The Art of the Music Video
Two key factors that make a good music video, according to photographer Chris Barnes
For the last 3-4 decades, we have had the pleasure of enjoying visual masterpieces created to coincide with some of our favorite songs across all genres. However, some videos tend to capture the attention of general audiences and music connoisseurs around the world. No matter their age, race, gender, geographic location, or listening preference. Why? What do these videos have that others do not? I believe there are two key factors that go into creating good, even great, music videos.
The first factor that makes a great music video is the song itself, meaning the lyrics and the musical composition. Throughout the last few decades’, most of the top videos were created for songs that told a story; something that people of varying demographics could relate to. A story that makes goosebumps race up your arm. Music that allows you to escape whatever situation is weighing heavily on your mind.
From the first words spoken to that first spine-tingling snare hit or bass drop, the songs that I found in Billboard’s The 30 Best Music Videos Ever poll all fit that description. From the 1980’s to the 2000’s, whether it’s “Thriller,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” or you’re trying to “Get Ur Freak On,” artists such as Prince, Nirvana, Michael and Janet Jackson, Jamiroquai, Madonna, Eminem, Missy Elliott, Lady Gaga, and Red Hot Chili Peppers have all created great music videos for us to enjoy; though it was quite surprising to me that Kanye West was not on that Billboard poll list. Whether you like the guy or not, his creative genius has been on display for the last 10 plus years.
The other piece that makes a great music video is the director. These guys ultimately bring the lyrics and music to life. They normally push the envelope and defy what we are used to seeing in everyday life. In 2011, Complex Magazine compiled a list of the 15 Most Accomplished Music Video Directors. Four of those 15 directors created one or more videos from Top 30 poll taken by Billboard (David Fincher, F. Gary Gray, Francis Lawrence, and Mark Romanek). Their ability to create current, provocative, edgy, mind blowing productions, pleasing the artist and viewers everywhere, is detriment to making a hit song or a B side (for my 80’s and 90’s babies) a great music video.
There are many other things that can play a part in creating a great music video such as casting, the producer, time and money used, and available resources. However, the song and the director are by far the most important pieces that made music videos great to begin with. The 80’s to early 2000’s offered a lot of quality work for the large number of inspiring artist and directors to guide them far into the future of top notch music video productions.