The Liann Kaye Blog

Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E - Need U (100%)

I don’t have a ton to say about this video other than it’s super smart and super funny!

Although I generally prefer music videos that feature the actual musicians in some way, performance videos for DJ’s are not super popular.  This makes sense, as DJ’s don’t often do enough visually interesting stuff at their laptops to warrant being on camera for long periods of time.  Sure Pharrell and Timbaland like to pop in when they produce a song, but it takes a certain amount of swag to stand around in the background while not actually doing anything.  If you’re not Calvin Harris or Zedd, you might not want to appear in your video at all.  Mystique is cool.  Bobbing awkwardly in gigantic headphones is often not.

So rather than coming up with more ways to give the swagless swag, this director (Ian Robertson) wrote a narrative so smart, and so funny, that we end up caring less about the creators, and more about the song.  Isn’t that what artists always say they want?

The main character has a stereo stuck inside his stomach that plays a song so catchy, anyone near him can’t help but drop everything and dance.  We’ve all seen video concepts like this before, but what sets this one apart is how deadpan the narrative is played.  The main character isn’t into it at all.  People flock to him and shake their groove thangs so joyfully when he’s around, you would think it’d be infectious.  And yet, the most this guy can offer in response is an eye roll to communicate his miserable disposition.  This juxtaposition is nothing short of hilarious, and makes the song seem even more appealing. 

This all builds and builds until we arrive at an insane hospital scene where all the surgeons half-heartedly try to operate on our anti-hero but can’t. stop. dancing.   When they finally cut the stereo out of him and kill the music, the final action of the angry patient throwing down the IV stand and stalking off in disappointment made me laugh out loud.  

The twist of adding one person who just doesn’t get it to the “everyone has to DANCE!” concept gave the whole thing friction, making the video as a whole far more memorable.

(Fun Fact:  Sam Smith and Disclosure did a Live Lounge cover of this song and it might better than the original?  His vocals are so damn smooth!)

Shooting @TeamStarkid at Irving! (at Irving Plaza)

Shooting @TeamStarkid at Irving! (at Irving Plaza)

Shooting @Talkfine at Irving Plaza! (at Irving Plaza)

Shooting @Talkfine at Irving Plaza! (at Irving Plaza)

Foster the People - Houdini

Foster the People are the perfect poster children for hipsters who are in on the joke. Their first single, “Pumped Up Kicks” (which can only be described as the catchiest song you have ever heard about gun violence) successfully tricked an entire nation into tapping their toes light-heartedly to a cute and memorable base line while the lyrics discussed mental illness and referenced Columbine. So Ironic!

Sure they’re signed to Columbia, but they’re not like the mainstream, man! Even though they aren’t exactly “indie” (as far as being a band that makes independent music), they write their own songs, play their own instruments, and don’t have one of those carefully constructed images you see in pop tarts run by the SYSTEM.

Or do they? How do you navigate the waters as a Pitchfork darling in the Top 40? How do you maintain that priority #1 is still sticking it to the man, even though the man is helping you sell and distribute your music to millions and millions of people?

My guess is that you get super meta, super self-aware, and yes, super ironic.

I want to take a minute from authoritatively analyzing FTP as if I know anything about them and just say that “Houdini” is one of my favorite music videos of all time. Maybe the band is trying to comment on the music industry. Maybe they had nothing to do with the video whatsoever.

That being said, one of the reasons I’m having fun with these reviews is that I get to practice thinking about when directors have to assess an artist’s position in pop culture, then react to it.   It’s more than likely that 99% of the vision on this project belonged to the incredible directing duo DANIELS So in trying to approach this video from that perspective, here is what I came up with:

Foster the People will not work hard for your approval. In fact, let’s just kill off the band within the first five seconds of the music video so that they don’t have to work hard for your approval.  In the same way that Lady Gaga makes a statement through the amount of obvious effort in her work, FTP makes just as much of a statement by appearing to not actively participate in their music video at all.  Maybe the band members didn’t want to look silly by trying too hard, so the directors wrote a narrative around that.   Projecting “cool,” especially in the context of Le Hipster, can certainly read as apathetic.  Considering that the band members’ characters are either dead or unconscious throughout the entire thing, they certainly do get away with the vibe of, “We just wanna focus on the music and someone else did the video for us…whatever man.”

