Category Archives: Music Video Monday

Music Video Monday #54: Rihanna’s “Diamonds.”

It’s no secret that I’m a major Rihanna fangirl, but I think this video has taken me beyond normal fandom into the realm of pseudo-creepy infatuation. I’ve watched it about twenty times in the past couple days and it continues to, for lack of a better word, thrill me. There’s an unexpected beauty in the imagery–the tiny diamonds spilling out of a rolled joint, the pair of horses running free through a gorgeous valley, the ardent grip of tattooed hands slipping from each other–that belies the danger of love that feels like a drug. “Diamonds” reminds me of “We Found Love,” but where the latter seemed to acknowledge that such a love is a double-edged sword, the former seems to revel only in the beauty, the feeling in the moment that you’re alive and that nothing can surpass that high. I continued to be impressed by the trend of pop stars releasing music videos that are cinematic to the degree of high art, employing gorgeous cinematography and a focus on nuanced details that speak volumes without saying a word, and “Diamonds” is a great example of that.

Music Video Monday #52: Crystal Castles’ “Plague.”

I’m a day late on this Music Video Monday, but this video is simply too good to wait until next week. I watched this video via Pitchfork yesterday and was surprised to discover that it was originally a fan video, but that Crystal Castles were just so smitten with it that they decided to make it the official video for their newest single, “Plague.” The footage is from the 1981 French horror film Possession, and after doing a little YouTube research, I was able to find the same sequence from the film to compare (I’m not going to link to it because it gets pretty disturbing; if you’re determined to watch it, I’m sure you won’t have difficulty finding it). It’s amazing how much sound contributes to our interpretation of images: where the film sequence is stark and harrowing and uncomfortable, the addition of music makes it feel so artful, as if the contorted movements weren’t a seizure but rather a dance, a fit of uncontrollable ecstasy. The music creates the context and that context allows for a single sequence of images to be transformed into something new and almost unrecognizable, with the possibility of infinite variations. So incredible.

Art is awesome. #duh

Music Video Monday #51: Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings.”

[youtube.com=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtOToiIDNRA]

Raise your hand if you’re glad Josh Tillman left Fleet Foxes to become Father John Misty? Yeah, me too.

This video terrifies me in the best way possible. Aubrey Plaza’s performance is like a case study in grieving and self-destruction, with all of her spiraling and stumbling and teetering between rage and tears, and she does it so well and with such nuance that it makes me a little uncomfortable. She’s divine. The whole video plays out like some kind of fever dream where time ceases to be linear and the line between hallucination and reality is blurred and you run into the woods to do battle with your demons and wake up with a bloody nose. It’s very surreal until the end when reality comes back into sharp focus, and what appears to be a rescue quickly turns into an imprisonment. It’s a shockingly dark twist to an already-dark tale, but there’s also a bizarre humor in it that instinctively makes you want to laugh until you realize what’s actually happening. That’s an expert blend of horror and comedy right there, and that’s what makes this video memorable. Long live Father John.

Music Video Monday #50: Fiona Apple’s “Every Single Night.”

“I told [director] Joey [Cahill] just to come up with a bunch of things and just do things to me and put me in situations and surprise me. One thing I wanted to have happen was to be covered in snails. I laid in a bed of soil and they put snails all over me. And then they brought in shit that I would not have asked for. He put a dead squid on my head.
I used to love to put snails on my arm– I have a bunch of pictures. I used to put half a watermelon out in my yard overnight and then go out there in the middle of the night and take pictures of them, like macro pictures of the snails sipping the watermelon. I would love to sit there and put them on my arm. I don’t know, it just helped me think. I really like snails a lot.” – Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple is one of my favorite musicians of all time, and thus it goes without saying that I’m pee-my-pants-excited for the release of her new album tomorrow. When I was a senior in high school and Ms. Apple had just released Extraordinary Machine, I saw her perform in Portland, which was the maiden performance of her U.S. tour and, Ms. Apple made sure to point out, her first performance in five years. It was an incredible and fascinating performance, but not because she’s a gifted performer; quite the opposite, in fact. She seemed wholly uncomfortable being on stage, kept her eyes closed and remained largely still while she sang, and spoke maybe twenty words to the crowd. And yet, there was so much raw power and emotion in her songs and the way she sang them that I (and my three girlfriends I was with) were moved to tears.

I read a recent profile of Ms. Apple in the New York Times, and while I’ve always suspected that she was a bit imbalanced, this profile portrays her as incredibly eccentric. And not, like, cool eccentric… CRAZY eccentric. She talks about how she’s alone all the time and even walks her dog at dawn so as to avoid interaction with other people, and how she climbed a hill near her house for eight hours a day, every day, until she literally could not walk anymore and needed months of rehabilitation on her knees, because she saw the constant climbing as a way to work out all the anger that had built up inside of her. I don’t want to join in on the chorus of crazy-callers, but there’s no denying that most people wouldn’t classify that type of thing as normal. It brings to mind that image of the tortured artist, the type whose music I’ve always been fascinated by because it seems to be less a voluntary creation of art and more an involuntary outpouring of something beyond themselves, an inner movement that will burst if not allowed a release. And that’s why I love this video: there’s a sense of stream-of-consciousness that’s unchecked, a lack of control over which thoughts and images bubble to the surface. It’s glimpses into a singular and unusual mind where the imagined takes a physical form and creates a reality where few things make sense but it all feels strangely resonant. And that whisper of a line, “I just want to feel everything”… so powerful.

Happy Monday!

Music Video Monday #49: Drake’s “Take Care.”

I had to make a roundtrip drive from Seattle to Portland in my grandparents’ car a couple weekends ago, and since the CD player was broken, I spent a good deal of time searching for an acceptable radio station to listen to during my journey. Refusing to settle on a country or gospel station (and in lieu of a classic rock station, which would have been my first pick), I reluctantly left the dial on a Top 40 station and have been on a big pop music kick ever since. I really dig this song, and Drake in general I suppose, and the video is surprisingly avant-garde for a pop song. I love the way the temperature of the video shifts tonally between a cold blue and a warm sepia and a neutral monochrome, and the extreme detail of the slow motion shots, of a bluejay’s wings flapping and a bull trotting as dust flies off its back, paired with the thumping beat and repetition of those piano chords is absolutely hypnotic. I also really like that there’s no other visual stimuli beyond the moving subject of each shot; it serves to reinforce that earnestness with which Drake is trying to convince this lady to let go of past heartbreaks and give things a go with him, in the same way that Rihanna’s looks into the camera as Drake holds her convey the trepidation, the resistance to starting a new relationship when the hurt of an old relationship is still fresh in one’s memory, that Drake is trying to assuage. The song itself is a persuasive speech, but the video turns it into a dialogue and I love that.

Happy Monday!

Music Video Monday #48: Lana del Rey’s “Blue Jeans.”

Say what you will about Lana del Rey, but I dare to you deny that this video is absolutely stunning. There are components that bring to mind Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games” video: the lack of color, the generous use of slow motion, the proximity to water. The water imagery is particularly interesting to me, because whereas “Wicked Games” plays out in the ocean, an open and natural space that feels safe and life-giving, “Blue Jeans” is set in a pool, a confined man-made body of water that holds danger just below the surface. These videos, to me, seem like two sides of the same coin: both explore that notion of all-consuming love, but “Blue Jeans” contemplates the dark side, the blindness that can accompany love. Watching del Rey fearlessly swim with crocodiles and then be pulled under by her man as she sings “I will love you ’til the end of time” is haunting. It’s so cinematic and somehow manages to be cerebral and visceral simultaneously, and I just think it’s really well done. Way to go, Lana!