The quality of music videos is on a rapid decline. This could have something to do with the lack of music videos being played anywhere on US television (luckily Canadians still have the luxury of several music video-only channels, including MuchLoud, MuchVibe and MuchRetro). More likely, there are few real innovators in the medium... in fact, no has even come close to approaching the genius of Michel Gondry.

Although he may be in full movie-making mode right now (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, etc.), he created some of the best music videos of all time: Let Forever Be by the Chemical Brothers, Fell In Love With A Girl by the White Stripes, Walkie-Talkie Man by Steriogram... the list goes on. In fact, no one has even come close to replicating what he has done. Unfortunately, he has developed a following of art school kids who THINK they are doing something innovative, when in fact they are doing a very poor imitation of his work. Case in point: my buddy Payam (check out the link to his site in my sidebar) just sent me a link to the latest Lily Allen video for her track, Fuck You:

The video is a great concept - but totally fails in the execution. This is more like a demonstration of special effects (basic ones, at that) rather than a fully thought-out piece of art. in the video, no one is even reacting to Allen as she manipulates the world around her. If someone stretched my face, I think I'd react! These are the kind of details and care Gondry put into his work, and what really set it apart. It's precisely why his videos were so compelling, and went beyond just a showcase of special effects. Another example - Kraak & Smaak, with their video for Squeeze Me:

Awesome concept. But hollow execution. This is cool effects for the sake of cool effects.

All of this got me thinking: maybe we've reached a plateau in terms of what can be done in music videos. This is due to accessibility to technology, perhaps. When Gondry was innovating, he was doing things with special effects that had never been seen - but because of recent CG advances, in 2009 there is little we haven't seen already. More importantly, easy access to these effects has made creators lazy. Very lazy. Gondry had to put a ton of thought and a TREMENDOUS amount of effort into planning some of his videos, mainly because the effects were so complex and costly. Today, any person with a PC and moderate skill can pull off sophisticated-looking effects - so why bother putting any real thought into the SUBSTANCE of the video?

If there is anything out there I'm missing, please let me know. I'm starving for amazing music videos and it pains me to see my favorite medium in such a state. Next step: just make them myself...

3 Responses to 'Was Michel Gondry the last creator of innovative music videos?'

  1. Anonymous said...'> March 11, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    maybe you're right, i havent seen that many videos, i agree gondry's are amazing but maybe its because he is a genius?


  2. Anonymous said...'> January 21, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    One thing to consider is that gondry was creating music videos at the height of music video budgets. His videos often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. These days, directors are working with a fraction of what Gondry was working with. In order to have the degree of detail that Gondry's videos take, you need a lot of money.


  3. Mike Amin said...'> January 23, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    While I agree that budgets are tiny compare to those days, I can say with some assurance that you don't need a lot of money to be creative. Just look at OK GO's first video for "Here It Goes Again" (and subsequent vids). That video cost peanuts to make and is completely fueled on a creative concept.

    The sad reality is that the mass availability of sophisticated video editing and compositing tools has made directors very lazy. One would hope that being able to create videos with hardware/software that used to be reserved for professionals would encourage creators to produce something great, but it seems to be doing the opposite.


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