Sunday, October 4, 2015

Creativity Verses Self-Indulgence

I'm going to make this short and quick, as I due have time constraints and I want to avoid my usual wordiness.

There are some music videos out there that are really creative and interesting or inspiring, and then there are the ones that are pointless, self-conscious, silly, or, worst of all, hugely self-indulgent and showy. I don't mean showy as in bombastic and action-filled, with juggling chainsaws and fireworks, but showy as in "look at me! Look at how amazing I am!"

I'm writing this because I have two great examples in mind, and I wanted to critique them somewhat. I'll start with the creative end of the spectrum.


This isn't the most creative video in the world, and there are definitely others that are just as or more creative (see 'Let Forever Be' by the Chemical Brothers) but it's still a great example. The best creative videos are the simple ones (complex is neat as well, but it can be taking it to the implausible level). In this example, the lead singer wanders through a dark studio filled with artefacts, backgrounds, and scenery, seemingly walking something of a distance until he meets up with the rest of the band, and the camera pulls out to reveal the relatively short distance he walked - more like a semi-circle, with tricks like studio lighting and the way the camera kept his pace. The very atmosphere and setting of the video distills its creativity.

The self-indulgent side:


As I said above, this isn't the worst, and others are just like it, but it's the most severe example I can think of right now. I actually want to say it's the worst, except I've seen worse ones in the past. I believe.

I actually find it kind of funny that I once liked this. I would still like it if it were an instrumental, and even then, it would still feel like a bit of a guilty pleasure because it sounds so steeped in indie-alternative, and that's a genre I don't really relate to; I felt like I was having my 'first time' in liking it and talking about it to my peers, because I was excited about something they were already immersed in and seemed 'cool' about. It's mildly mortifying to think I once referred to it erroneously as "pumped up with kicks" - I guess I was happy that I liked something then-current that everyone around me listened to to the point of screwing up the title. Hence the "first time" metaphor. I personally dislike acting or trying to adapt a 'coolness' based on mass-interest in something; If I wanted to be 'cool,' I'd have an individual coolness based on character, not devotion to something that permits me under a label with others. The difference with that is you can choose to see individual 'coolness' or not, and no one would have to care; there's no false superiority or identity coming from the mass-interest type. I've gotten wordy...

I viewed this video a couple of times. As far as I've seen, it's merely a clip video of promotional material of their pressings mixed with home videos and footage that, with the influence of the promotional stuff and this song as the soundtrack, seem to impress upon the viewer how chill and amazing these young men are. It's permeated with that 'look at us' showiness as the band members sweet-talk girls at bars, drink, jump off low cliffs, travel, and come off with an overload of swagger. Finally, you add in ridiculous footage of the band playing so ridiculously hard, rocking their guitars and screaming into microphones that it makes no sense whatsoever. They're an indie band, not a hard metal rock band. They look like idiots.

The only similarity between the entire video and the entire song is the lead singer's use of a megaphone in a couple of shots. The use of which makes me dislike the vocals in the song altogether.

The lack of creativity goes further, even to the song itself. If you want a song about a high school shooting - with other children being murdered, or just the murderer him/herself - listen to 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam. The music video to that song won awards, and though it was a more complex video, it meshed with the song perfectly and poetically, when you consider the whole 'life goes on despite this' aspect of the opening shot. The lyrics of 'Pumped up Kicks' are also hardly written between the lines, preferring the more upfront obvious style - of which nothing is wrong with that, but it lacks poetry and comes off as kind of repetitive (other songs deal with the same kind of subject matter).

I could watch 'Message to my Girl' over and over and come back to it after awhile. I can't watch 'Pumped up Kicks' more than once or twice altogether. I don't need to admire those men for chilling out and simultaneously putting out an amazing record, look, there it is, zoom in on it, see the band's name? Oh look, they're standing in a parking lot, bleary, I wonder what they were up to?

One thing I can notice, before I have to go, is that today's music videos seem to be way less creative than their 80s and 90s counterparts, and way more self-indulgent. I wonder why. There's way more exhibitionism, sex, and self-admiration going around than either of those two decades. It's unfortunate. Not to mention that it's possible to be creative and self-indulgent at the same time, and back then - I think 'Take on Me' by Ah-Hah exhibits a bit of both. But either way.

Red Cloud
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