Thursday, November 03, 2005

Did Video Kill the Radio Star?

Music purists often claim that with the advent of the music video the pure notion of song has been eliminated from the common experience. In a certain sense, the video imposes an "interpretation" of the song over the lyrics and remaining music craft. It's akin to the effect a movie treatment of a book has on the reader. From now on, anyone who reads the LOTR will invoke the image of Sean Astin when they read the name "Sam Gamgee."

Now, I can't claim that music purists don't have a point. Performance is an elusive reality and therefore the power of music sometimes can't be reclaimed after the instances of the needle dropping to vinyl. Sorry, I meant the excited light particle effusion strikes the magnetically changed ditigal broadcast medium. The first time you hear a song and it excites your imagination only comes, you guessed it, once. But this doesn't mean we have to demonize the video as part of the performance reality.

Case in point is Fiona Apple's new album Extraordinary Machine. I have been a fan of Fiona from the first track I heard from her debut, Tidal. (Did you catch the pun?) In this new album, I have purchased my first DualDisc in which one side of the disc is a CD and the reverse is a DVD. When I listened to "Not About Love" the first time, I had the sense this was a clever way to describe the conflict about break-up of a relationship. The lyrical logic jumps from "Glad that jerk is gone" to "I miss that stupid ape." Then I flipped the disc to watch the video of the same song and was treated to a whole new sense of the song. In this version, the very talented Zach Galifinakis lipsyncs the song. The scenery shifts between Apple and Galifinakis laying in bed, fully clothed and Zach cavorting around what I presume is the Venice Beach area. The video imagery introduced a new and complimentary notion of the song as a duet. Essentially the chorus "This is not about love..." could be seen as the man saying "enough" while the verses are the woman who both loves the stupid ape and wants him out. But at the same time as Zach read and lipsynced you could easily interpret that action as mocking his erstwhile love. She leaves the letter (the lyrics) in a hope of making him feel really, really bad and his response is "So what? this is not about love." Isn't that cool?

However, with all that said, I am not reactivating MTV on the rectory TV...

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