By Ramón Ayala
OK, let’s think about it this way: have you been to an OK Go gig lately? Have you bought tickets for a festival because they were included in the line-up? Have you danced to their songs on a dance floor until you burnt it? I’m afraid the answers to these questions are no, no and no. You know them for their music videos. They’re four guys who write songs to make a video for them that is far cooler than the song itself. Yes, they have turned the whole thing upside down. They’re a mediocre band with a once a year steroid-fuelled music video.
From that faraway and seminal artefact choreographed with treadmills they have done nearly everything. North Korea style steps shot with drones from above, fun assault courses with paint stains and the last one, a dance with zero gravity in a Russian plane where they train astronauts. They’re all videos made with one single shot and in order to reach perfection they need to repeat them several times until no one screws it.
Once the soufflé created by the Internet and social networks has collapsed after an intense week, it’s time to ask for a second what’s behind the OK Go videos. I don’t mean to do a “¿Scam or Genius?” sort of thing. Just scratching the surface a bit we’ll see there are certain evil intentions in the model they manage.
A music video used to serve the purpose of illustrating a song. A music video approaches a telluric, intangible, abstract and vibrant musical entity and gives it shape, volume, it turns into something concrete through images and sometimes is even allowed to adventure itself outside the dominant industry of images. A music video is a lot more interesting if the song is good, obviously. And even much more interesting if instead of being a crowded experimental story it follows the nature of the song. Some music videos are performative (with the artist playing, I mean), others are narrative, and others are conceptual (in some conceptual videos the director can’t help showing off how brilliant he is!). Of the latter, one of my favourites is Memory by So Me for Jackson & the Computer Band, I don’t even know how to classify it and I like that because it’s very Robbe-Grillet. Oh, and then there are also the artist ego-trip ones! These happen when artist and manager grab all the director’s ideas and try to do a five-minute product pack shot.
Let’s analyse the OK Go case. The thing is… that we’ve given credit to these musicians because they didn’t get it wrong when dancing on treadmills! And then they’ve continued making music that was endorsed by new visual acrobatics. That just for starters. Then, what happened is that the model was repeated with bigger, taller, stronger variations. Yes, they might be stronger, but the formula is worn out now. As creative directors they can’t do anything else than generating more similar concepts for their own songs. Industrially, they’re a dead end. And, besides, their formula splatters the industry in an absurd way: producers that ask you “where is your concept?!;” artists that want to levitate, fly, live in collapsing house, change their face after each verse, drive there lorries with one arse; managers that ask for less narrative, less poetry and more coolness, more Tumblr copy, less care about the image itself. Do we need OK Go? Nope, not at all! They’re turning us all into arseholes! Can show business have zero value? Yes. It can even cease to be a marketing value, the “call to action” turned soap bubble. If everything is show business, then nothing is. And nothing can be and not be at the same time.
“But they’re videos get tons of visits. Respect that. Millions of visits!” someone will say. OK, let’ me use this argument once again: KITTY CAT VIDEOS DOING CUTE THINGS HAVE MILLIONS OF VISITS. And that doesn’t mean they’re good videos. Are kitty cat videos the future of audiovisual arts? Applied to any format? Sweet, bloodless, with a little smile… How cute! Thank god at least we have Russian wedding videos… Those sleepers always work!