A long time ago, music videos were promotional tools for songs, tacked on as an afterthought to capture lucrative airtime. Obviously, times have changed. There are entire channels dedicated to these clips, and directors who specialize in them. The Internet awaits Lady Gaga video releases like Hollywood premieres, and sites like Portable.tv devote an entire section to the artform.
Music videos are no longer an ad for a product as much as they are part of the product, a complementary part of an aesthetic ‘world’ contained but not constrained within the music. My favourite example of this is the video for the Usher/R. Kelly duet, “Same Girl“ (bear with me for a second here). The lyrics are a conversation between the apparent best friends, as they slowly work out that they are dating the same girl — same tattoo, same license plate, same love for Waffle House. The video, however, adds a punchline absent from the song. When the guys turn up to a date together to catch this cheating jezebel in the act, we see that it’s not the same girl but identical twins (which raises further questions but try and suspend your disbelief). This is a sigfnificant addition to the song’s ‘narrative’, not found in the song itself, that casts it in a whole new light. For a more recent example, try the subversive twist at the end of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe“ clip.
It’s big leap from Usher and Kellz to avant-garde Australian musician Kirin J Callinan, but not an entirely inappropriate one. “W II W” is the lead single from Callinan’s forthcoming debut solo album, and like “Same Girl”, the accompanying video is an essential part of the overall aesthetic package (although that’s probably the only similarity between the two songs). Directed by Kris Moyes, the video uses the gothic blues of “W II W” as a soundtrack to a series of creepy looped images, a nightmare version of a GIF Guide. The song is oddly harrowing in itself, but becomes something else with the video accompaniment — like the strings in Psycho became so much more dramatic when they were underscoring Janet Leigh being stabbed in the shower.
Describing the clip in words makes it sound silly. There’s nothing explicit or NSFW, nothing even particularly logical. Just a series of images, hinting at ideas of unforgiving nature and a primitive physicality, looping in shuddering rhythm, monochrome occassionally rupturing with a burst of colour. It does what every contemporary music video should do — complement the song’s aesthetic in a striking and inventive way. You may not see anything more fucked up this year.