Video killed the radio star

I mentioned in a previous post how I don’t particularly like music videos. I knew one day I would write my thoughts about it…that day is today. After watching this video of Rik Cordero explaining why music videos are almost necessary these days, I can’t surpress my feelings any longer.

To be fair, the video looks like it was edited horribly with important parts of quotes left out, but I’m taking it as is.

First let me say that music videos change the way we listen to a song. It can make the song sound (look?) better, or it could make it worse. In either case we get an altered perception of the song. I’m not any kind of expert or anything, but there are reasons that music is so magical. It can invoke feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas. Music is faithfully married to our sense of sound. (Yes I know music can be felt: bass, etc. But for the sake of this argument nevermind that for now).

When listening to a song, the feeling you get can be so lucid that even without a single visual image, you still get a picture-perfect sense of what you are hearing. It’s a hard concept to try to explain. But basically what I’m saying is that when you hear music, your mind comes as close to a visual experience as possible without there actually being any physical image.

That’s the magic of music. Nothing else can really create the same sensation within us that music creates. THAT, my friends, is what makes music, music.

Now that we have that hypothesis fresh in our little brains, lets consider the effect of music videos on music itself.

How will we get that magical feeling, that almost-visualization, if we have an actual image to look at. Now the music just becomes a mere compliment to the video and our main focus is on the images our eyes are seeing. There is no more magic.

No disrespect to Cordero, but I have to disagree with many of his statements. The harder I try to figure out what he is trying to say, the more I have to conclude that he means exactly what he says. It kinda sounds like he’s trying to sell himself here…maybe unintentionally.

Like when Cordero says how its a great time for artists to put visuals to their tracks and just making a song isn’t enough anymore. I mean…its like he is trying to say that in order to complete the peice of art a video must be included.

He also says he wants to help the artists, and give them the opportunity to put their visions into something big. Well, if the emcee is any kind of talented he shouldn’t need a video to convey his images. Like when nas spits (I just picked a line from the song im listening to right now)   “now I’m jettin to the building lobby, it was full of children probably, couldn’t see as high as I be” on NY State of Mind. Thats a visual!

Another way videos can fuck up the magic is by showing you the body of the voice. When you dont know what a rapper looks like, the only thing that you think about is his voice and his message. You can form your best guess as to what he looks like gauged by his voice and words only. And you will likely picture him favorably (and probably completely inaccurately), if you do try to picture him at all that is.

If you think the image of a musician doesn’t alter your opinion of them you are wrong. In hip hop luckily looks aren’t everything. Notorious, Flavor Flav, and Lil Wayne prove that. But in most music, especially pop, you wont get any fame if you arent model material. However, rap is a different game, and although the emcee doesn’t need to be gorgeous, he still needs to fit the bill.

You think record companies only sign sexy bitches because sexy bitches are the best singers? ERHHHH WRONG! They know what I know and what you are about to learn. They know that everyone (even me) judges books by covers.

Check out the 1960 presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy. The first ever televised debates. The first time viewers could SEE the candidates rather than simply LISTEN to them on the radio. For better or for worse, the outcome of the election was greatly influenced by TV. The following paragraph from museum.tv can explain it for me:

In substance, the candidates were much more evenly matched. Indeed, those who heard the first debate on the radio pronounced Nixon the winner. But the 70 million who watched television saw a candidate still sickly and obviously discomforted by Kennedy’s smooth delivery and charisma. Those television viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Studies of the audience indicated that, among television viewers, Kennedy was perceived the winner of the first debate by a very large margin.

I wasn’t alive in 1960 and I’m not much concerned with politics, but in nineteen-ninety-now there is no way to escape the wrath of television, and more recently internet videos. The data from those debates is startling, but not surprising. The people who LISTENED to the debate HEARD Nixon win. The people who VIEWED the debate on television…well, what they SAW got in the way of what really mattered, which is what the candidates SAID.

Don’t let any video/images get in the way of shit that need only be listened to. Don’t feel obligated to watch music videos because this is 2009. Music has been music since the begining of humanity, long before video. When I look up a song for the first time on youtube or see a new video im interested in on TV, I will shut it off, look away, scroll the video off the screen, anything to avoid the influence of the video. Do the same.

Some side notes:

I’m not a music video grinch. I do think a lot of music videos add a lot to the song.

After you form your opinion of a song (like after 15 listens), its ok to check out the video. Just beware that it can potentially fuck up the magic of that song.



January 10, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Theres a track on Qwels (typical cats crew member) album “The new wine” discussing what your talking about in a sense..

    Its actually along the same line as this track..


    Comment by Developing True Heads | January 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. haha thanks for that link man. did you notice the title of this post?

    Comment by ijuswannachill | January 11, 2009 | Reply

  3. Well written argument man. I think I understand your frustration, but I also think there a few things to consider here:

    1. Movies are to books, what music videos are to cuts, but I would doubt you would claim to hate movies, right?
    2. From oral, to picture-based, to written, the way society communicates has grown to what is now an all-sensory experience (minus smell…for now!)
    3. Video production is an artform too!

    All that being said, some music videos are done well, while others bastardize the song. It’s the same as music itself: for every Illmatic, there is a Ying Yang Twinz Christmas album. And yes, there are plenty of bad videos out there – many being shoved down our throats on infinite replay – but there are also some that are good.
    Think about “Juicy”, it was the perfect companion to the song – not necessary to enjoy the track, but only added to its appeal! Seeing the story told first-hand only expanded the experience. Also, It didn’t matter how ugly Biggie might have been to mainstream. The music transcended, which good music should do.
    All that said, you make a valid argument in many instances. But I don’t think it has to be an “all-or-nothing” proposition.

    Comment by catch91 | January 12, 2009 | Reply

  4. yeh thats true, catch, good points. a music video can add something to a song. videos can make a song better or worse. and i do like a lot of videos i suppose, especially artistic videos. im not 100% opposed to music videos. but still any music video changes one’s perception of the song itself, changes how the song is supposed to be experienced. which is why i choose to avoid music videos for the most part. after i become familiar with a song i have no problem watching a video for it.

    i guess its for the better that the medium is available, but this isnt just a case of “if you dont like them, dont watch them”. i think the effect is a little greater than that, especially with the internet and all nowadays. im not protesting or anything, rather just giving people something to think about and be aware of. and by the comments i see that happening. thanks for the comments and keep checkin out the blog!

    Comment by ijuswannachill | January 12, 2009 | Reply

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