Ever since Brandon Flowers’ solo album came out, the single track I loved more than any other was “Only the Young”, a masterpiece of atmospheric rock in its purest form. It wasn’t until I saw the music video, however, that I realized the significance of the song and its intentions. If you notice from the following clips, Brandon Flowers isn’t necessarily doing anything new…what he is doing is revamping the concept of the music video to include aesthetic symbolism not seen for sixty, maybe seventy years.
Just from looking at these one might get the impression they belong to a noir film from the 40s or 50s, or in some cases, perhaps even a German expressionist silent film from the 30s. Neo-noir film techniques have long been in vogue, of course, but nothing to this extreme or depth. Whereas generally in modern film, noir is used stylistically to create a mood that enhances a particular theme, one can’t help getting the deep impression that in this video the mood is the theme, in the sense that the song itself epitomizes a nostalgic attraction for the pleasures of places like Vegas, where only the blissfully innocent young can enjoy the promises of wealth and glory the world offers. We see this theme echoed in a lot of today’s successful films:
In Tarantino’s first masterpiece, the ending sums it all up. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the central theme becomes preservation of life; ironic for a Tarantino movie, for certain, but nevertheless quite powerful, and the atmospheric noir techniques enhance this message a great deal.
All the rest are movies I have not personally seen, but have made it big either among critics, at the box office, or both.
“Chinatown”, by directed by Roman Polanski
“Taxi Driver”, starring Robert De Niro
“Basic Instinct”, starring Sharon Stone
All of these are films that have in some way incorporated the imagery and stylistic atmosphere that is so central to the music video “Only the Young.” I think that in making the nostalgia of film noir the primary metaphoric device of the video, Mr. Flowers has crossed a threshold that other music video makers would be wise to step over as well. My opinion is that this video, along with some of Lady Gaga’s music videos, embodies the height of true aesthetic art in the pop world today.