So here’s the thing: I love music videos.
The first music video I ever watched was “Perfect Drug”, a song by the industrial metal rockers Nine Inch Nails. It was 1995 and playing on MTV in front of my seven-year-old eyes as I sat, transfixed by the telly in my grandmother’s room. Back then, for a short glorious while, MTV Asia was free on national television.
I remember that when I got back home, I kept singing the chorus line of that Nine Inch Nails song (“you are the perfect drug, the perfect drug”) and got quite a scolding from my dad — who is a cop, by the way. That was when my love for music videos (and addiction to MTV) began.
A World of Tunes
I spent a lot of time growing up watching MTV, armed with a remote and a VHS cassette tape to press ‘record’ on my favourite music videos. Over time I collected Garbage, Tori Amos, more Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, Placebo, Nirvana, one or two Marilyn Manson and some Madonna in my beloved tape. Then came a tech upgrade.
My dad, who may have been a cop but was also a geek, got hold of MP3s and my music tastes exploded. We got on Limewire around the early 2000s, and a lot of my time was spent tracking down obscure music videos I could not see on Singaporean TV.
Remember kids, at that time internet speeds clocked in at just 256kbps. The result was that I spent days downloading music videos that were 80 megabytes in size and had a resolution far smaller than our mobile phone screens now. But at a time when I could not even buy Nine Inch Nails in local CD stores, music videos offered an escape. So when YouTube came out, it was a godsend being able to watch music videos from the ‘80s that I otherwise would never have had the chance to experience.
Music Meets Storytelling
Music videos, when done well, tie together the core essence of a song with a story. Ideally then, in a single five-minute sitting you will consume not just audio stimuli but visual and psychological, too. Whatever you feel while listening to a song is transliterated into a short movie.
And because the musician and the director have sat down together to figure out a way to best translate the meaning of the song into visual frames, whatever message you did not get while listening to a song is also shown on camera. Ultimately, you then gain a deeper understanding of the song itself.
Passion and Profession
I still have a deep passion for music, perhaps even more so now that it has helped me professionally in my current role as a digital designer at Novus Asia. Somehow, all those years of watching music videos and analysing the interplay between music and imagery has taught me the importance of understanding what our clients want, and how best to deliver it.
To deliver a product, whether it is an e-newsletter or a website, we need to know the core objectives: what are the client’s goals (I think of this as the song title)? What is the message (this becomes the song lyrics)? What is it supposed to make users feel (the musical notes)? What is it supposed to sell to the masses (the chorus)?
As designers, we need to understand this “song” the client has given us. We need to execute it with the right visuals, create the right mood, hone the perfect style — all without losing the connection to the original song itself.
It’s not easy because as we all know, users nowadays don’t have the attention span to sit down and analyse everything.
All we have is five minutes of your attention, at best. But if a mind-blowing music video can craft a memorable message, so can we.
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