What Pop Music Videos Say About Mainstream Kids, Politics, Rebellion

January 10, 2008 at 4:04 pm (amazing things, frightening things, movies/video/clips, music, politics) ()

Emily and I rarely watch TV and are completely tuned out from the pop music scene. A few weeks ago, though, we turned on the tube late at night and watched some music videos, one of those top 20 countdowns. Every single video, one after another, was about disaster. People running through city streets, reminiscent of 9/11. Soldiers dying. Police subduing rioters.

Each of the videos, that is, was extremely political and timely. We found this surprising, heartening, disturbing — the general public, the young sheep that is, are apparently completely aware of what is going on. Aware and flipped the fuck out.

We forgot about this experience until last night, when we found ourselves once again watching the most popular videos on Fuse. Once again, video after video, every single one we watched, reflected a keen political awareness. They were filled with outrage, with energy. They were brimming undeniably with the sense that we are being repressed, that we are being lied to, that we must act. I haven’t even really listened to the songs — the images of death, explosions, riot cops, soldiers, and climate change were more than enough to convey these things.

The ones I could find are below; see for yourselves. I think it’s well worth stomaching the bad music* to see what the imagery is trying to say.

Maybe I’m reading too much into pop culture. But taken together, I think these videos send a clear message that the knowledge of our situation has now permeated the collective consciousness. Even if not everyone knows what they know yet.

* And heterosexism and other grossness.

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11 Comments

  1. robertjerome said,

    Luckily the computer I’m using doesn’t have any sound so I was spared the bad music. Heavy metal (if that is what this is) likes to splice together stock footage to convey a sense of pandemonium. A world on the brink. A dying human race. God is dead. Etc. It is a very timeworn theme in the heavy metal community and I think, if they want to keep their movement alive, they need to evolve beyond the classic corruption, cynicism and rape of the planet agenda. We get it already: we’re all going to Hell. I think they should make a thrash/death metal video showing nothing but blooming flowers, shiny newborn babies, backyard swimming pools girded by palm trees and nuzzling puppies.

    These videos can also be misinforming because they show chaos, war, decline and natural disasters without any context to accompany these images (I better shut up before I start to sound like a conservative). But seriously, a 15 year old boy could be scarred for life by this rubbish. Everybody doesn’t need to be as messed up as a soldier to know the “meaning” of life (because I’m sure this is how these heavy metal artists would define their art–that they are conveying the “meaning” of life and not all the lies). Pure Bullocks!

    PS- I’m not British but I like pretending to be while I write this post.

    http://www.robertjerome.wordpress.com

  2. Daisy said,

    I believe this is “alternative”/pop, not metal, which is part of the reason the images surprised me.

    I agree with you about violent images, for sure. One recurring beef I have with this society is the idea that it’s much better to show children graphic violence than loving sex. What the hell.

  3. robertjerome said,

    Okay, I watched these videos with the sound. The first video is from a band called, I think, Lincoln Park. The last video is made by a band called System of a Down. The middle two videos wouldn’t play. Both of these bands are mainstream mook bands, and let’s face it, nobody takes them seriously except suburban mall rats who hate their parents. It really is a tragedy the way kids are subjected to violent images and yet sex is forbidden. But then again, American kids are being turned into sluts by corporations that push things on them like skimpy dresses and rub-on tattoos that say things like, “I don’t kiss and tell.” What a waste–a whole generation of lives flushed down the toilet.

    http://www.robertjerome.wordpress.com

  4. Emily said,

    I wouldn’t give up on that whole generation of lives just yet, rj. In fact, that’s sort of the point of this post I think.

  5. Daisy said,

    Yeah, Emily’s right on — that totally the point of this post. I don’t know how old you are, RJ, but Emily and I are both members of this generation.

  6. robertjerome said,

    Please excuse my hyperbole if you will. I don’t mean to suggest that the younger generations today are a waste. I just think that some of their values are beneath them in a lot of ways. The tawdry, cyncial obsessions with cheap sex, gratifying violence and personal pain caused by alienation and loneliness says something about our current mental health as a nation.

    The clever thing about these videos is that they are made by younger people (well, at least the Lincoln Park video is…I think the members of System of a Down are 30 somethings) and they expose the hypocrisy of adults. Adults claim to care about the values and interests of younger people (keeping them safe from the degenerative side of life) but adults often share the same destructive tendencies as the younger generations. Adults are also guilty of exploiting young people and maybe this is where some of the anger and rage in these videos comes from (kind of like you exploit us, we’ll exploit you back).

    The reason I dislike these bands is because the quality of their sound when combined with their bellicose, subversive message makes me nostialgic for the days of yore when mellodious bands like The Cure and R.E.M. dominated the youth music scene. But, of course, even in those days we had iconoclasts like Slayer and Metallica (and later Rage Against the Machine) who liked to skewer our conscience and ears with apocalyptic opuses like ‘Decade of Agression’ and “And Justic For All’ (respectively).

    I always thought I was so righteous and insightful when I was a teen and young adult, however, I realize now how naive I was in so many ways. My original hypberolic message didn’t convey my belief that most of these angry young people will outgrow their pubescent rage and will mature into SUV driving suburbanites they so much detest.

    http://www.robertjerome.wordpress.com

  7. Daisy said,

    My original hypberolic message didn’t convey my belief that most of these angry young people will outgrow their pubescent rage and will mature into SUV driving suburbanites they so much detest.

    You may be right. If you are, though, we’re surely doomed — another generation of suburbs and SUVs will take as straight into the darkest heart of the climate crisis, and with us everything we’ve ever known. So let’s hope you’re completely wrong!

    : )

  8. robertjerome said,

    Okay, you got me there. Let’s just say Subaru driving suburbanites (assuming everyone in the future will drive electric Subarus). I don’t know what the working class stiffs would drive in the future…maybe something that hasn’t been invented yet.

  9. Dan (Fitness) said,

    Actually the last was by Serj Tankian, solo. Anyway, I though the music added to the message. If you listened to the music and let yourself soak in the imagery, the overall impressions of each were clear. Linkin Park’s foray left one with the sense of regret looking back over the violence of history, the violence we all inherit by being human. It was beautiful.

    The Foo Fighter’s piece left me with a sense of fighting back. They cast themselves as the protestors, and not using a protest as a backdrop for preteen angst (I’m looking at you yellocard), but as the primary message of the song.

    The third, Avril’s, was generally concerned with loss, but did incorporate loss from war into the imagery.

    The last, Serj’s, was excellent. From the imagery to the words, he was conveying the truly fucked up state our nation is in.

    So I think yes, your thesis is largely on the mark. But I wonder whether it is an increasing awareness, or an increasing tendency to express that awareness. Serj is definitely a socially aware critter. As I imagine many other artists are. What is interesting to me is that these videos became so popular, and that such imagery was allowed by the studios. We’ve seen stuff like this before, just seeing it in such volume and with such popularity is remarkable.

    (The one thing I think music lacks today is clarity. Sometimes one needs to say what one means directly. And right now it is rare to see that.)

  10. Daisy said,

    Hi Dan,

    But I wonder whether it is an increasing awareness, or an increasing tendency to express that awareness. Serj is definitely a socially aware critter. As I imagine many other artists are. What is interesting to me is that these videos became so popular, and that such imagery was allowed by the studios. We’ve seen stuff like this before, just seeing it in such volume and with such popularity is remarkable.

    Yes — my thoughts exactly. The unusual thing that it was the most popular videos, and one after another with that kind of message.

  11. robertjerome said,

    I just thought of it…the working class stiffs in the future will drive hybrid Subarus with dually tires in the back.

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