Congratulations Skepta! The Mercury Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the UK music industry. Free from having to appeal to the mainstream audience The Mercury Prize can focus on the best underrated, underground and alternative artists as well as well established artists.
Since I’m all about music videos I’m going to look at one video from each of the shortlisted artists. The criteria guiding which music video I’ve chosen is – most views, album’s titular track or I just liked it best.
Anohni Drone Bomb Me. Album – Hopelessess
Anohni’s ‘Drone Bomb Me’ Directed by Nabil plays like an arthouse short film. Its provocative imagery holds your attention to the onscreen mystery. What does this all mean? The performance delivered by Naomi Campbell (yes that is her) is powerful and emotive, finding us in moments of suppressed emotion and moments of full blown tears. The build-up of emotion isn’t steady and sometimes hits us right in the face.
At times the video is dressed down using still close-ups. At other times small explosions of big energy through the dancers, their ability to contort and the use of slow motion. This video is more of an expression of art, a feeling or a concept rather than a story.
The lighting makes use of shadows with gradual definition and no harsh lines, perfect for setting the tone. The colour scheme was well chosen using chrome blues, purples and greens with a metallic finish perfect for black skin.
Bat for Lashes Sunday Love. Album – The Bride
‘Sunday Love’ Directed by Natasha Khan and John DeMenil is part of a series based on Natasha’s short film ‘I Do’. ‘Sunday Love’ plays a bit like an offbeat B-movie with a twist, telling the story of a woman on her honeymoon after her fiancé dies on the way to their wedding.
The video is minimalist, making use of dark. This visual approach makes the viewing experience more surreal and mysterious. Within this dreamy surreal world light is used to transition from scene to scene or fantasy world to fantasy world. There’s a mid-section illustrated by pink light and slow dissolves sending us back to the 1960s. Nothing feels real yet every element and subtle detail feels important.
David Bowie Lazarus. Album – Blackstar
Directed by Johan Renck, ‘Lazarus’ feels more like an expressive arthouse film. Set in a small Victorian styled room, the video is filled with offbeat yet sinister imagery. David Bowie lies in what looks like a death bed, his eyes bandaged with buttons sown where his eyes should be. These images are clearly unsettling like the lady/spirit/hallucination under the bed; they feel like visual references to death and the beyond. The camera gently floats above Bowie in his bed as if a spirit, at the same time Bowie subtly floats from his bed – just enough to notice.
The performance is more alternative and filled with expressive movements, less stylish more contemporary while still being emotive and theatrical. The 1:1 aspect ratio is a little different but an interesting choice, limiting the frame to a small square or are we supposed to pay attention to the negative space?
Jamie Woon Sharpness. Album – Making Time
Interestingly enough Jamie Woon has no actual music videos for Making Time, just a series of studio recordings – that said, ‘Sharpness’ is an interesting video. It’s sort of a performance video but not really, kind of like a live lounge but not quite. For me it floats somewhere between the two and, thanks to excellent lighting it has a hint of a more intentional music video. The visual quality and slightly muted colours really makes a difference here, better than any other video you could compare it to.
The performance from Jamie and his band is focused, these people are really into their music while still seen to be having a good time. The choice of shots is a little more inventive without re-inventing the wheel; they are slightly off centre, slightly more obscure and very cool. The shallow depth of field pulls your focus to specific musicians or instruments which is something rare for a video of this kind. These careful, subtle choices added together makes one enjoyable experience.
Kano This Is England. Album Made in the Manor
Ben Falk directed an ambitious project. The video acts as his and Kano’s depiction of modern day England. We travel through different visual landscapes; urban, suburban and rural. These paint an interesting picture when juxtaposed because the landscape isn’t just physical, it’s social. We are bombarded with images of Union Jacks, bulldogs, tea and fry ups making the video all the more interesting, choosing to be a commentary on class and lifestyle rather than other elements of the current social climate. Even the song title echoes certain imagery – but fret not, we won’t be seeing images related to Shane Meadows’ Film and TV series, this is its own creature.
The video is fast moving and fast traveling, at times it’s hard to keep up but maybe that’s the point. There’s a lot of movement in the video; tracking shots, handheld shots, shots with lots of on screen action – the momentum is constant, only allowing brief moments of still and calm. The visual style shoots between movie and documentary, between cinematic set ups and what looks like found footage but of course it isn’t. All this put together with the powerful track creates a dramatic viewing experience.