Illustrated Song

The Art of the Music Video

The music video is a delicate and intricate art form. Done right, it has the potential to lift a song to new heights, extend its reach, force and meaning. Done wrong, it can leave an unpleasant taste, like an excess of sugar ruining an otherwise palatable dessert. And while a great release is great independently of its motion picture complement, it’s certainly well worth shooting a stellar video. After all, it’s the associations that music invokes in our minds that mark its true power.

Avoiding further abstractions, consider the music video for upcoming Arctic Monkeys single, “Suck It and See” (to be released October 31st, 2011). What goes perfectly with a sweet, melodic tune about a special girl giving romance a chance? Usher in the band’s drummer Matt Helders starring as a bad-boy motorcyclist in the California desert, add a smoking hot model (Breana McDow), and pit the two in a raunchy relationship teeming with sexual aggression.

Every detail from the imagery and the emotion conveyed is given close attention and constructed to perfection. As we watch McDow’s character fighting for her man’s attention as he shoots rifles, lifts weights poolside and rides his motorbike no-handed, we are romantically engaged, though in a manner that is intriguingly strange and unfamiliar. The two are violently shoving one moment, violently embracing the next. The viewer becomes emotionally charged, thinking about the music in a new way, whether associating it merely with sadomasochism or with an overflow of urgency and passion.

The most important element of a music video is contrast; it must be thought of as an extension, rather than a mere representation of the song. Here a tune with very English characteristics is thrown into old car junkyards and dirt roads in the Mojave Desert. A bit of cheek doesn’t do any harm either: the title “Suck It and See” is often mistaken as sexual, so the band goes and shoots an overtly sexual video. Still, the video preserves the song’s identity, maintaining a fierce romantic side, and ending with Helders and McDow waving a British flag as they ride off into the night. The result is that the viewer can grow enamored with the track through its visual content, and what is a music video to accomplish, if not that?