First, you have to like the music
The best music videos enhance the music. But the best music video can only enhance music that is already great.
Also, different people like different music. So each of us can only fully enjoy a limited set of music videos – music videos for the music that we like.
I could tell you what I think are the best music videos for the music that I like, but unfortunately I can't tell you how to find the music that you like.
With that in mind, we can move on, and learn about what to expect, what not to expect, and how to get the most out of a great music video.
The primary effect of really strong music is partial disconnection of our consciousness from immediate reality.
The secondary effect, that follows from the primary effect, is an increased ability to experience emotions associated with our own internal thoughts, thoughts that are disconnected from immediate reality.
That is, our daydreams.
Because the effect of music depends on this partial disconnection, a good music video has to carefully avoid making the viewer connect too strongly to the content of the video.
Don't Expect a Music Video to be like a Movie
A good movie tells a good story. At least some of the time, a good story-teller gets the audience to connect with the story.
But as I just explained, too much connection in a music video is a bad thing. So the best music videos do not tell a story.
A music video cannot directly tell a story, but it can paint a picture.
Sometimes a music video paints a picture in a way that suggests a back-story, which kind of tells a story, but very indirectly. (Also, some videos actually stop the music temporarily, so that some more "movie-like" story-telling can be inserted as required, for example as in the video for Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around...Comes Around.)
Why does a Music Video jump so much from one thing to another?
Modern music videos use a number of techniques to prevent full viewer connection.
One of these techniques, and a very common one, is to cut very rapidly. Sometimes the cutting is to the beat, and sometimes it isn't.
You may get frustrated trying to follow the action when the cutting is so fast. You try to fully understand what you are watching, but then suddenly you are watching something else, and you never seem to keep up.
You might try to solve your frustration by concentrating even harder on the video. But that is doing exactly the wrong thing, because it means you are trying harder to connect.
What you should do is relax, and "let go" of your desire to properly "see" the action, and just let the rapid cuts "wash over you". You won't connect fully to the action, because you can't, and you're not meant to. But you will connect sufficiently to absorb the visual content in a way that works with the music.
Other techniques for Disconnection
Rapid cutting isn't the only editing technique which is applied to music videos to help disconnect the viewer from the very thing that they are viewing. Other editing and shooting techniques include:
- Slow Motion
- Various types of image degradation
- Deliberately obscure composition – for example not properly showing character's faces, or showing people and things in poor light, or shooting from angles where it is hard to tell where you are or what is actually going on.
Disconnection By Empathy
One special technique for achieving disconnection is to present characters in the video who are themselves obviously disconnected, or who have reason to be disconnected, because they have something to think about that is not in their immediate reality, or who are in a situation where most people tend to disconnect, for example riding as a passenger in a car, or walking along somewhere.
In as much as we, the viewers, empathize with the character's tendency to disconnect, this will add to our own tendency to disconnect.
Performance, and Dance
One thing that can be included in a more connected form in a music video is the actual performance of the music.
This works, because if we connect to the performer, that connects us more strongly to the music itself. This contrasts with our disconnection from other content in the video, because it's the very connection to the music which results in our disconnection from other aspects of our immediate reality.
A second target of more connected viewing is dance. Dance, by its very nature, cannot be part of the original audio of a song or musical item. But, dance can be interpreted as visual musicality, and this follows from a deep analogy of musical sound being to language sounds as musical body motion is to language-associated body motion (such as gestures). Under this interpretation, dance actually is music, and dance sequences in a music video can be understood as an addition to the music, and not just an addition to the content of the video.
The Disconnected Music-Enhancing Music Video versus the "Interesting" Music Video
Not all music videos follow the theme of disconnection.
Some videos follow a strategy of "let's do something interesting in the video, to promote the song". These videos can be interesting to watch. But when a video is "interesting" to watch, the video content becomes the centre of attention. The song is now just the soundtrack. Or it's the thing being promoted, that hopefully you will pay some attention to while you are watch the interesting video.
One symptom of the "interesting" music video is that you will happily watch it the first time, but you probably won't want to watch it every time you listen to the music. Whereas a well-made 'music-enhancing' music video will add to your enjoyment of the music every time you listen to the music, and will only become boring when the music itself becomes boring.