Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Give Music Videos a Chance, Music Teacher!

Quick Update: Blog catch-up day. They've been written, it's just that life has kept me far away from the World Wide Web.

Song Stuck In My Head: Gerudo Valley, a Legend of Zelda song. Pretty neat guitar.

For today’s post, we’re going to my high school strings orchestra class.

I haven’t been in band for long (okay, this is my first year) but it’s obvious that this year’s band teacher doesn’t have many fans. The hardcore band geeks dislike her. The newbies dislike her. It’s her first year as well, see. While I think she some moments, there is one thing that I’m starting to not understand.

She hates music videos.

When she first explained this, it made a little sense. “It distracts from the music,” she says. “It’s more about the video and not the song.”

Why has this been bothering me more, as of late? Well, the two contemporary songs we’re learning right now are Coldplay’s Viva La Vida and Katy Perry’s Firework. While Viva La Vida might not add too much more to the song, Firework is a different story.

As you would predict, band geeks hate Katy Perry. Actually, they hate the whole idea of pop music. The only people who are mega-fans of KP are me, one very afeminite and sassy male cellist, and one sassier and rambunctious violinist. But it’s an easy song, we’ve been doing it for a while, and the violist would go on a murdering rampage if we didn’t do it (it’s her favorite song) so no turning back now.

Except whenever Ms. Band Teacher tries to direct us on adding oomph to the song, it’s an epic fail. She has teacher-student communication problems as it is, so trying to get band geeks excited about a pop song is dang near impossible.

Which is why I really, really wish she would give the music video for “Firework” a chance.

Haven’t seen the video and/or don’t have time for it? Then let me fill you in. In Firework’s Music Video World, when you stand up for yourself or somebody else, be courageous or brave, and just take a risk or dare, fireworks basically shoot out your chest.

It’s not all corny though - the music video for the Grammy-nominated tune actually attacks some relevant issues.

First we have a young cancer patient, already bald and scrubbed, who wanders lost through a hospital, questioning life and death as she passes by the maternity ward and sees a baby being born. Then we switch back and forth between other troubled characters. An overweight, older girl seems miserable at a pool party, because she refuses to jump in. A lonely young man at a rave who seems to be watching someone, sadly.. A little boy who tries to protect his sister while their parents fight over who knows what.

Shells of people, all questioning different things and emanating fear.

How do the fireworks come in? Glad you ask. That little boy jumps up and splits his parents apart. That girl finally takes off her jacket and makes a mad cannonball. Even the lonely man wanders over to the other side of the party, and kisses the person he’s been looking at, without any fear - another man, of course. And that cancer patient goes out into the street, seeming to come to grips with…well, life. All the while, pretty Katy Perry sings from the rooftops.

The multiple stories of this video all take on similar moods. Sadness and confusion at first, until they explode into glistening but beautiful victory. Fireworks are in the air. Something that’s hard to translate to instrumentalists who’ve only heard the song on the radio, nothing more and nothing less.

Even when the bridge of the song kicks in, there’s so much oomph in the music video alone. That lyric “Make them go oh! Oh! Oh!”? Each little “oh” is punctuated with a high, daring jump by the backup dancers as they join Katy Perry around a water fountain. Fireworks sprout from all of them, a sort of metaphor for a world where no one is afraid and everyone stands up.

And yet, we won’t be watching this music video any day soon in class, let me assure you that.

Music videos, when done right, add to songs. Adding stories, like Firework or Paramour’s “The Only Exception” love story turned upside down. Maybe adding another dimension of emotion, like the angst in Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or fervid wildness to Brandon Boyd’s “Runaway Train”.

And sometimes, they just want to get us lost in the world of the song, such as with Filter’s “Take a Picture” (mentioned in another blog last week, but hey, beautiful video) and basically any Ting Tings video out there (but to start out with, “Shut Up and Let Me Go”, “Silence”, “We Walk”, “That’s Not My Name”, “Hang It Up”, ah must I go on?).

If only Ms. Music Teacher would realize that.

(There. I had a non-list blog. Are we happy? ARE WE NOT ENTERTAINED?)



  1. I remember back when I was a teen I would stay up all night flipping between VH1 & MTV, and I would record the music videos on VHS.

    On one hand, it helped me discover new music artists, and I personally felt like the videos themselves actually enhanced the song.
    That is, unless it was a really good song with a really crappy video.
    As we all know, music channels stopped showing music videos, even after presenting promising channels like MTV2, and then I became disconnected from the music scene.

    Not being in school anymore, yeah, I know what people like Adele, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj look like, but I don't really know what their music sounds like. So, basically, I'm missing out and I blame MTV for not providing me with hours of music videos.

    Having said all that, cool post!
    I recognized the Katy Perry song, but I was unaware that it had a pretty nifty video attached to it.
    Speaking as someone who really isn't into mainstream pop, I approve!

  2. It is a little sad, how MTV and VH1 gave up music videos a bit. I know they play them at midnight now, but it's not the same. I'm really hoping someone decides to change that one day, maybe revolutionize music television all over again - especially with Dick Clark passing and all. And you make a good point about Adele, Rihanna, and Nikci Minaj. We see images of the more than we see their videos or performances, or even hear them.

    Thanks for reading! I can tell I'm going to like you, haha!