There are days when I wake up and reminisce about a time when Carson Daly of TRL would tell me about the galactic set of Britney Spears’s “Oops!..I Did It Again” video. No longer is MTV the only destination for listening parties and anticipated music video premieres. Welcome to the era of iTunes and social media, in which music videos are released like studio films: with multimedia promotional campaigns and million-dollar budgets and press events. These are the artists that are changing the music video game, for better or for worse:
1. Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop.”
Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” appears first on this list because I believe in saving the best for last. Cyrus is a mediocre artist at best (her current album has two monster hits, with the rest of the tracks falling through the cracks), but her video was one of the most successful of the year. The video itself was not so great (it felt like the “Garden State” party scene but with a terrible soundtrack and some borrowed “The Big Lebowski” trips), but the campaign behind it is what made it groundbreaking. Weeks leading up to the video’s release, Cyrus overwhelmed Twitter and Facebook with provocative photos accompanied by a “#wecantstop” hashtag and posted videos of herself twerking in a unicorn onesie. This strategy helped the video break records with 10.7 million views on the day of its release alone—a record she broke herself with her next video, “Wrecking Ball,” which received 12.3 million views, also in a day. This strategy and the “We Can’t Stop” video are like a bad car accident: you can’t help but watch.
2. Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
The forever-young Pharrell Williams released the first-ever 24-hour music video for “Happy,” a track he wrote for the film “Despicable Me 2.” The video, which you can access at 24hoursofhappy.com, automatically corresponds to the local time of the viewer. The viewer is essentially the director of the video—fast-forwarding and rewinding at his or her discretion, meeting up with Tyler, the Creator, Steve Carell, or Pharrell himself. The video is an interactive masterpiece, bringing together collections of genuinely happy moments from an array of everyday people as well as the occasional celebrity appearance.
3. Bob Dylan, “Like A Rolling Stone”
As far as I’m concerned—and many others agree—Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” is one of the greatest songs of all time. And nearly 50 years later, the track finally has an official music video. Dylan’s interactive video uses television as a self-reflexive tool, mimicking the channel-surfing experience as the viewer chooses between 16 “channels,” including but not limited to: a tennis match, “Pawn Stars,” a cooking show, “The Price is Right,” and even a financial news anchor and a bachelor contestant who lip-sync the tune. Despite the eclectic mix of TV hosts and actors that participate, the best part of the video is a clip we know well: a young Dylan—hidden behind his dark locks and military jacket—singing the classic while on tour with the Hawks in 1966.
—Staff writer Lauren A. Rubin can be reached at LaurenRubin@college.harvard.edu.
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