Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Grammys are hooked

The list of Grammy nominated videos came out this week. I believe the selections are solid and remind me of the choices the Grammy voters seem to make every year. In the same way a famous actor playing a character that is fat/ugly/retarded almost assures an Oscar nod, the Grammys seem to look for certain things.

The main thing they look for is a “hook.” Hooks are good, they sell treatments to labels and make for some memorable videos. The Grammy voters like ultra-high concept stuff like “Hey Ya!” and the dancing Walken video – which is certainly not a bad thing.

This year the nominees are Big & Rich with a tear-jerker about war veterans, The Killers with a telenovella, Chili Peppers with themselves playing dress-up, Underoath wedged into a nightmare dollhouse and OK GO bouncing around on choreographed treadmills. I believe OK GO is/will be one of the most significant and memorable clips for this era of music video, despite what some people might think. The full list of Grammy nominations is here.

On a side note, the long-form nominations are usually a collection of uninteresting concert footage, backstage interviews and old videos. This year is the same except for the Death Cab collection which is fresh new stuff. Congrats for those involved.

Back to the short-form nominees. All these are good videos and the makers should be proud. High concept videos are neither good nor bad in my book – some are excellent others are Trapped in the Closet. Those big hooks and high concepts certainly jump off the page in treatment form, which is definitely a good thing.

Hook videos are sort of the opposite of the “execution” videos I have written about before. Execution videos, like Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” or No Doubt’s “Hella Good” are not ‘about’ any one thing but rather more focused on performance, the photography and style. Execution videos are also often harder to describe in one sentence, at least in a way that makes them sound like a good idea for a label to shell out $$$ for. Seriously, Hella Good is the band in vaguely futuristic/apocalyptic looks, completely alone in and around a decrepit cargo ship all shot in black and white. That doesn’t sound great in one sentence, but the final video was excellent (IMO). Hook videos are the opposite, with quick, easily digestable pitches (RHCP perform on stage in dressed and shot like a living history book of rock and roll, from British Invasion to Glam Metal and everything in between). Both “types” of videos (and there are obviously way more variations and shades of grey than just these two) can produce great results but the hookier ideas are easier to sell to the client and they are usually the kind that award shows (like the Grammys) notice.

I, personally, don’t think that hook videos are usually the best for a new artist. The performers can get lost in the hub-bub of the idea, which is fine if you are as famous as the Killers or Flea, but not so good if you are the guys in Underoath.

I don’t think that the Underoath video really serves the band because most viewers have never seen them before and after watching the video, still haven't seen them. I feel like I wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them again. To me, they get lost in the cool visuals of the clip. Same thing for that Jamiroquai “Virtual Insanity” video, their only clip that ever aired much in the US. I am still not sure I know anything about the group. Band? Solo guy? I don’t know. I do know the Jamiroquai dude is famous in the UK but Americans don’t dance we just pull up our pants and do the roc-a-way.

Execution videos usually make better introductions to new performers or artists switching to a new image – “Crazy in Love” or Christina’s first “Genie in a Bottle.” Execution videos usually have longer close-ups and they focus more on performance without too much story, effects or concept getting in the way. I have encountered labels booking a job based on a hooky concept that is fun to read and then the same execs try to turn the finished clip into an execution video during the shoot and/or edit, usually with poor results.

On a side note, I have recently figured out how to see who logged onto this blog and what link referred them and so on. Basic stuff, but that’s how I roll. Anyway – I have been getting a trickle of traffic from people who have Googled “execution videos” and are really looking for something far, far darker that I have to offer.

I know some commenters don’t like the tone of the blog, because it is too grim and they don’t like the view I have of the music video industry. To those people I say, Sony and Warner Bros laid off MORE employees in the video departments on Friday. I ain’t making this stuff up and at least no one gets “executed” here.

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