What makes a bad music video?

Biggest Music Video Pet Peeves

Ever since MTV played the first music video back in 1981, music videos have provided a visual interpretation of our favourite songs and artists. Music videos have sure come a long way since that first video by The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star”. MTV may not play music videos anymore, but these video representations of music are among the most watched videos on YouTube and other video streaming services. All music videos, though, are not created equal. Some music videos are so cringe-inducing that they are almost impossible to watch or, at the very least, rewatch.

Music videos are supposed to make you feel something. To elicit a desired emotion. Sometimes you feel it, but sometimes you feel like you’re watching a train wreck, and just can’t look away from it. And in extreme cases, you want to throw the device you’re watching the video on, out the window.

There are certain elements to music videos that, when you see them, you just know it’s going to be a bad video. Here’s a list of those top music video pet peeves.

Artists Acting in Their Music Video

When you start playing the music video for your new favourite song and there’s a sudden cut-scene of acting in there, it’s just bad news. 9 times out of 10 you know it’s going to be really bad. But the absolute worst is when the acting is being done by the artist themselves!

Obviously there’s going to be some aspect of acting in a music video. That’s just a natural part of the video representation of any song. But what we’re talking about is the over dramatic, poorly acted cut-scenes with talking that interrupts the video.

The purpose of a music video is to be a visual representation of the music itself. If the story of the video can’t be told without audible acting, then the story is just too complicated. Let the music speak for itself.

There are many reasons this is so eye-roll inducing. For one, the audio of these cut-scenes is often unbalanced, and doesn’t feel natural. The acting is almost always cringe-worthy and ends up providing no real purpose or value to the record itself.

Another reason for the annoyance is that these long cut-scenes tend to cause the video to lose its re-watchability. It’s not a video you can add to a playlist and listen to, or watch, passively. You have to stop what you’re doing and give the video your total attention.

Now, there are times where acting works and helps to elevate the music video (think “Fancy” by Reba McEntire). But the difference is, Reba is a great actress, the video had a high production value (for its time), and the song itself had a great story that provided a great foundation for a more elaborate music video.

Concert Performance Music Videos

Another music video pet peeve is when the entire music video is simply a concert performance. No matter how high quality the production values are, it feels like the artists just called it in. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of work that went into the music video, it just feels like it’s missing something, and uninspired.

The artist may have had the best performance ever, and put on a great show in the video, but it feels just very uncreative. It’s a total missed opportunity to connect with the audience and to bring the song to life. The audience wants to experience the music in a way they can’t get by going to the artist’s show or by simply listening the song.

These videos get made because it often just makes more sense from a business perspective. Typically these videos cost less to produce, take less time to coordinate and shoot, and require less post-production editing. All of these are great cost-saving tactics. They can also help sell more tickets when the artist is out on tour by giving audiences a sneak peek of what the tour might look like and to entice them to buy tickets to see the rest of the show. From a business perspective, this all makes great sense. But as a fan, it’s very irritating.

Let me give you an example. Carrie Underwood is known for releasing music videos that have great emotional and powerful stories. There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the release of her “Church Bells” music video. The story of the song lyrics lends itself to a powerful, artsy, and elaborate music video. People were excited to see a video similar to “Blown Away” or “Two Black Cadillacs”. But instead, it was just a performance from her arena tour. The whole thing came across as a promotion for her tour (which rumours at the time were that the tour wasn’t selling as well as hoped). So the video was really just a big commercial.

As with the previous pet peeve, there are performance videos that work really well. For example, “Stay” by Sugarland. This is a great video. It’s incredibly simple, and just features the artists performing. The reason this one worked so well, is because it’s so different from what you would see at one of their shows. It’s a totally unique and emotional performance. If you haven’t seen it, you should… it’s a good one. Here it is in case you haven’t:

Bad Music Video Production Value

Okay. This next pet peeve is one that plagues most new artists, and emerging artists who don’t yet have a record deal, or any kind of money. But, but poor production quality is one of the biggest turn-offs for a music video. You know, those videos where it just looks like it was recorded on Uncle Larry’s flip phone. These videos are just so hard to watch!

Unfortunately, when artists are just starting out, their videos are going to be lower quality due to small budgets. This pet peeve is totally understandable, but it’s still makes watching the video really annoying.

Now. What’s REALLY annoying is when a big artist releases a music video with poor production quality. Miranda Lambert’s video for “White Liar” is an example of one of those videos. It looks like it was shot by a high school computer tech class. The videography is rough, the lighting is inconsistent, the audio seems flat, and the videography is two dimensional. The story is there and had great potential, but the quality just seems to be missing. Here it is here:

 

Honestly, in the case of music videos with poor production quality, an annoying concert performance video would be better. There aren’t any music videos with poor production quality that we could think of where this pet peeve is successful. But hey – feel free to comment with some low quality music videos that are amazing. Would love to be proved wrong.

There are so many other pet peeves when it comes to music videos. But these are by far the top 3! We would love to hear from you. What elements of music videos make your skin crawl? Show us some examples in the comments below.

About the author

Front Porch

In country music, the Front Porch has long been a place of reflection. A place where you can look at the life you have inside that front door. A place where time almost seems to stand still, where you can get away. It’s also a place where you can go to observe the world as it passes by you. To think about your place out there beyond the driveway.

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