Monday, March 14, 2011

80's Music...will it ever be beat?

My first video may be an obvious choice, but that is why I chose it. Michael Jackson's Thriller embodies an entire decade and represents everything that was great about the 80's. Aside from the fact that the late, great MJ is my favourite solo artist, Thriller broke world records that have yet to be surpassed by anything produced by artists since. I debated choosing another of Jackson's famous songs from the 80's such as Beat It or Bad, but I chose Thriller because if the question on Family Fortunes was "We interviewed 100 people and asked 'What was most famous about the 80's'?" one of the top answers would be Thriller.

Directed by John Landis (Trading Places, The Blues Brothers) Michael Jackson's Thriller premiered on MTV on December 2nd 1983. Thriller cost a cool $1,000,000 to make which, if my calculations are correct, is equivalent to around $215,000,000 in today's money. Yet, it is still not the most expensive music video ever made. That title goes to Scream, the 1995 duet that Michael sang with his sister Janet. That cost $7,000,000. The video was actually the idea of Jackson's manager, Frank Dileo, as a way of dealing with ailing album sales. The album's title track was used and the rest, as they say, is history. Running at 14 minutes long, the video was the first of it's kind. Firstly because it was directed by a motion-picture Director which was almost unheard of but secondly was because it actually told a story and involved a screenplay.

What many don't realise is that the song is almost independent of it's accompanying video. Whilst the song is simply known as Thriller, the video is known as Michael Jackson's Thriller and was shown on MTV along with the hour-long documentary Making Michael Jackson's Thriller. In 2009, the video was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.It is the first music video to ever receive this honor, for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. In addition to this, the song has been covered by the TV show Glee, which although I hate to admit it, seems to have the Midas touch with immortalising songs.

Beginning in a 1950's setting, Michael and his nameless girlfriend drive into a wooded area and there's some cutsie pie exchange but in typical 50's horror fashion, it all goes horribly wrong and Michael turns out to be a werewolf. We cut to Michael in the 80's with his still nameless girlfriend who is scared out of her wits, both of them watching the horror movie we just saw at the movie theatre. She runs out and he follows. At which point we see the front of the theatre advertising Vincent Price 'Thriller'. The music begins and Michael teases his girl about being scared. As he sings about ghouls and ghosts on their way home, they pass a graveyard. The zombies come out to play as Vincent Price does his creepy voice over and then they corner the couple at which point Michael becomes a zombie and they all perform THE MOST AMAZING DANCE EVER CHOREOGRAPHED! Michael reverts back to his human self to sing the chorus, then it's back to zombie form to chase his girlfriend to an abandoned house (silly girl). When they are about to devour her, she screams and suddenly wakes up. Ah, it's a Dallas moment- it was all a dream! Michael offers to take her home and as they walk out of the door, Micheal looks back at the screen and his eyes morph into werewolf eyes. The closing credits roll as a reprised scene of the zombie dance is shown.

Aside from being an anthem, Thriller is one of the most copied/parodied/referenced videos of all time. This of course includes the 2007 viral phenomenon that was the inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines performing the dance which to date has had over 47 million hits on YouTube.

Everything from the permed haired, the giant shoulder pads, the revival of the horror genre and the biggest star of that generation, Thriller is everything that the 80's should be. Music you could listen to, sing along to, pass down your affection of it to your children and know that you could instantly recognise it within the first few bars. Thriller was to music is what Reagan was to politics. Timeless.

I think I am probably biased with this choice as not only are Maroon 5 my favourite band, but Misery reminds me of happier times in Eau Claire. Nonetheless, it's catchy as hell, has already been used in a movie trailer and was nominated for a Grammy.

But the main reason I picked this song was for the video. Featuring front man Adam Levine and his girlfriend, model Anne Vyalitsyna, the video unlike other 'love/hate based songs' is filled with violence and not sex, although it's been commented on by various critics as being a very sexy video. Premiering in July 2010 on MTV and VH1, the plot of the video is that Adam Levine gets his ass kicked by this hot girl who you assume is his girlfriend, or was. She's torturing him in sync with the lyrics. 'I am in misery','Why do you do what you do to me?' She throws some punches and some kicks...then a knife...then a bazooka. You know, as you do when a lover has ticked you off! The video, directed by Joseph Kahn, is almost in line with the third wave of Feminism. In a day and age where women always seem to be the ones whining about being jilted, Maroon 5 has cut us some slack and given us the chance to fight back. And considering they're only a Pop/Rock group, the video is pretty violent and was actually partly censored in the UK.

I chose Misery because it is fresh and modern and although most violent videos are produced by artists in the genre of Heavy Rock and Rap (Marylin Manson and Eminem, I'm looking at you), this is more comical and stylised than it is threatening and dark. The lyrics feel like they are personalised (as are a lot of the band's songs) and I feel like it is a song that you could relate to. It reached number 1 in the US Adult Pop chart and I feel like it is a song that will be around for a while because of a memorable video and it's incredibly catchy melody. Oh, and Glee covered it. It was awful.

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