Interpreting Music Video
📖 eBook - ePub

Interpreting Music Video

Popular Music in the Post-MTV Era

Brad Osborn

Share book
186 pages
ePUB (mobile friendly) and PDF
Available on iOS & Android
📖 eBook - ePub

Interpreting Music Video

Popular Music in the Post-MTV Era

Brad Osborn

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

Interpreting Music Video introduces students to the musical, visual, and sociological aspects of music videos, enabling them to critically analyze a multimedia form with a central place in popular culture.

With highly relevant examples drawn from recent music videos across many different genres, this concise and accessible book brings together tools from musical analysis, film and media studies, gender and sexuality studies, and critical race studies, requiring no previous knowledge.

Exploring the multiple dimensions of music videos, this book is the perfect introduction to critical analysis for music, media studies, communications, and popular culture.

Access to over 1 million titles for a fair monthly price.

Study more efficiently using our study tools.



Unit 1

Chapter 1

Doja Cat’s 2019 hit video “Juicy” gets right to the point. A hip-hop song about her respect for well-endowed derrieres, it starts directly on the chorus, with the song title as its fourth (and fifth) words. Her video doesn’t miss a beat either. The first ten seconds summarize the visuals seen over the next three minutes: plain colored backgrounds, various “juicy” fruits, and, of course, derrieres of prodigious size (Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1 Introduction of Doja Cat (ft. Tyga) “Juicy” (0:08)
But the way that Doja Cat keeps the viewer’s interest has much to do with the way that the video shapes time, both musically and visually. It’s a delicate balancing act of providing enough premium shots and sounds in the opening seconds while reserving plenty for later. This shaping of musical and visual time is what this chapter analyzes as a video’s form. Changes in musical form and visual form are highly coordinated in music videos. Paying attention to one usually leads to a deeper understanding of the other.
This chapter begins by looking at two standard song forms that shape the majority of music videos: verse/chorus form and strophic form. After this overview we’ll zoom in a bit more to understand some individual sections that make these forms work. I will then demonstrate three alternative strategies for organizing musical time that depart from these standard forms. Finally, we’ll compare the formal structure of a video’s music with the time flow of the visuals themselves. Only then can then we take a deeper dive into “Juicy” to fully understand how a song and video that is so seemingly straightforward keeps our interest over time.

Two Standard Song Forms

Verse/Chorus Form

Because uncovering a video’s formal design piece by piece can obscure the smoother flow of time we experience in a music video, it will be helpful for readers to watch the entirety of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to get a sense of the song’s form—the way it organizes time—as part of my analysis. As I go through the smaller sections that make this video work, try not to lose the sense of perpetual flow that makes Houston’s video so enjoyable.
The video begins with an introductory section, often shortened as intro. Like the layers of a cake, the various instruments are added one at a time: percussion, then the bass (0:30), and finally the main riff played by keyboards and horns. This technique is called a buildup, and it’s common in intros.1 Adding these layers one at a time keeps the listener’s interest before Houston’s vocals even enter.
Houston begins the verse (0:57) wondering how she’ll chase her blues away. The mood is rather somber. She seems a bit more optimistic in the prechorus (1:14). Her higher vocal range complements the lyrics that state how fine the daytime hours are. But what she’s really looking forward to is dancing this evening. The chorus (1:28) is the highlight of standard verse/chorus songs. Houston belts out the memorable melody in her highest register yet, beginning immediately on the title lyric. She only sings higher than this once in the song. Listening to chorus two (2:04) and chorus three (3:37) back to back reveals that everything—not just her vocals but also the instrumental tracks—has been shifted up in pitch. Pitching the final chorus up is a special technique called the pump-up chorus,2 and it’s especially common in 1980s songs.
This overall formal shape is called verse/chorus form. It’s one of two standard song forms that make up the majority of music videos. Lyrically, verses typically set up and advance a narrative, while the chorus either reflects on that narrative or drives home its main message. Notice how the chorus contains the song’s title, and its lyrics are the same every time. By contrast, the verse’s lyrics are different each time, even though they appear over the same backing music.
Music videos respond visually to musical sections in nuanced ways. Just like the lyrics change from verse one to verse two, so does the cinematography between these two verses (Figure 1.2). Comparing the camera’s point...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Interpreting Music VideoHow to cite Interpreting Music Video for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Osborn, B. (2021). Interpreting Music Video (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Osborn, Brad. (2021) 2021. Interpreting Music Video. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Osborn, B. (2021) Interpreting Music Video. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Osborn, Brad. Interpreting Music Video. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.