And yet, the real members diligently appear in every scene, participate in a cute choreographed dance, and appear to have green-lit being carried and shoved around by faceless men in green suits.  If you look closely, they actually put a respectable amount of effort into this, but get away with looking like they didn’t.

And the concept is soooo meta. It’s a film crew filming a film crew. They actually show us the green screens before demonstrating how drastically these things can alter our perception of reality. This isn’t a low budget indie project. But even though the music video looks polished like a major record label, it’s loaded with that snarky, satirical tone FTP started their career with. They’re not “selling out” but if they were to sell out?  This is what it would look like.

The rest of the of the video is a brilliant narrative that plays out like a heist movie. It’s not easy to tell a story with no dialogue, but we see clear reactions of utter panic from the crew when the band dies, not out of any concern for them, but because a close up of a magazine tells us that there is a show tomorrow, and this is a business.

Someone makes a phone call, and from here and we get a thrilling three-act story that builds and builds until the resurrection of the band as android/puppets is complete. The show must go on! And it does, without or without the people who created the content.

This video is so smart, so funny, so self-aware and it brings everything that is usually off screen into the limelight.  The creators show us upfront how to deconstruct the pop star, and while we’re watching all the strings being pulled in front of our faces, we almost miss the construction of the “indie star” going up in the wings.

(Fun Fact: The DANIELS Duo has directed some of the greatest videos I have ever seen.  Their videos always include their signature special FX and stunning silent narratives.  Check out their videos for "Cry Like a Ghost" - Passion Pit, and the insane, uncomfortable, and strange #NSFW "Turn Down for What" - DJ Snake ft. Lil Jon)

Willy Moon - Yeah Yeah

If I were to put a camera on Willy Moon and have him dance, he’d probably look a little awkward.  He’s sort of a hapless, skinny, little chap but at the same time, he’s boasting lyrics like, “I’m back with a brand new beat!” “Tryin’ to doubt my style?” “How you like me now?”

Which is all good and fine when he’s just telling us how awesome he is, but when trying to construct the second dimension of this song, how can Willy show us?  

How do you make your artist look cool?  It’s a theme I’m constantly thinking about these days.

This video presents a few good ideas:  How about literally putting your artist up on a pedestal?  How about placing him under a spotlight and giving him the power to control everything in the room (the lights, music, people) with a sweep of his hand?  On top of that, how about we dress him so that he’s the brightest thing in the room, then give him an ocean of minions to conduct, all dressed in black, and ready to throw themselves any which way on his command.

The video is shot like an epic movie.  By putting the camera on a crane, the sweeping shots from the floor to the ceiling give us the feeling of one might have when watching King Leonidas inspire his army of Spartans on top of a mountain.

The song itself is slotted on Wikipedia as “alternative hip hop” and while the beat and sampling certainly follow that train of thought, the visuals hardly reference the genre’s roots.   Willy Moon’s music isn’t something you can easily draw comparisons to, so it’s super important to make sure that we don’t draw the wrong visual comparisons either. 

Willy is an average white guy who sings.  He’s not an r&b singer, he’s not a rockstar, and he’s not a boy band.  In effort to avoid these old tropes, it’s a brilliant call to take the video in a super abstract direction.  In this fictional universe composed of mirrored walls, black pillars, controlled lighting, and tons of dancing minions, we’re able to ignore our inkling that in real life, Willy Moon might be reasonably awkward dude.  But in this space?  He’s like Poseidon controlling his sea of slaves!  

All the elements are working together to show you that Willy Moon is in control of his artistry.  Next I think, this is a sweet video, a funky song, and I kind of like how bold this guy is.

(Fun Fact, Willy Moon was picked up by Jack White’s label, and the same guy who directed the incredibly famous Seven Nation Army directed this video too— Alex Courtès!)

Fancy by Iggy Azalea ft. Charlie XCX

I don’t know much about Iggy Azalea as a rapper. She seems…fine? Whenever, I listen to hip hop, I often find myself paying more attention to the production (the beat, samples, hook) and probably have less of an informed opinion on how sick the flo’ is.

