That's My Jam: Badger? I Hardly Know Her!

It's an question that perhaps seemed more prevalent back in the 80's, but I would argue might actually be more relevant now:
Does an interesting video make a song seem better?
The old knock on MTV and it's various contemporaries was that the advent of music video created a world where looking good was more important than actually having musical talent. That if you filled your music video with enough half naked women and images of cool cars and filled clubs or whatever that it wouldn't really matter how good the song was or not.

And depending on your musical tastes or point of view, it's probably pretty easy to come up with half a dozen hit songs that seemed to be propelled by their visual aids far more than their actual sound.

It's sort of a thin argument though -- because when you think about it, The Beatles were adored by hordes of screaming girls in the 60's who had no idea at the time that something called a music video would ever be invented. Heartthrob singers, uber-cute boy bands, sexpot singers, and hot girl dance groups have been around forever -- so to argue that music videos somehow allowed groups through that wouldn't have survived if all albums had all come in plain brown paper wrappers seems kinda short-sighted.

All that being said, music videos can take a good song (or more specifically, a song that fans of a certain genre really like) and provide it with an avenue to be at least initially interesting to audiences that otherwise might not have any reason to check it out.

In other words, if you listen to broadcast radio -- you're listening to a station with a specific sound. Even if there's variety among the playlists (Top 40, Alt Rock, Urban, Classic Rock) the chances of crossing the streams is pretty rare. You might have a chance to discover a new and unique artist in that given style, but there's zero chance of Rock 105 playing the newest song by Ludacris, or the Urban station in town doing it's best to make sure the legacy of Foghat stays alive.

But what if Foghat (or Dire Straits, or MC Hammer, or Madonna) were able to
encase their songs in the media equivalent of fancy Christmas wrapping paper?

During normal playtimes, MTV in it's heyday tried to be a musical mixed bag. Sure you liked some things more than others, and violently hated some tunes -- but for the most part you could always count on being presented with some sort of sampler's menu. And because artists knew they were appealing to a mixed audience -- it became a big deal to have "interesting" videos. Videos that would allow certain earworm tunes enough time to get in your head.

For example: I heard the worst song ever the other day. Some travesty of a rap/dance song track called I Know You Want Me by some guy named Pitbull. I know this because even though I found the song cloying and stupid, within 30 seconds of hearing it the hook became unavoidably branded into my brain tissue, and after a while I wanted to figure out what asshole was at fault.

I can guarantee you that I'll never, ever be buying any of Pitbull's music -- but in my battle to try to get this song out of my head (using the most reliable method ever, which is introducing it to other people who can then take the infection from you [Which is how I came across it in the first place -- thank you very much, j. ]) I not only learned the name of the song and it's artist, but in doing so watched part of the video on YouTube.
Do I hate the song? Oh yeah.
Could I name it in two notes now? Unfortunately, yes.
In the music industry, that's a win.
It's all about exposure and infection, which is what initially made the pretty flashing lights and pouty-faced boy-band landscape of TRL-era MTV and it's ham-fisted attempts to make you like certain things simply because Carson Daily said it was great so annoying, but in a lot of ways is even more crafty and effective today. Seriously -- check your ipod. Do you have any songs on it that were once used in iPod or Apple commercials -- those hippy dippy everyone's happy songs by the Submarines, that counting song by Feist, or Jerk it Out by the Ceasers?

Look, if you like a song, you like it. That's not a crime, regardless of how you first came across it.
But if you like a video, if that's what draws you in -- and it seems like one really can't go without the other..
I openly admit that I'm a sucker for fun videos. I like jump cuts and slow motion montages. I enjoy animation and I love boobs. As a result, music videos don’t really have to fight all that hard to get my attention (Lets face it -- half the reason I sat through as much of the Pitbull video as I did was because of the eye candy). But I'm also a horrific music snob -- which means at some point I will eventually shake out of my boobs and cartoons-induced trance and evaluate the song on it's own. At which point even things I thought I liked sort of fall by the wayside.
This is sort of how I eventually came to realize that despite the fact she's done a couple of
tunes I dig, in the end I really prefer looking at Rhianna a lot more than I like hearing her sing.
It's something I like to call the Gumball Rule -- which goes something like this:
Which brings us to this weeks video, which I discovered recently when I was catching up on Kanye West's blog. It's certainly not a new song by any means -- but despite it's catchy hook and fun vibe, it's not like I'm the kind of person to be up on all the latest German dance music tracks. If anything, I think it's kinda cool that Kanye of all people was the one who (sorta) hipped me to this.

But lets not lie here: the song is cool -- but the video is awesome. It's like The Jungle Book on acid, with a healthy dose of buxom badgers, ferrets, weasels, and mongooses in Ecko gear and bikinis shaking what their mama gave them.

I could easily see having this track on my iPod (and since starting this entry I went ahead and downloaded it), but I do wonder if I'll listen to it that much. Like a lot of people, I suspect -- there are is a whole island of misfit toys filled with songs that I have on my iPod because I like them, but whenever they come up on shuffle it's skip, skip, skip.
It's as if I've discovered an entire vein of my musical taste that I only really like once in a while.
And sure, some of them are just somber tunes that don't always fit the mood when I'm driving, but a lot of them I've noticed are songs that I first found on video -- and it got me sorta wondering, "Do if I really like these songs, or are they just the perfect soundtracks for video clips that I happen to dig?"

The other thing I notice is that it sorta works in reverse. You'll hear a song as part of a movie soundtrack, especially when the credits are playing, you know -- that one outro song they've saved the whole movie to send you out the door with? And it gets stuck in your head, and the next thing you know you're sorta checking online to find out what it is, and maybe even download it?
Then you listen to it later and you're all like, "Who the hell put this crap on here?"
I don't know -- maybe it's just me. Have any of you noticed a correlation between how much you like a given video versus how much you actually like the song (or perhaps better said, how long the song stays fresh and interesting in your taste?)
And if so, what were they?

[Listening to:  Musiq Soulchild - "So Beautiful" ]


JerseySjov said…
i dont really watch music videos unless im looking for a specific one. but, since my usual method of getting new music is to download anything that i can get for free, there are a bunch of songs on my lists that i don't like and have no idea how they got in my itunes in the first place.

ive been snagging and converting videos from kanye's blog all morning, i wonder which songs will last!
werdna said…
MP3 killed the video star?

Haven't actually spent much time watching videos in a long time. I do everynow and then see whatever video part accompanies some song I look up on youtube.

Video weirded me out. Too much furry in it.
wigsf said…
Music videos exist to make bad songs popular amongst idiots. Need proof? Weezer.
Hex said…
Props to Satorical for reminding me about OK Go!, perhaps the perfect example of what I'm talking about..
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