For lots of people, seeing is believing. As a child of the 80s, toppling into my teens in the 90s, the world of music and film sucked me out of my old coal-mining valley and threw me into a different dimension full of colour and energy. And what was even more exciting is that I had to wait for it to come to me and let me in.
Before YouTube, before on-demand watching, even before sleepy South Wales Valleys phone lines could handle dial-up internet, I was obsessed with music videos. You could go to the cinema, or hire a video from a local store, but a music video was such a rare treasure. If you didn't have MTV (few did) you relied on The Chart Show, Top Of The Pops (where you hoped the band couldn't actually show up so you could see the video) or a chance showing on a Saturday morning TV show to get to see your favourite band's new clip.
Long story short - blink and you miss it, and then you may never, ever get to see it.
One of the coolest things that happened around the scarcity, and the true "event" of music videos, was Pop-Up Video where - probably an intern - searched for every piece of trivia you could attach to the song and let you explore the video in real time. Again - blink and you miss it. For a music geek like me, this was gold.
If you remember Pop-Up Video, I bet this is the first example you name:
Lisa Loeb's 'Stay', which opens with "Ethan Hawke's cat". The genius of this format was that it not only managed to be informative about the artist, while making some (often terrible and tenuous) jokes, it catered to the nerdiest watcher with minute detail that felt thrilling to learn.
In a culture where everything is so instant and skippable now, I think this shines as a moment in time where the gift of information, and the status of being a fan of an artist really was important. The thrill of the chase was very real, and the need to be on alert, always, was so exciting.
Not every video looked like a movie. There was something so amazing about seeing behind the armour of a popstar - much more rewarding than following them on twitter and seeing selfies. You saw them in the role of the artist but in so many different ways. Lisa Loeb, as Pop-Up Video tells us, hadn't performed for a camera before, so you have a sometimes awkward, but sweet and charming lip-sync of the song, introducing a "non-star" with a huge hit.
Artists like Björk, Super Furry Animals, Beck and Blur became true innovators with their creative videos. Bands like Oasis cemented their roots, and later their stadium status through their visuals. Madonna challenged everything. Britney Spears got the world's eyes on her with killer looks and choreography. The Spice Girls slammed the power of being a woman in people's faces in so many ways through their kitsch but clever videos.
It's crazy to think of how many hours kids would sit through videos they literally didn't care about in the faint hope of seeing the one that they did. But that was also part of the joy: accidentally seeing something that became your new obsession. And while modern equivalents exist with Spotify Discover playlists, or "recommended" artists on multiple platforms, you can still skip through, or ignore something altogether. You'd never even KNOW that Lisa Loeb said her look was "natural - not trendy" or the true cost of her tortoiseshell glasses.
I'm so impressed by the incredible achievements of music videos - whether that's pieces like 'Lemonade', a Lana Del Rey opus, 'Turn Down For What', a Sia / Ryan Heffington choreography piece or an Aphex Twin nightmare. I think the music video is still a place where you can get to see what makes an artist tick, what's influenced them and how they work. But, I'm also interested in the stuffing behind the seams.
I created my newest video 'All In The Name' with Pop-Up Video in mind. I wanted to work all my favourite pop culture references in to a video so people could see what made me the artist I am, and what influences shaped this record. With my choreographer Steven Hoggett, we worked as many little nods into a tongue-in-cheek video that we could. And then I thought: why not actually make a Pop-Up Video version? So I did! As a fan of the 90s, here's what I so desperately wished could have happened to a video of mine if I ever made it big while Pop-Up Video was on air.
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