Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anatomy of the perfect music video clip

The perfect music video clip doesn’t just happen, you know – it takes work and there’s a formula involved. Certain boxes to be checked, if you will. As a long time watcher, first time commentator I should know. And I’m not talking about the shit you see these days featuring gyrating pre-pubescent lip-synchers, designed apparently purely to attract middle aged masturbators. Done right it’s a beautiful thing and there’s a delicate balance involved, damnit.

So for our case study today, let’s take a look at Michael Jackson’s Beat It – to my mind one of the greatest video clips ever.

But why?

Let’s take the basics out first, with a view to getting them out of the way. The presence of A GOOD SONG, for instance, is, you know, moderately important. James Blunt may be pumping out some corkers on the music video front but there’s not enough time in the world for me to get around to watching them, if you see what I mean. And while I can’t say for sure whether Beat It is on my ipod or in my CD collection I doubt there’s a reader here who hasn’t enjoyed a bit of an (albeit shameful) dance to it in his or her life – whether it’s in a public setting or in the privacy of one’s own bedroom. Hey, I don’t judge.

EYE CANDY is… well it’s not necessary, arguably, but it is desirable for a number of obvious reasons. And call me crazy but Michael Jackson actually looks sort of, um… c’mon don’t make me say it. But he really totally does. Don’t give me the stink eye, readership – you would go there and so would I.

But, really, all that is window dressing. A mediocre song can be improved with a kick arse video clip, and I’m prepared to watch ugmos for four minutes, providing there’s some sort of extreme entertainment value involved. And entertainment in spades is what this little beauty delivers.

Starting with SUSPENSE.

The first time you see this video clip your first thought (if you’re me at least) is What The Fuck Is Going On. I mean, for a start who are these random dudes (who clearly AREN”T Michael Jackson) in a diner and why are they… wait, are they rounding up a posse? And why is that dude coming out of the sewer…?

Then Michael Jackson pops up (in, by the way, the most awesome t-shirt I’d ever seen until I got an eyeful of James Franco’s shark-eating-a-kitten triumph in Pineapple Express) but there’s no obvious connection between what he’s doing (poncing about) and what everyone else in the clip is doing (also poncing about but en masse).

So for about three quarters of the clip you can see these other dudes getting set for a rumble, while MJ fucks about in a jacket looking vaguely tortured (and, btw, sort of hot. And fuck you.) and it’s, frankly, entirely unclear how one storyline will meet up with the other. In short: you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen.

Which brings us to…

THE TWIST

So the whole video is building up to this kick arse rumble, right? And you know it’s going to be kick arse because the two guys leading the rival gangs both look like they just swallowed the 80s. If you can’t be arsed watching the video above allow me to paint you a word picture by saying simply this: one of them is wearing a white (denim?) jacket featuring a giant picture of a DRAGON on the back of it. And on we go.

So it’s rumble time – there’s some extremely unconvincing stab action going on and then MJ busts in, walks between the gang leaders and… starts… dancing. DANCING. And instead of getting a shiv to the side suddenly they’re all doing it – and I don’t mean finger clicking and toe-tapping: I’m talking COORDINATED HIP GYRATIONS. Phew, who saw that one coming?

5 comments:

Dave said...

Awesome. Except you talked the clip up too much - it doesn't load anymore...
Oh well, I'll just have to be satisfied with the mental image of a white dragon jacket...

observer said...

I've always found myself pondering the racial undertones and whether we're supposed to read it as a West Side Story type thing. I mean, surely people still fight without racial motivation? Is it just because he's MJ and when you're MJ almost everything is somehow racially charged? Which I think there is a fair case for.

observer said...

Oh and yes, he is hot in that one.

my name is kate said...

Aw crap, who knows what's going on there. It is awesome though...

observer said...

Yeah it is. I only mention it because I was watching Baz's R + J on the weekend and the same racial divide is in that two.

Also because I recently read this article about MJ and his physicality, race obviously playing a part in it : http://popfeminist.blogspot.com/2008/07/michael-jackson-and-deviant-body.html