If there's one thing I've noticed about the production of music videos over the past decade, it's the new artistic directions that performers are leaning toward with each and every effort.
Many musicians appear to be moving away from the typical "band playing instruments to prove to fans that they can play instruments" or "concert footage to be used on exclusive tour DVD" (See Cee Lo Green's infamous words-only video from this summer, or Atomic Tom's improv subway performance with the use of iPhones alone).
If there's one band that tends to appear more focused on the visual more than the aural, it's OK Go.
The LA-based alternative rock band by way of Chicago band has been churning out the music-videos-turned-viral-videos since 2006. The result — millions of YouTube views and a reputation for doing anything but normal in front of a video camera.
Honestly, I can't think of a time where my Facebook wall hasn't been overrun with inventive videos (usually done in one take!) of the foursome running on treadmills or constructing Rube Goldberg machines.
Low and behold, I stumbled upon Ok Go's latest visual piece. There was something about the music video for "Back From Kathmandu" that felt a bit wonky to me, though.
Don't get me wrong — the purpose was peculiar (in a good way). But, the explanation, well, check it out for yourself:
Hello everyone. Last month we took to the streets of Los Angeles with OK Go to host an 8-mile-long musical parade and kick off our global GPS art project.
What's this you ask? Well, we're using GPS technology and our free app to turn cities into giant canvasses upon which we can draw electronically… it's like a giant Etch a Sketch.
OK Go started the project, creating a giant city sized drawing of the letters ‘OK Go‘ on the streets of LA. Now it's your turn. The band will take the best entries and compile them into a new video.
It's a festive effort to include the masses. Imagine the chance to parade around your city with a band that's know for doing quirky things for the camera. But are people really listening to Ok Go?
I can't even remember the last time one of my friends told me "Hey, you gotta check out their latest record! The solo on Track 7 is astounding!" It's always goes more like this:
"Did you see that dance sequence the dude with the over-sized glasses just pulled off?"
Ok Go's latest effort, Of The Blue Color Of The Sky, has sold about 80,000 records. Granted, they're selling themselves by themselves, after they split from their record label, EMI.
But are all the stunts and theatrics it worth all the effort? SPIN Magazine profiled Ok Go for their "Best of 2010" issue — low and behold, they awarded the believe the band made the "Career Move of the Year."
As lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash explains, it's a complicated game to push the "low budget, high concept" approach.
"Maybe it's that people have to stop seeing the music industry as the business of making recordings." ... "It doesn't mean you have to go as visual as we have gone or that it's all about the Internet or anything else that defines our success. But labels and tghe music industry at large have failed to realize that when you have something of cultural value, there are many ways of paying your rent with it. You just have to figure out who you are."
That's quite a bold statement — and one I'll leave at that, since that discussion can go in many directions. Honestly, I'd love to see Ok Go tackle a documentary. Better yet — I'd love to know the band's thought process for these videos. Their next project could be about paint drying on the wall (to use the cliché) and I'd still watch it. And maybe pick up a record.