Monday, August 13, 2007

Choppin' Necks

There are two new music videos that borrow from a recent ad campaign. This is not unusual since TV commercials rank just behind feature films as the main “inspirations” for music videos. The unusual part is that both these new MVs are biting the very same advertisement …

The HP “Making Computers Personal Again” spots. There are lots of commercials in this campaign – including snowboarder Shaun White, Pharrell and Hova his own self. These are good commercials and there is nothing wrong with borrowing from the ad-world to MVs, but these HP spots happen to be terrible starting points for music videos.

The music videos in question are Talib Kweli “Hot Thang” and Fam-Lay “Beeper” featuring Pharrell. Besides the fact the idea has already been visited before by one of the guest artists, or the fact that neither of these clips is done with the same precision (nor budget) as the originals there is another reason why these are not good concepts for music videos …

They don’t show the damn face of the artist!!!

I repeat, you might wanna show the face of the artist rather than hiding it just out of frame. Talib is a talented guy who has never had the mainstream (i.e. non-backpack) success of Common or Mos Def – so we need to see his damn mug. Fam-Lay is someone that audiences have never, ever heard of – unless you live in Virginia, perhaps. These artists need to be seen so we can identify with them and build their careers.

So this idea isn't working for the B-list, but I originally thought that the HP “seen from the neck down” idea might work for an ultra-famous artist who we instantly recognize by voice and force of personality. Maybe someone like Will Smith or Busta Rhymes or Bono could pull it off. But then it occurred to me - none of those artists would want to be seen as grabbing the shirt-tales of Jay-Z. Anyone famous enough to “work” in a headless, HP-copying music video – is too famous to be in any spot that replicates the success of a more/equally famous artist.

And on top of that, the HP ads are NOT promoting Jay-Z or Shaun White or Mark Cuban – they are promoting the HP laptops. The cool-ness of the hip performers is supposed to rub off onto the staid Hewlett Packard laptops – make them as cool and youthful as the MacBooks.

The fact that older viewers of the HP spots might not (ok, definitely won’t) recognize the torsos of Jigga or Skateboard P is a PLUS! It makes the HP seem cool while still showing off the capabilities of the devices. It doesn’t matter if viewers of the commercials could shout out the name of the stars the second they saw the Adam’s Apple of Sean Carter or the Flying Tomato – they aren’t SELLING the person, they are selling the computer that the person is talking about. However, the fact that viewers cannot ID Talib Kweli or Fam-Lay by their hand motions IS a big negative and should have been obvious before things got rolling.

When these jobs were getting commissioned the mental association for the artists with a big, mainstream advertising campaign must have looked like a good thing. What label doesn’t want to see their artist as a brand name?

The YouToogle clips of the HP spots no doubt made it much easier for the directors to sell these ideas to the labels and management. A headless person (insert artist's name here) creating a stadium out of the air is a great pitch for a music video. Just not a great music video.

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