I imagine rap aficionados might tell me her flo’ isn’t that sick. And aesthetically, I could imagine why.

This being said, it must be difficult to be a white female rapper on the hip hop scene, but that’s what I think makes this video so brilliant.

It seems like the hardest part of coming up with a music video concept is making your artist look cool (which is so subjective), and figuring out who their audience is. Because Iggy is a pretty normal looking white girl who’s rapping is…fine, logic follows that she’s probably not going to be picked up by the urban community any time soon.

But you know who else listens to hip hop? ME!

And probably many other twenty-something girls who love a good dance party, a good hip hop beat, and who will immediately connect to this video in spite of (or perhaps because of) having our 90’s nostalgia shamelessly exploited.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Clueless as an adolescent, but it’s unexpectedly thrilling to have a part of your childhood re-imagined in this way. While the 90’s outfits seemed fashionable to us back then, the yellow plaid and school girl skirts now look so outrageous, so throwback, they come off as hey, hipster! Every scene this video references is pitch perfect and instantly recognizable. The tennis court was a brilliant opportunity to have a sexy line dance against the fence (albeit, they clearly had to edit around Iggy’s dancing— am I being too hard on her?) The video was able to take Clueless, the least gangster movie of all time, and make it gangster! But not too gangster.

The final party scene is shot in slow motion, and then is sped up at certain points when they need the lyrics to be sync. There’s a certain glamour that comes with this look. It’s shot the way a cinematographer might shoot Ludacris throwing money and champagne over loose women on a yacht somewhere. The camera is always moving, which is another nifty trick that for some reason always seems to make things look badass and expensive. Because the music is so minimal, the editor can speed up or slow down the action to hit the beat. I love how their arms fall in slow motion then suddenly ramp up to snap with the rhythm!

This video instantly won my heart as a textbook lesson in how to give the swagless swag. I think about this all the time. So in spirit of Clueless, I hope you appreciate and watch it, but not too sporadically!

(Fun fact:  So upon further research I found out this video was directed by Director X, the guy who actually has filmed most of the major hip hop videos we’ve seen in the past decade, including Ludacris throwing cash and champagne over loose women in Pimpin All Over the World.  You’ve got give it to him, the man has a signature and knows how to use it!)

feministsongs:

Charlene Kaye feat. Kalae Nouveau - Woman Up (Dave Scalia Remix)

"I see my women in the struggle
The nine to five hustle, see the bustle here, trying to flex muscle
But the dudes keep a muffle, stifling sound
All the walls stars tumbling down down down
But you’re a queen, where’s your crown, why you messing around […]
Girl, you’ve got to woman up”

Happy Valentine’s Day!     We made another Buzzfeed list!

Buzzfeed was kind enough to include my Charlene Kaye & Darren Criss’s video for “Dress & Tie” on their “21 Songs To Share With Your Sweetheart This Valentine’s Day”

Thanks Buzzfeed contributors for all the love!!!  Spread it around today!

Happy Valentine’s Day! We made another Buzzfeed list!

Buzzfeed was kind enough to include my Charlene Kaye & Darren Criss’s video for “Dress & Tie” on their “21 Songs To Share With Your Sweetheart This Valentine’s Day”

Thanks Buzzfeed contributors for all the love!!! Spread it around today!

A huge thanks to @crystalizd for redesigning my website and @charliewagers for the new logo!  They are the best in the biz and I’m a lucky girl!!  New digs at www.liannkaye.com

A huge thanks to @crystalizd for redesigning my website and @charliewagers for the new logo! They are the best in the biz and I’m a lucky girl!! New digs at www.liannkaye.com

Talkfine Music Video Coming soon!!

Had a little video pow wow with Talkfine this week.  

We still have a little more work to do, but we can’t wait to debut this video!

If you haven’t checked out their track “Dance Like This" do it before it’s too cool!

Talkfine Music Video Coming soon!!

Had a little video pow wow with Talkfine this week.

We still have a little more work to do, but we can’t wait to debut this video!

If you haven’t checked out their track “Dance Like This" do it before it’s too cool!