Monday, September 14, 2009

Literal Music Videos: Parodies that almost write themselves

You may write the most beautiful, powerful, and popular song ever written, but if you make a nonsensical music video to go with it, you're just asking for someone to poke fun at you.

After decades of videos showcasing ridiculous fashion statements, embarrassing dance moves, and action that seems more inspired by someone's weird dream than the song being sung, it was only a matter of time before someone started making literal music videos. It's not uncommon for people to create song parodies, but it wasn't until relatively recently that people started changing around song lyrics specifically to make fun of the original song's music video.

Literal music videos take the official music videos of popular songs such as "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler or "Loser" by Beck, and then they completely rewrite the lyrics to describe exactly what's going on in the video. Having seen a song's original music video can be helpful, but being familiar with the original song is almost essential for a full enjoyment of the literal music video.

This person's take on A-Ha's "Take on Me" provides a quintessential example of a literal music video:

Literal music videos are easy enough to find, but professional-quality (or near-professional-quality) literal music videos are few and far between. Anybody with a microphone, a karaoke CD, and video editing software can cobble together a literal music video, but the audio/video quality and the singer's voice make or break the final product.

This literal music video of The Beatles' "Penny Lane" demonstrates exactly what I'm talking about here; the song is a little too high for the singer, and the otherwise-fine parody suffers a little as a result:

Another peril of literal music videos is that people come up with some pretty crude lyrics that take certain aspects of the video a little too far, such as the presence of a questionably dressed woman or the fact that someone's convulsive dancing resembles a kind of physical disability. On the other hand, there are parodies with lyrics that are too literal--yes, that man is sitting down, but it's not funny unless you add some flavor to how or why he's sitting down.

To that end, my favorite literal music videos are the ones with clever lyrics that amplify the absurdity of the video and halfway-professional singing that actually sounds somewhat like the original performer(s). For your consideration, here are two such literal music videos:

A literal music video of "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" by Air Supply:

A literal music video of "Under the Bridge" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers:

Still looking for more? I'd recomment the literal music videos of Meat Loaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love," as well as The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" and Billy Idol's "White Wedding."

Have fun, and don't blame me if from now on you can't help but sing the lyrics as "piiiiipe wreeeeench fiiiiight! (Pipe wrench fight!)"

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