On first thoughts, the music video is a bizarre artistic format. Somewhat of a crossover between easy advertising and visually adding greater depth or meaning to a song, the format has risen from the exclusivity of the MTV broadcast to take on the world wide web, with individual clips garnering millions of views. But what of the artistic integrity of the music video? Indeed in recent years artistic merit and direction has for the most part taken a back seat as we’ve been bombarded with clips aimed to cause controversy loaded with faux shock value. The art it seems, for the most part, has been shunned aside in favour of sales and hits. A song doesn’t succeed unless its video results in numerous Buzzfeed articles and internet-wide furor. Record labels too often fail to see our appreciation of the visual side of our favourite artists’ creative pursuits.
Hiro Murai may just be the man who rejuvenated the music video. His recent work for alternative Hip Hop giants, Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lemar’s collaboration, ‘Never Catch Me’ is a beautiful, transfixing piece of cinema that has taken the online community by storm. The 4:47 minute clip portrays the final dance of two children resurrected from their open caskets at a family funeral. They dance out of the church, through the streets and into a hearse before they drive off into the distance. It’s a hauntingly beautiful clip, in some ways a relatively simple video, an obvious metaphor for the afterlife and what lies ahead, a theme that is intrinsically linked to Flying Lotus’ work, particularly with recent album ‘You’re Dead’. But look closer, watch it twice, maybe even thrice and you’ll quickly notice its details and motifs. The flickering light at the beginning and end of the video, the recurring image of the gladioli, the swift cameo of a mourning Fly Lo and Thundercat and the airplane suspended in motion; all details that simply add to the video’s merit. Then there’s the choreography performed by the two children a complex, compelling fusion between classical styles and modern routines. All of this reaches an intense cacophony that matches perfectly with the lazy jazz piano riff and Lemar’s sharp yet quiet vocals. Put simply, it’s a cinematic masterpiece.
‘Never Catch Me’ is not the only video the Japanese director’s vision has graced, in recent months a range of artists have let Murai loose on their accompanying visuals. One such prominent artist is comedian turned rapper Childish Gambino. Remember the intense, somewhat disturbing visuals for ‘Sweatpants’? Again the work of Murai. A single shot video that follows Glover as he circulates around a diner, as slowly every member of staff, every customer and even the couple making out in the parking lot turn into differentiating versions of the rapper. It’s an eerie work that delves deep into the themes and motifs of ‘Because the Internet’, a perfect visual accompaniment to one of the album’s more direct tracks. With Gambino’s recent release Murai took on control of all visuals also directing the video for ‘3005’ and the accompanying short film, ‘Clapping for the Wrong Reasons’. The director’s work is inherently creative and refreshingly different: there’s the director’s work for experimental Hip Hop trio, Shabazz Palaces, a wild trip of a video, featuring giant humanoids appearing around a nameless American city, before our protagonist falls into the city skyline. Then there’s Murai’s work for St. Vincent, with the visuals for ‘Cheerleader’ seeing lead vocalist Annie Clark portrayed as an interactive, giant sculpture in a dystopian art gallery, and further work for Odd Future lyrical powerhouse, Earl Sweatshirt on ‘Chum’ and ‘Hive’. Even David Guetta gets the treatment with the visuals for ‘She Wolf’, an arctic odyssey seeing two stone age hunters chasing an elusive wolf. A definitive catalogue of increasingly creative visuals, Murai has revived what was seemingly a lost genre blended into identikit dance routines and over the top production.
Murai’s work strips songs back to their core, like a world class mixologist he creates the perfect blend between music and vision, with all his intricately thought out videos, the visuals do not detract from the song but rather only serve to amplify its message and tone. In a world where music is too often sold in a package lacking in identity, individuality and vision, Murai’s videos are to be savoured and ultimately admired.
Words: Charlie Jaco