Young People Ask . . .
What About Music Videos?
“Have you seen the new song by . . . ?”
“Keep your eyes on the music!”
STRANGE comments? Not really, thanks to the “hottest” new art form in the music business—videos. These minimovies (usually three to five minutes long) “transform a song into a sight unexpected,” as Seventeen magazine put it.
But why the video boom? Why have videos suddenly become “a powerful force in the music business,” according to the magazine Rolling Stone? Why are artists and record companies spending thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a video clip of a song? It’s simple: videos sell records. And that’s ‘music to the ears’ of the record industry, which in the United States had recently been experiencing a four-year decline in revenues.
But there’s another reason for the video explosion: Videos often boost a new artist’s career. In the past couple of years, more than a few new acts, struggling for exposure, reached the top of the music charts due mainly to the strength of their videos. In one case, an artist went without a hit record for eight years until his video got heavy airplay on a cable-television video channel. The result? Sales of the record skyrocketed.
Why do young people like videos? “They have things that appeal to young people—nice cars, pretty good music,” explains 19-year-old Andrew. “I like the dancing,” adds Sherry, also 19 years old. Many young people, after hearing a song that they like, are anxious to see the video. Why? Explains 17-year-old Dave: “The video’s a way for the artist to express what the song’s about. He’s describing the song to you.”
Yes, videos have revitalized the record industry. But what are these three- to five-minute minimovies all about? Are they always a harmless form of entertainment? Or is there reason, at least, for careful selectivity?
Videos—What Do They Contain?
There are basically two types of videos: concert videos, which are taped performances of the artist singing/playing his or her song, and concept videos, which amount to an interpretation of the song, telling a story along with the music. Does the story have anything to do with the song’s lyrics? Not always. Does this matter? Not really—judging by viewer reaction.
Little wonder, then, that videos often are bizarre. For example, notice how Fred Bruning, writing in Maclean’s, described one video: “A punkish singer stands on the roof of what seems to be a prehistoric skyscraper while waifs in rags claw their way up the side. Eventually, the tattered legions reach the roof, only to be pitched overboard by electrical charges released when the singer uses his body to short-circuit a dynamo. In the background, we see the silhouette of a nude woman bound by rope, struggling in rhythm to the music. A final shot captures the spent performer, the ragamuffins, who, incredibly, have climbed the building a second time and a huge screen filled with the scowling face of a woman we saw first as a tattoo on the singer’s arm.”
Beyond the bizarre, though, a number of videos have taken up another theme: sex and violence. Thus, Newsweek notes that “several [video] clips feature women in leather gear acting out scenes of torture, bondage and violence.” Adds Rolling Stone: “The surest shortcut to memorable videos seems to be a liberal dose of sex, violence or both.”
What effect may such videos have on you? For one thing, they fix in your mind a visual interpretation of the song. Thereafter, every time you hear that song, you’ll likely recall what you saw in the video. As Dave explains: “There was this song that I liked. Then I saw the video. It showed the performer being chased by what looked to me to be a rapist. After that, every time I heard that song I thought of this video.”
Understandably, many people are concerned. Sue Steinberg, former executive producer of a cable-television channel, was quoted by Rolling Stone as objecting to the “violence to women. . . . They seem to see how far they can go. And it’s getting worse.”
Another popular theme in videos? The ghoulish. Film & Comment describes one video in which the artist plays a “reluctant groom who develops cold feet at the altar and hallucinates that the entire bridal party, fiancée included, has turned into Night of the Living Dead ghouls anxious to add him to their ranks by way of holy matrimony.”
Not that all videos feature sex, violence or the ghoulish theme. Some endeavor to teach a lesson—like brotherhood or refraining from violence. In all honesty, though, it must be admitted that such videos are the exception, not the rule.
“I Would Never Do It Again!”
In another popular video, Thriller, the performer is seen to transform first into a “cat person,” then a dancing “monster.” Evidently not wanting viewers to conclude that it promoted spiritism, the film begins with the disclaimer: “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.—Michael Jackson.” Nevertheless, it was so realistic that some who saw it admitted that they were horrified at first. What was this short film intended to convey? And how does the performer, Michael Jackson, feel about it in looking back?
“I would never do it again!” says Jackson. “I just intended to do a good, fun short film, not to purposely bring to the screen something to scare people or to do anything bad. I want to do what’s right. I would never do anything like that again.” Why not? “Because a lot of people were offended by it,” explains Jackson. “That makes me feel bad. I don’t want them to feel that way. I realize now that it wasn’t a good idea. I’ll never do a video like that again!” He continues: “In fact, I have blocked further distribution of the film over which I have control, including its release in some other countries. There’s all kinds of promotional stuff being proposed on Thriller. But I tell them, ‘No, no, no. I don’t want to do anything on Thriller. No more Thriller.’”
What Will You Do?
So, then, what about videos? Is it fair to conclude that all videos are bad and therefore not to be viewed? Not any more than you could say that all movies, or all songs, or all TV programs are bad. But one thing is certain. As is the case with movies, songs and TV programs, CAREFUL SELECTIVITY IS NEEDED.
But this can present a real challenge. As 20-year-old Brian explains: “You don’t always know what’s going to be on next. You may want to see a video of a particular artist, but there may be others shown first—good ones and bad ones. It’s harder to be selective with videos on cable TV.”
What can help you to decide whether a particular video should be viewed as entertainment? Well, a good indicator is to ask yourself: How does it measure up against Bible principles? Consider an example or two.
Regarding immoral sex, the Bible says: “Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you.” (Ephesians 5:3, 4, Today’s English Version) Since such things should not “even be mentioned among” God’s people, what do you think about videos that feature themes suggestive of sexual immorality?
Regarding violence the Bible says: “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Psalm 11:5) If we freely watch videos that contain senseless violence, can we rightly claim that we are not ‘lovers of violence’?
While not condemning all videos, don’t you agree that genuine Christians should rightly reject any videos (and any other form of entertainment) that feature sex, violence, occultism or any other theme that is clearly contrary to the principles set forth in God’s Word, the Bible? And why put on a pedestal those who produce such things?
What should you do? Perhaps it was best summed up by young Bob, who said: “Be very selective. Be careful of both the songs and the videos. Be ready to change the channel.”
[Blurb on page 18]
Videos “transform a song into a sight unexpected”
[Blurb on page 19]
Videos often are bizarre
[Blurb on page 19]
“The surest shortcut to memorable videos seems to be a liberal dose of sex, violence or both”
[Blurb on page 20]
“I’ll never do a video like that again!”—Michael Jackson
[Blurb on page 20]
“Be very selective. Be careful of both the songs and the videos”