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The Slate

Bringing Storytelling Back to Music

Bringing Storytelling Back to Music

Last December, sadcore songstress Lana Del Rey released her much anticipated short film, Tropico. Shot to four songs from her sophomore album, Paradise, the film is Del Rey’s interpretation of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with a contemporary backdrop. What’s more impressive than the concept is the film’s beautiful imagery and great production quality. 

Del Rey is no stranger to quality storylines matched by breath-taking imagery. Tropico is her third collaboration with director, Anthony Mandler who is also known for his work with artists from Maxwell to Rihanna. With his help, the emotion of her music is translated on screen for a thought-provoking audio-visual experience.

Of course, she is not the only artist who has released Oscar nod-worthy music videos. Of late, musicians have traded the kitschy dance numbers and lip-synching in front of a camera for complex narratives and mindful social commentary. Not only does it give the audience a chance to appreciate excellent filmography, but they get a glimpse into the mind of the artist.

Marina Diamandis, of the UK solo act Marina and the Diamonds, released a music video for each of the songs on her 2012 album Electra Heart. The videos followed the eponymous character through four archetypes of young women in search of the American Dream: The Idle Teen, The Beauty Queen, The Homewrecker and The Housewife. Guy Sigsworth, Diplo and Diamandis herself took on the roles of producers and directors to bring the dark concept album to life with character development and techniques commonly found in film and theatre.

Focus on quality production has also allowed artists to create meaningful work that comments on the current social climate. Two-time Grammy winner Lorde shot to stardom with her catchy melody, “Royals” from her freshman album Pure Heroine. The song critiques mainstream society’s obsession with opulence and material gain. The video, produced by Joel Little featured “normal” teenagers doing unexciting things in direct contrast with the “Cristal, Maybach, tigers on a gold leash” of Lorde’s solo  in the background. She has stated in past interviews that she intentionally stays out of the frame to keep the focus on the artistry and message of the video. With the help of Little, her unique approach allows her audience to see themselves in the video and reflect on how it pertains to their own lives.

When artists partner with producers who have access to high-quality production, the music video becomes a visually attractive medium of expression. Potentially more important, the audience has a cinematic experience - a bite-sized Hollywood film - that stays with them. As they spend time appreciating individual shots and scenery they are reinforcing the message, facilitating discussion, and celebrating artistic ingenuity.

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