Hard Day’s Night

Culture Warrior

The music video is in terminal condition, if not certainly dead. MTV hasn’t been associated with music for a long time, and nobody invests real money in the format that formerly revolutionized the relationship between audiences and musicians. The music video had a great run, introducing us to visionary directors and creating profound visual iconography whose power was unmatched by album covers and promotional materials, but beyond the occasional breakout video that circulates on YouTube, it’s time to say goodbye to the format that brought us everything from “Billy Jean” to “Frontier Psychiatrist.” In the past few years a new music/video hybrid has become increasingly prevalent. The “visual album” (as coined by Animal Collective) continues to emerge as a means of creative visual expression and (often) as a form of cross-promotion for an album. Unlike music videos, visual albums stage, sometimes with interruptions, the majority of a musician or band’s LP. Even though this format seems designed to exist exclusively through web distribution (visual albums can occasionally be too long, interconnected, and narratively or stylistically cohesive to be parsed out as standalone shorts or individuated music videos, but aren’t long enough to be feature films), the visual album is also a risky declaration in the age of iTunes, proclaiming albums to be cohesive works of musical artistry rather than conveniently divisible bits of audio information.

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