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Music Videos & Patience

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When I talked about Kanye West/Spike Jonze’s video for ‘Flashing Lights’, I was nearly as shocked by its patient and economic cutting as I was by its weirdly brutal ending. And about a year ago, I discussed the videos of Gil Green, who makes conventional videos that avoid super-high concept stuff and rapid-fire MTV editing and replace it with the more visceral excitement of hand-held cameras and a tight video narrative.

This continued movement away from the A.D.D editing that peaked in the late 90s/early 2000s isn’t exclusive to music videos, the overall trend has something to do with everyone getting over the insane freedom computerized editing systems gave them, and it probably has a lot to do with just how easy it is to rip off the lotsacrazycuts style, but it’s still an interesting shift, especially as ‘Idiocracy’-like rumblings only continue. Basically, smart directors now realize that the MTV style needs to be employed as another tool as it is in, say, Richie’s suicide in ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ or the beginning of the newest Kanye West video ‘Home Coming’, directed by Hype Williams.

The video uses the quick cuts in a way that works, to introduce the video in an exciting way that matches the song’s appearance on the album: as the previous track ‘The Glory’ comes to a halt, the cheesy-but-great Christopher Cross-type pianos of ‘Home Coming’ pound in for the song’s melancholy hook, the video’s beginning matches this feeling. Then, the cuts slow down, matching the song’s just a few notches above a ballad pace, but the amount of information delivered through the images is still overwhelming but one’s brain can actually process it. Kanye performs on a moving vehicle down a Chicago street, as the cuts bounce between touching ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’-ish images of black Chicago residents, and notable landmarks and pretty-amazing architecture, occasionally punctuated by this weird gray reverse-silhouette of Coldplay’s Chris Martin for the hook.

It’s once again, typically Kanye West in that it wisely–and obnoxiously– avoids categorical thinking and so, the video’s full of shots of–for lack of a better word– “regular” people, which is a nod to the celebrate “the hood”/your hometown video of the 90s, mixed with an architecture fetish that reflects the flossin’ rap videos everyone’s more familiar with, but also updates it in a way by focusing on beautiful art and design and not money and crazy colors and cars. To me, there’s not a difference between the two (I never got why recent rappers like Jay-Z are praised for owning Basquiats instead of gold-encrusted faucets, conspicuous consumpton is conspicuous consumption, no?), but I think it’s what Kanye’s getting at and fits along with Kanye, Andre 3000, and other rappers’ slight contempt for “make it rain theatrics”.

A Simple Equation:

+ 1/4 of This:
Janet Jackson’s ‘Rock With U’ Video

I originally wanted to discuss this video when it came out about a month ago, but it’s one of the most interesting videos that’s been released in a long time, and on the topic of video director “patience”, it fits right in, being this impressive single-take, no cuts video.

The video’s a single-take through three different rooms and then back to the original room, with this like, crazy organic-feeling choreography. The dancing, the camera gliding all around, Janet Jackson and dancers falling into close-up or falling back from the camera, it’s like a single, living, breathing thing that sells this actually pretty weird song really well. Janet Jackson’s a talented dancer and performer and the video grabs onto that and pretty much one-ups any dance video made since the heyday of dance videos in the 90s. Most performers (Usher might be one of the only true exceptions) don’t really go all-out and actually dance or you know, use the dancing to signify or reflect something, but ‘Rock With U’ does.

One of the best aspects of the video– and one of the reasons it’s not very popular– is the way the choreography goes from this insanely organic thing to the dancers basically stopping to move into the next room, which of course, we see because there’s no cuts! It’s both glamorous and realistic at the same time. Dunno if this connection makes any sense to anybody else, but the video’s mechanic naturalism makes me think of something like Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ or other stuff by H.R Giger in its ability to feel both of this world, dirty and natural, and eerily cold and futuristic.

The song’s clearly an attempt to cash-in on the electro-rave R & B trend, but it’s sort of waaaayyy more genuine and of that genre than Timbaland’s updating rave signifiers for a pop audience. Janet’s voice is pretty processed and auto-tuned but it could be worse, and arrpeggiting synths flutter, 808s clap, chopped funk guitar riffs fall in and out mechanically, there’s this ‘Dont You Want Me Baby’ synths, and it’s got some like actually for-the-club bass and not modern R &B/hip-hops sense of what music in a club is supposed to sound like. I think it’s basically a song that’s way too real for the radio and the same could apply to the video as well; whether Janet Jackson knows that or not, I’m not sure.

Written by Brandon

April 4th, 2008 at 6:48 pm