The Death (and Comeback) of the Music Video Has Been Greatly Exaggerated


This week’s New York magazine features a short article entitled “Why MTV Is Bringing Back Music Videos,” which it isn’t exactly. What MTV is doing is using its sizable funds to pair working directors with musicians and possibly even famous actors for a music video series entitled Supervideo. The first in the series is LCD Soundsystem’s “Pow Pow,” directed by Training Day writer David Ayers and starring Twilight actress Anna Kendrick. And although MTV is “already planning the next few,” it’s hardly a comeback for music videos, mostly because they never went away.

Via New York:

A funny thing happened since music videos stopped airing on MTV: They became popular again. Lady Gaga got 1 billion views on YouTube, and OK Go sent off their singles with their own “How’d they do that?” viral videos. In other words, the short attention span of the Internet proved perfect for the sort of three-minute tuneful clip with a hook that MTV has largely eschewed in the past decade in favor of reality shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore.

Firstly, it seems highly unlikely MTV has seen the proverbial light and will shun the cheap-to-make and quick-to-sell reality television that has spurred its ratings renaissance. The supposed savior is Supervideo, or “what MTV hopes will be a groundbreaking new series of videos utilizing A-list talent,” but it remains unclear whether this “series” is the kind that airs on television at a set time or whether it will be relegated to the web. If it’s the latter, MTV isn’t really “bringing back” anything.

Not that music videos even need bringning back! Though large chunks of straight video programming did cease to exist earlier, TRL didn’t leave the air until 2008, however many hosts later. (Hey Carson.) YouTube, meanwhile, the music video refuge if there is one, launched three years earlier in 2005. Additionally, MTV’s Making the Video, a beacon of the extravagant excesses of the supposed video era, continued through the end of the decade, featuring Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive,” Usher’s “Love in this Club” and even, this year, Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” Sure, we’re not talking “Black or White” or even “Bye Bye Bye” (above) but that’s not too shabby.

If Ok Go’s viral clips, the first and most popular of which was released in 2006, mark a return of the music video, when exactly were they dead? Jay-Z’s Mark Romanek-directed mini-movie for “99 Problems” was released in 2004, the same year as Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” while the built-in-a-lab birth of 50 Cent was the year prior. From there you’re in spitting distance of the boy bands, whose videos are still burned into the minds of today’s rising adults, and are the direct result of Michael Jackson himself. Now, of course, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Kanye West, etc.

The budgets may never be what they once were — thanks “Scream” — but if you like your pop music with visual accompaniment, you’ve never been deprived, Snooki or no Snooki.

MTV Back in the Music Business [New York]