For The Record | Issue 17

For The Record | Issue 17

Shia LaBeouf’s Penis

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about music videos. When The Buggles penned the perennial jukebox favourite “Video Killed the Radio Star”, it’s unlikely they realised just how right they were. While it’s been almost forty years since the one-hit wonder ushered in a new era of television (yes, it was the first music video aired on MTV, don’t talk about the irony, we get it), the central ethos of the song still rings true: music videos create stars and kill artists. I don’t need to explain to you the power of a slick, high-budget video, and what it can do for a song of zero artistic or musical value. Everyone already knows this.

The celebrated filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard famously said that “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.” This accurately describes most contemporary music video production, except guns are often substituted with cars, because you can’t alienate the young ones watching. But I’m not here to condemn our society’s predilection for females, weaponry, and vehicles. In fact, I’d like to turn your attention towards a recent high-art trend in music videos.

There’s been a distinct backlash against the sexploitation and gloss of mainstream videos; that was all so early 2000s. Musicians are finally realising that music videos are a powerful platform that can unite the senses, transcend the aural, and ultimately lead to a more profound musical experience. With his generation-defining pièce de résistance, “Runaway”, His Holiness Kanye West signalled an end to the hedonism and misogyny of the typical rap video. In 2012, we have a similarly bold artistic statement from the hauntingly bizarre Icelandic “post-rock” outfit Sigur Rós.

With the release of their sophomore album Ágætis byrjun in 1999, Sigur Rós broke through to the mainstream. Within a year of the record’s release, their songs were being featured in major motion pictures and they were opening for bands like Radiohead.

Don’t let its name fool you. Ágætis byrjun is one of the best and most original albums of the last decade. This is saying a lot for a record that features a made-up language. Seriously, it’s not Icelandic, it’s an invented dialect with an entirely fabricated vocabulary. But it’s beautiful, oh so beautiful.

Sigur Rós released their sixth studio album, Valtari, earlier this year to critical acclaim. The Valtari Mystery Film Experiment is an unprecedented project that sees the band offer a number of filmmakers full creative control to direct visual accompaniment for each of the record’s tracks. The director is able to bring his or her entirely subjective take on the lush music and in doing so, can create a personal and authentic music video, perhaps better referred to as a “music film”.

Yes, the latest video in the Mystery Film oeuvre does indeed strip Shia LaBeouf all the way down in a brutal depiction of addiction and desire.

For the record, it’s the best acting he’s ever done.
This article first appeared in Issue 17, 2012.
Posted 10:46am Sunday 22nd July 2012 by Lukas Clark-Memler.