- There is a relationship between the lyrics and the visuals (with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the lyrics)
- There is a relationship between the music and the visuals (again with visuals either illustrating, amplifying or contradicting the music)
- Particular music genres may have their own music video style and iconography (such as live stage performance in heavy rock)
- There is a demand on the part of the record company for lots of close-ups of the main artist/vocalist
- The artist may develop their own star iconography, in and out of their videos, which, over time, becomes part of their star image.
- There is likely to be reference to voyeurism, particularly in the treatment of women, but also in terms of systems of looking (screens within screens, binoculars, cameras, etc)
- There are likely to be intertextual references, either to other music videos or to films and TV texts
The key elements of a music video are:
It is perhaps not surprising that so many music videos draw upon cinema as a starting point, since their directors are often film school graduates intending to move on to the film industry itself. From Madonna's 'Material Girl' (Mary Lambert, 1985) which drew on the song sequence Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend and Howard Hawks' film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (USA, 1953), to 2Pac and Dr Dre's California Love (Hype Williams, 1996) which referenced George Miller's Mad Max (AU, 1979), there are many examples of cinematic references in music video. Television is often a point of reference as well, as in the Beastie Boys' spoof cop-show title sequence for Sabotage (Spike Jonze, 1994) or REM's news show parody Bad Day (Tim Hope, 2003). People see visual references in music video as coming from a range of sources, although the three most frequent are perhaps cinema, fashion and art photography. Fashion sometimes takes the form of specific catwalk references and sometimes even the use of supermodels, as by Robin Thicke in Blurred Lines (Diane Martel, 2013). Probably the most memorable example of reference to fashion photography (and to the fetishistic photography of Helmut Newton) is Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love (Terence Donovan, 1986), parodied many times for its band of mannequin style females, fronted by a besuited Palmer.
A description of music video as 'incorporating, raiding and reconstructing' is essentially the essence of intertextuality, using something with which the audience may be familiar, to generate both nostalgic associations and new meanings. It is perhaps more explicitly ecident in the music video than in any other media form, with the possible exception of advertising. It is suspected that the influence of videogames on music videos, particularly for younger audiences, has generated more plasticised looking characters.
- Narrative and performance
The video allows the audience more varied access to the performer than a stage performance can. The close-up, allowing eye contact and close observation of facial gestures, and role-play, within a narrative framework, present the artist in a number of ways not possible in a live concert. The mise en scene in particular can be used:
- As a guarantee of 'authenticity' of a band's musical virtuosity by showing them in a stage performance or a rehearsal room;
- To establish a relationship to familiar film or television genres in a narrative-based video;
- As a part of the voyeuristic context by suggesting a setting associated with sexual allure, such as a sleazy nightclub or boudoir;
- Or to emphasise an aspirational lifestyle, as in the current emphasis on the latest gadgetry