Only the Young: Music Video Revolution?

10 10 2010

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.


Culture Comment of the Day: Lady A’s “Need You Now” is Less than Lyrical

26 08 2010

I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to “Need you Now” by Lady Antebellum.  That’s not out of love for the song, but more because every local radio station has jumped on the Lady A band-wagon and that’s usually the first thing that greets my ears when I get in the car.  Not that the song is necessarily bad – on the contrary it’s rather catchy – but aside from a chorus that gets stuck in my brain for ten hours at a time, there’s not much to enjoy about the song.  I honestly can’t relate to being drunk at 1:15 in the morning and calling my dearly beloved to pontificate about how totally messed up my life has become, and I’m sure that I am not the only one.  Yet even more than that, the song is lyrically uninteresting.  After having listened to half of the chorus, there’s nothing left in the song that doesn’t repeat itself.  This isn’t only a problem for Lady Antebellum, however; most country rock tunes are plagued with similar disregard for melodic creativity.  That being said, all things are popular for a reason, and I’m sure that there are plenty of good things to be said for the song…I just can’t see them.

Culture Comment of the Day: Completely LOST???

26 08 2010

It’s a bit late, but I still can’t get over the ending of LOST…by, can’t get over it, I mean, I just can’t believe J.J. Abrams and the rest could choose such a weak ending.  Now, I am not talking about the unresolved questions or the lack of satisfaction that most everyone felt watching the finale.  I am, instead, referring to the way they weaseled out of the Christian elements of the show.  The frequent images of orthodox Christian symbolism, the Virgin and Child (Claire and her son), the church that Mr. Eko conceived, etc.  The only non-Christian-centric symbolism I can think of is the ‘Dharma’ Initiative with its yin-yang symbol.  The Dharma Initiative, however, did not play a central role in any of the faith-concerned plot lines, whereas the Christian-themed symbolism was integral.  In the finale of LOST, Jack Shephard stands over his father’s coffin, and behind him in the center of the frame is a stain-glassed window depicting the symbols of six major religions, all arranged to appear as though no one of them is greater than the other.  This, along with the pseudo-theological mumbo-jumbo that Christian Shephard (notice the name…) preaches in the final moments of the show, are clearly meant to appeal across religious lines, ignoring the integrity of the storyline completely.  My only theory for why this was done is that Abrams may have been pandering to ratings for his other shows, but with a resume like his, it wasn’t really necessary.

Culture Comment of the Day

20 08 2010

Recently featured on the disney movie (some would say flop, but that’s implying expectations that weren’t there to begin with) G-Force, the single Falling Down by Space Cowboy is one of my favorites at the moment, and to me it is an excellent example of a current aesthetic shift; namely, the fusion of the hip hop and mainstream rock genres. Perhaps not a lot of people can see that in just this one song, but it only takes listening to a couple of the band’s other songs to make the connection: the mixture of lead synths that have traditionally belonged solely to the sphere of hip hop music with the percussion styles predominantly claimed by mainstream and punk rock bands is fascinating. The only unfortunate side of this group is that it is, along with every other pop-aligned band, perpetuating America’s obsession with image over substance. Although I think Space Cowboy deserves the right to flaunt it’s talent, it still isn’t helping the direction of music in today’s culture.