Gone are the days when MTV was actually a music video channel (as its name still promises). Aside from a few obscure, forgettable text-message-heavy TV shows, there really isn't an outlet for interesting music videos to be poured into. This is unfortunate. Strong music, you see, is still being produced (The Killers, TV On The Radio, Phoenix, etc.) but the production of creating synonymous images for these tunes (i.e. music videos) has devolved quite alarmingly in the last several years. Even music heavyweights can't seem to avoid falling victim to bad music videos: Every Jay-Z has his "Sunshine" video and every Britney Spears has her "Gimme More" video and every nobody has their failed viral attempt (look no further than reality vixen Heidi Montag's "Higher" video).
For music videos, the 1990s was the essentially Golden Age. Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, Mark Romanek and Samuel Bayer were among the leaders of breakthrough music video directors. It's no surprise these individuals found critical and commercial success when Hollywood plucked them away for bigger projects. At one point the value of the music video for an music artist was on par with a spec film project for a movie star. It could make or break you.
In the age of Youtube, Vimeo and Hulu, the public began to take music videos for granted. This resulted in musicians giving less urgency to their videos. Less focus went into the execution; more focus went into choosing the distribution platform: Yahoo! Music or iTunes?
However an exciting time is upon us. The innovative, indie music band Yeasayer has given tremendous thought toward the visual material that is supplementing their latest album Odd Blood. In a bold stroke they've enlisted the directorial team Radical Friend to help articulate the multifarious sounds in each of their songs.
Before their album Odd Blood was released Yeasayer debuted their video for "Ambling Alp" online.
It knocked the socks off of viewers everywhere with its bizarre visuals, magnetic rhythms and its unapologetic devotion to--get ready for this--visual power. We're a visual society. Radical Friend knows this, and more importantly, the musicians in Yeasayer understand this.
This is why the future of the music video looks hopeful. Soon other music artists will reevaluate the relationship between their written material and their captured images. It's an exciting time.
Until then, keep watching.