Back in 1981, MTV paved the way for a whole new art form – an art form that would become one of the defining blueprints for an entire decade’s pop culture. The music video enabled a layering of imagery over pop music that was often created in and confined to the minds of music listeners. Some artists did not really make the most of this medium while others absolutely thrived in this medium. The undisputed winner on this medium was undoubtedly Michael Jackson. That being said, many experts suggest that the British invasion of the US music scene in the 80s was largely fueled by MTV and the ability of British artists to shine stylistically in this new medium of music exposure.
The spectrum of content in music videos ranged from shallow escapism to dramatizations of a song’s lyrical content (sometimes almost to the point of removing the abstract content of a song’s lyrics). One band that thrived in the early years of MTV’s heyday was celebrated New Wave act Duran Duran. Back in 1982, almost every music video from their milestone “Rio” album was shot in Sri Lanka. Duran Duran was without a doubt, the pioneers of the location shoot. All of a sudden, they had stretched the spectrum of the music video to showcase exotic locations around the world. Whether or not people liked their music, their eyes were undoubtedly glued to their television sets as they watched the five “lads” (now in their mid-50s) perpetuate every stereotype of the “rock and roll lifestyle” but in beautiful locations in distant lands.
With MTV’s borderline irrelevance (why do they still have MTV VMA awards???) in contemporary pop culture, the notion of the “location shoot” feels like a remnant of a bygone era. But not all is lost. It seems like one band is keen on reviving that exciting aspect of music video. While it is unlikely for this band to be watched on a broadcast medium like MTV, they still have plenty to offer for the growing number of music aficionados that scour youtube for new music and great visuals. This band seems like a group of unlikely pop stars that have married two diametrically opposed sonic templates into a potent concoction of music that works very well on radio. It is distinct and does not merge with the rest of what popular radio across the world features but yet contains the essential ingredients for high-quality radio-friendly pop. This band is called Clean Bandit. Formed in Cambridge, these four youngsters have quickly created a music brand propelled by a sonic template that marries the cello, the violin, and 90s style electronic beats. The visual element of their brand is defined largely by their revival of the location shoot. Their first hit single in 2014, “Rather Be” (featuring Jess Glynne on vocals) was filmed in Tokyo and follows a fan of the band that frequently has hallucinations of the band members in her daily life. Their second single this year is the brilliant “Extraordinary” (featuring Sharna Bass on vocals). It was filmed in the lush landscapes of Cuba. Their third single “Come Over” shifts dramatically back and forth from the snow-capped mountains of Norway to the dessert sand dunes of Morocco. More importantly, this video dips into another element of MTV’s heyday – controversy (one of the trademarks of pop queen Madonna). The video opens with “Al Adhan” – the call to prayer heard across towns in countries in the Islamic world. While we truly believe that Clean Bandit was celebrating the beauty and magic of that call to prayer, the inclusion of that bit in the music video for “Come Over” has enraged Muslims across the planet. Many of them have commented on the youtube video for this song and have indicated that the band is being blatantly irreverent of their religion. A deeper dive into the conversation on youtube around this video will reveal the music video’s polarizing effect on the band’s fanbase.
Whether or not Clean Bandit continues to be a relevant force in the music scene for years to come in the way that Duran Duran was, one thing is pretty clear. They have recreated the appetite for a visual escapism of the type that only music videos could provide by resurrecting the long-lost trend of the location shoot. One can only hope that Clean Bandit inspires other bands to follow suit. As someone that was born in MTV’s glorious era, I can only hope that this is the beginning of a second wave of video artists. Until then, here is a full-length music video clip of “Come Over” by Clean Bandit.
CLICK TO VOTE for “Extraordinary” by Clean Bandit (featuring Sharna Bass) in our ANNUAL “Song Of The Year” poll (closes on December 7, 2014)!
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