For many a person of a certain age, much of their favorite music was discovered on MTV or VH1. MTV was launched on August 1, 1981 and popularized the music videos. Music videos are nothing new as anyone who has watched enough TCM could tell you as they frequently play short films that either merely consisted of a band performing or with a small sketch or cartoon in front. As a modern concept though, the music video can be traced to the 60s as bands such as The Moody Blues and The Beatles started making promotional clips for their songs. And really that’s what music videos have and always will be primarily, promotion for a band and their music to sell concert tickets, records, CDs, downloads, whatever. Countless bands have achieved fame based almost entirely on the backs on their music video(s) and they were/are a great way to discover music.
While they have generally been used merely for promotion, music videos are also a wonderful art form which has turned out some of the most creative and brilliant works of the past few decades. I still love watching them even with the music channels moving on from showing them with any sort of consistency and the Youtube area has only allowed Sure, most of them are quickly forgotten, but there are hundreds of magnificent short films which not only compliment the music, but also enhance or even make the very experience of enjoying them.
Yet, when discussing various art forms, the music video is frequently overlooked or dismissed. A sort of relic that died years ago and persisting only out of a sense of obligation. But I don’t want to let this sort of nonsense continue and so I will be devoting each column to the work of a single director (or on occasion a grab-bag of miscellaneous ones from directors who lack enough classic works for their own feature). They may not be as famous as feature directors, but they deserve a spotlight all the same. In fact, countless feature directors have gotten their start in music videos including such names as Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), David Fincher (too many classics to list), Anton Corbijn (Control), Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast), F. Gary Gray (Friday), David Slade (Hard Candy), and Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City).
Already, I have 52 names lined up for features and over 60 more in the miscellany category so I have material for years but I may solicit guest articles from time to time if there is a director whose work I don’t feel all that qualified to talk about (works by directors for more recent bands especially) which is more code for “The music in the videos that these directors were known for is garbage and overwhelms my ability to enjoy the videos” or “I just don’t feel like doing it right now”. Also, certain directors (namely Spike Jonze) will be getting the multiple write up treatments because their contributions to the genre were so great. Some of these will be more detailed than others, but I intend to give them all the attention they deserve.
So why don’t you come along with me as I embark on this journey, starting Monday the 27 at 7PM EST (and going up every alternate Monday) with a personal favorite of mine, a director who has never gotten a chance to graduate to film (coming close once with and adaptation of Neuromancer), Chris Cunningham.