music.
Do you know any more examples of Aussie music videos worth mentioning? Let me know on my socials.
Cover photo: a still from The Presets “My People”
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