Thursday, April 7, 2011

What happened to the music video? Things you learn at the nail salon.

First disclaimer: I’m old. Young at heart and for the most part, immature, but chronologically old enough to remember when MTV launched and the iconic “I want my MTV!” ads. Old enough to remember those heady days of the first music videos, and back when ‘MTV actually played videos.’ Old enough to remember the Vee Jays, and how excited we were at school when rumors spread of a reported Adam Curry sighting at the Short Hills mall!

Fast forward to today, when it seems all MTV plays is sleazy but somehow compelling reality programming and – well, whatever else they show, because second disclaimer: I haven’t watched MTV in about a million years. Except for a few Jersey Shore episodes, does that count?

I know there are other channels like Fuse and MTV2 or what have you that presumably are for the purpose of broadcasting videos – oh, and that stalwart VH-1, which also airs original programming like the wonderful Behind the Music series. But here’s the rub – the music industry is still cranking videos out, and the money spent on them and the production values have obviously increased over the years, so they must be playing them for some purpose, somewhere …

Like at my nail salon. Last Saturday, I went to a new sail salon, on the recommendation of a friend, for a gel manicure (more on that later). They were busy, so I grabbed a chair and read Harper’s Bazaar in the vain hope that I could figure out what was going on with spring fashion trends. A nice flat-screen TV over the nail stations was playing music videos – I don’t know what channel or service it was, but there were absolutely no commercials whatsoever, hosanna. But I was at the salon long enough to realize there was a finite number of videos and after it had run through them, they just started playing the same ones again on a loop. (Note to self: next time make an appointment at this salon.)

Anyway, not having not watched videos in a mighty long time, I was sort of captivated. The production values have increased exponentially, if the concepts haven’t really gotten much better. I appreciated the art imitating life imitating art approach of the Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” which featured homages to past music videos and singers, like Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and TLC’s pajama days.

There is a certain commonality and slick look to videos with female performers in which they all have to appear like bad-asses. Me like.

But beyond my rudimentary observations, main-lining these videos in one sitting brought some questions starkly home:

• Since when are there so many product placements in music videos these days?? • Is blue hair ever a good idea on a guy? (No.) • Does Gaga have a good body or not really? • Why is it that no matter what J-Lo does, I just still don’t really like her?

Back to the product placement thing. I counted at least three placements without even looking for them, one for a website, one for Swarovski crystals and one for perfume. Back in my day, I don’t recall there being such placements, or at least not so obviously.

But really, what were music videos ever if not long commercials? Commercials for the song, the album, the artist. I’m surprised it took the industry as long as it did to capitalize on the product placement angle, inasmuch as it sort of leaves a bad tingle in my mouth.

Maybe those viewers not weaned on the infancy of the medium when videos were made with whimsy, preciously tiny budgets, no plot and without big blatant Swarovski crystal logos prominently displayed don’t even notice?

Let me know if you have a favorite music video, new or old, and why it’s a fave. Or your thoughts on selling space in videos for obvious product exposure.

On a closing note, the gel manicure is quite possibly the best thing to have come into our lives in a long time. At least if you like manicures. It lasts a lot longer than your standard manicure – granted, it costs about twice as much, but if you’re like me and can’t get a regular polish job to last longer than 12 hours, it’s a good thing. I highly recommend it, you can thank me later.

PS – Is it true that original VJ Martha Quinn is the daughter of Jane Bryant Quinn?


  1. But of course I have a favorite music video - Thriller by Michael Jackson! There's nothing that compares to it!

    <3 Barcela

  2. Van Halen Jump. It was simple. Done for $500 and cigarette money and still is a very good video.

  3. Barcela, it's true you can't talk about the history of music videos without talking about Thriller. It's almost in the category of short movie and certainly set the standard for all videos that came after it. Long live MJ.

  4. Tony I remember showing my Mom a Van Halen video so she could see who David Lee Roth was - let's just say she was a little, er, surprised at the shall we say frank sexuality of it all.