By my estimation, about 98% of music videos manufactured today are forgettable, tasteless, copycat crap. Every time someone innovates, we wind up seeing approximately 500 knock offs over a few years of said innovation. Using a fish-eye lens? Trying out a flash mob type feel? Putting your artist up solo against a wall of lights? Sorry, it’s already been done to death. Yeah, and so has open top car journey and the comedy sketch in the middle of the vid. The trick, I think, is to create something that is so unique to the song that it just can’t be replicated by some cheat who’s been assigned to direct the next Usher video. It either needs to be keenly specific to the song or so odd that the rip-offery would be far too blatant to even attempt…so weird that it could never possibly become a trope. Today’s great thing is a perfect example of that. It is the hypnotically engaging and absolutely un-trope-able:
159. The Video for Daft Punk’s Around the World.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Daft Punk would get a wholly original director to helm one of their videos. They are, undoubtedly, one of the most unusual commercial acts around. The two Frenchmen, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, rarely appear publicly out of their cool-ass robot helmets and have always emphasized visuals and story-telling in their music. Though I could give a fudge-bar (yeah, that’s right…I think Fudge bars are Cadbury’s worst candy bar!) about seeing the new Tron movie, I am eager to hear the score that they’ve created for it. Too bad the film looks like such kak–even if my friend Paul says it wasn’t that bad. I’m convinced he’s only saying that so he doesn’t get all mad at himself for spending money to see it in the theater.
159. The Video for Daft Punk’s Around the World.
It’s worth noting that Michael Gondry was the director in question. Gondry has a pretty excellent track record when it comes to creating memorable videos for creative musical artists. Just two notables include Bjork’s “Human Behavior” and The Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be”. He, of course, went on to helm such great pictures as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and maybe the slightly less good The Science of Sleep. Fun fact, he utilized the bullet-time technique in film-making BEFORE it appeared in The Matrix.
“Around the World” was choreographed by Blanca Li (NOT the Blanka that we all know and love from “Street Fighter”.)
Blanca Li is a Spanish choreographer, silly. Before I show the video, let’s chat about why it looks the way it looks? (How do pin-headed athletes, “disco girls” in swimsuits, and mummies all wind up on the same stage?) What Gondry focussed on when making this video was it’s simple but super hooky structure. It utilizes only five instruments and each of those five instruments have different patterns…hence the five groups of characters. If you watch closely, you can see how they all respond directly to their own instrumentation. Here is a key:
The platform itself is supposed to represent a vinyl record. Neat-O! Let’s watch:
It’s all so harmonious. For once, the video matches how cool it sounds with how cool it looks (and vice versa). Also, is it just me or does the choreography feels a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly. I think it’s marvellous how they all keep time without distracting each other–especially considering the costumes they’re all wearing. The mummies, especially, I think would draw my attention away from my rhythmic footing.
I wanted to close out this blog post with a couple of tributes to “Around the World”. Though with this next video, you might say that my earlier argument of this video being “un-trope-able” has just fallen down. But to that, I say “Nay!” Take a look and I think you’ll understand why it still stands…perhaps even stronger than before. I definitely think we can label this as an homage as opposed to a copycat. You can watch this Freemason’s video and still know that Daft Punk and Michael Gondry did it first. You dont’ forget the original…whereas you might not remember who first did filmed their performer against a wall of lights thanks to the sheer numbers of parrots who have done so since. Plus, unlike in the “Around the World” video, the dancers in this video don’t seem to correspond with any instrumental counterpart…they’re just dancing in time. So, it doesn’t have that eerie cadence to the choreography that the original does. It both celebrates and fails to match the original.
A more creative and fitting tribute comes in this cover by Señor Coconut and his Orchestra. Based on the mellow awesomeness of this bossa nova (or samba?) version of the floor-filler, I think I’m going to check out Señor Coconut’s whole album.
Now, if I can just find four friends who are willing to invest in the materials, I think I may go as a tribute to this video next Halloween…or at least the next costume party I get invited to. But I totally call the android costume. I’m not going as the disco girl.