Theme in Focus: The Music Video

While the first music videos arguably can be traced back to the beginning of the last century, they really came into their own during the 1980s due to the launch of MTV, an American cable and satellite channel with its headquarters in New York City.

Symbolically, it was the clip ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by The Buggles (produced by Trevor Horn) that ushered in MTV, followed by ‘You Better Run’ by Pat Benatar. Mark Goodman, one of the first five MTV VJs, uttered the MTV slogan: “Starting right now, you’ll never look at music the same way again … We’ll be doing for TV what FM did for radio.”

Discover the historical, technical, and cultural development of the music video through the featured content links below. To explore previous topics, artists, and countries in focus on the Bloomsbury Popular Music platform, visit our new featured content archive page.

Rapper Sweet Tee (Toi Jackson) during the filming of the 'On The Smooth Tip' music video taken in East Elmhurst, New York, 1988.

Shaping cultural identities

Music videos in all their forms remain powerful cultural artifacts that circulate widely across social media platforms to promote music and musicians. The proliferation of social networking sites and handheld technologies has changed the course and format of the video and its modes of screening music.

As music videos animate our social and cultural spaces, they shape significant representations of gendered, sexualized, raced, and classed identities. The musical contexts of genre and style comprise a driving force in the shaping of cultural identities and a complex set of factors cultivate a musical persona.

Learn more in Framing Personae in Music Videos in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis.

This photo taken on January 5, 2020 shows a smartphone recording footage of an amateur K-pop group performing on a street in the Hongdae district of Seoul.

The internet video experiment

The advent of the music video in the MTV age not only transformed the landscape of pop, but may well have been part of a larger artistic project. Sunil Manghani suggests that videos have become a new site of cultural production. A new video form – which he calls the Internet video – has emerged as a means for a younger generation to communicate and experiment with the forming of identities and social connections.

Learn more in The Pleasures of (Music) Video in Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media.

Photographs from the daily CPDRC dance rehearsals, January 2013
Poster produced by Cebu Provincial Capitol advertising the CPDRC Dancing Inmates ‘LIVE’ performance on 29 May 2010.

Country in focus: Going viral in the Philippines

On 27 June 2009, within ten hours of the breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death, prison warden Byron F. Garcia arranged for a music and dance tribute to the King of Pop to be performed by some 1,500 prisoners in front of a live audience of tourists and media corporations in the exercise yard of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Centre (CPDRC) in the Philippines.

Garcia’s CPDRC inmates’ video-recorded interpretation of Thriller takes pride of place in YouTube culture as one of the earliest, and most enduringly popular, viral videos in internet history. As an example of a post-MTV music video, CPDRC’s Thriller forms part of a growing digital-era practice of covering, sampling and remediating previously recorded music, and these kinds of intensified audiovisual aesthetics have become significant source texts in popular music culture.

Learn more in the Introduction to Dangerous Mediations: Pop Music in a Philippine Prison Video.

Discover more about the history of popular music in the Philippines in the Bloomsbury Enyclopedia of Popular Music of the World.

David Bowie On Set of

Transmedia artist in focus: David Bowie

“Exactly when did poetry become subsumed by rock ‘n’ roll? When was experimental film swallowed and digested by music videos? My generation of artists held a starry-eyed belief in the notion of crossing over; of leaving the elitism of the white cube for other media and venues: video, performance, audio, music.” Tony Oursler

Tony Oursler was not only David Bowie’s friend and muse but a collaborator who was interstitially involved with the music videos Bowie created with Floria Sigismondi. A significant transmedia artist in his own right, Tony Oursler understood the artistic magnetism that drew Bowie and Sigismondi into a creative partnership. Oursler’s ‘starry-eyed belief in the notion of crossing over’ and resistance to elitism sum up an approach that has been neglected by much of the literature on transmedia.

Learn more in The alchemical union of David Bowie and Floria Sigismondi: ‘Transmedia surrealism’ and ‘loose continuity’ in Transmedia Directors: Artistry, Industry and New Audiovisual Aesthetics.

Discover David Bowie’s work as a music video pioneer in The Boy Kept Swinging: David Bowie, Music Video, and the Star Image in Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media.

Rihanna performs onstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City.

Close reading: ‘This Is What You Came For’ (Nava, Harris and Rihanna)

‘This Is What You Came For’ is a video collaboration between artists Nava, Harris and Rihanna that has received over two billion hits on YouTube. We encounter at the very on-set a multitude of spaces, including a desert, a clearing in the Cascadian forest, and a massive white cube, closed on all sides except one.

Using an innovative 360-degree camera technology and projection mapping, Nava is able to project realistic environments into the cube which are captured entirely in-camera (no post-production, no CGI). Such virtual spaces, which include dance clubs, desert scenes and even a simulacrum of the aforementioned forest, are so convincing that the viewer sees Rihanna, the video’s constant focal point, to be interacting with them in real time.

Learn more in Risers, drops and a fourteen-foot cube: A transmedia analysis of Emil Nava, Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s ‘This Is What You Came For’ in Transmedia Directors: Artistry, Industry and New Audiovisual Aesthetics.

All featured content and homepage images courtesy of Getty Images, except for the section 'Going viral in the Philippines' (see volume for full image credits).