Could music videos possibly be cool again?

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There was a time, oh so long ago, when music videos were cool. Every Hollywood agent and movie studio executive had MTV playing in the background in their offices and were on the lookout for the hot new video wunderkind. Everyone seemed happily persuaded that every fresh-faced 23-year-old straight out of USC film school might turn out to be the next David Fincher, Tarsem Singh or Spike Jonze. Then it all started to fall apart, with MTV pretty much going down the drain and all too many of the alleged hot-shot directors turning out be one-hit wonders.

Could music videos possibly make a comeback? Wired magazine argues that we could be in the dawn of a new golden age of music video, thanks largely to the digital reach of YouTube, which has replaced MTV as the popular proving ground for the best new videos. As Weezer’s ‘Pork and Beans’ director Mathew Cullen puts it: ‘MTV has become an afterthought.’ He should know. When ‘Pork and Beans’ (which is filled with cameos from the latest and greatest Web celebs) was posted on YouTube earlier this year, it became an instant sensation, attracting 4 million views in its first week.

Wired spotlighted six videos, nearly all of 2008 vintage. ‘Pork and Beans’ is the best known, but it’s hardly the only one worth watching. My favorite was ‘Toe Jam,’ by Brighton Port Authority, actually a Fatboy Slim spinoff group featuring David Byrne. Directed by Keith Schofield, it’s a comic delight, featuring a host of naked women cavorting on shag carpet, their breasts and bottoms all carefully obscured with black censor bars. Schofield choreographs their movements so the censor bars spell out words or form Busby Berkeley-style geometric patterns.

One of the other treats is an interactive video of Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible,’ which allows you to create all sorts of cool effects by clicking on the screen as the video plays. Another video worth watching is Bright Eyes’ ‘At the Bottom of Everything,’ directed by Cat Solen, which features playful stop-motion animation and special guests Terence Stamp and Evan Rachel Wood getting to know each other in a plane that’s spiraling earthward in the most ethereal fashion. I also liked the low-fi quality of Animal Collective’s ‘Taste.’ The only real clinker in the bunch is Rik Cordero’s draggy, eight-minute-long video of a Nas song, which is undercut by the solemn pretense of the video. It’s surely the only music video that actually has a ‘key grip’ credit.


Still, five out of six isn’t bad. Maybe music video has a future after all.