Saturday, 20 October 2012

Great Music Videos: Jewel, "Intuition"

Great Music Videos is an ongoing feature in which I plan to write about music videos I feel are particularly accomplished examples of an underappreciated art form.

I chose Jewel’s video for “Intuition” to kick off this series because it’s a music video that’s as relevant in 2012 as it was when it was released nine years ago. In the video, Jewel walks through a city that frequently transforms itself into ads for products such as Sprite and Nike. This culminates in a “real” music video where Jewel is sprayed by water from a fire hose while accompanied by backup dancers, something not dissimilar in nature to what one would find on MTV in the early ‘00s.

What’s remarkable, perhaps unsettling, about the video for “Intuition” is that it’s progressed beyond its initial nature as satire to become an astute commentary on the music videos of the past few years. Since Vevo’s launch in 2009, it’s become clear that artists’ videos are as indebted to ads and product placement as they ever were; that ubiquitous white logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen is a constant reminder of this fact.
Some videos have incorporated product placement into their narratives more cleverly than others. A great example is Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor”, where the products displayed make perfect sense in context: Lopez is going to a fancy party, so naturally she’d want to wear high-end earrings and step out of a BMV.

(And yes, J.Lo’s “big butt is still boss”, if her recent chart success and work as a judge on American Idol are any indication.)

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Avril Lavigne’s music video for “What the Hell”. From the opening shots of skateboards and Sony televisions, it’s clear that the artist and director were not the only ones that had a say in the final product.
As the video progresses, however, the possibility emerges that Lavigne intended to make something as tongue-and-cheek or self-aware as “Intuition” – after all, it’s Lavigne’s own perfume and label that are featured. It’s unlikely that Jewel’s video was a point of reference, but either way, “What the Hell” doesn’t have the necessary framework, given its earlier unnecessary product placements, to make an “Intuition”-style statement.
‘Statement’ may not be the right word, though. The genius of “Intuition” lies in the fact that, despite its highly satirical approach to advertising, it doesn’t really make an argument at all.