Friday, March 30, 2007

Ring the Alarm? Beyonce Releases More Videos

There's nothing wrong with Beyonce making 13 videos for one album, you can never get enough B' right? Well only as long as they are actually good videos...

"Freakum Dress" dir. by Melina

Beyonce is releasing 7 new videos for her B'Day Anthology Video Album (DVD), on top of the, count 'em, 6 she has already put out to promote the music from the multi-platinum B'Day. If you couldn't already tell, we talk about her a lot here because we genuinely like her, and we especially like any artist who is putting good energy into the video industry. In fact a "video album" is a brilliant concept, and one that gets video nerds like us super-excited. The potential for a project like this is sky-high.

Yet sadly there is something strangely disturbing about the way this is coming together. Maybe it's because 7 of these videos (including this one) were directed simultaneously (by Melina and Beyonce), or perhaps it's the fact that this DVD will only be available through Wal-Mart - but this looks a lot like a commercial ploy rather than an artistic statement. Though we haven't seen every video from the new collection quite yet, Beyonce has provided one-minute previews or stills from all the videos, and they all look like more of the same.

"Green Light"

"Suga Mama"

"Kitty Kat"

Minimalism has been a popular trend in hip-hop/r&b videos for a while, but after a few times it starts to look a lot like a sign of laziness rather than a creative tool. Almost all of these new videos feature Beyonce and her back-up dancers dressed glamorously in front of large screens and various simple props. The scenes rarely, if ever, add anything to the themes of the song and simply serve as eye-candy (though, in fairness, there is an attempt to make each video distinct). The video for "Kitty Kat" is perhaps the silliest, with Beyonce crawling on the floor with a huge green-screened cat - which we're assuming is supposed to be sexy.

Sex is of course the main selling point for all these videos, and one could argue that Beyonce (along with most of her contemporaries) has always made videos that are more about developing an image than saying anything meaningful. In fact, in that regard it is quite impressive that she was able to film and put together all of these in such a short time - many stars release two videos a year which are of less quality than these. But none of that really excuses selling this DVD (at Wal-Mart) to millions of eager Beyonce fans who already own the original album. Maybe the rest of the clips will actually turn out to be quite different from what the previews suggest - but we're not holding our breath. The fact that Beyonce did make a few interesting videos for this album, including "Irreplaceable" and "Ring the Alarm," just emphasizes how much better these other ones could have been. It's not like she was strapped for cash - she makes that very clear.

We recently saw this clip of Beyonce presenting Michael Jackson with a lifetime achievement award at the World Music Awards. The singer talks about how much MJ has meant to the industry and how she is personally inspired by his work. The sad truth for her is, despite whatever criticism you may have of Jackson, the King of Pop would never release this many sub-par videos on a single DVD. Beyonce still has a bit to learn before she assumes the throne.

Beyonce previews her new videos on TRL


Anonymous said...

Here's the thing to critique a video accurately from an artistic standpoint you also need to carefully review and have an understanding of the lyrics. The title is not the reason alone to have a large cat in the video. The track is the motivation behind any video and should relate accordingly.

Anonymous said...

and does relate in the video "kittykat"

Imran said...

agreed, but what do the track's lyrics add in this case? it's fairly clear that in the song "kitty kat" represents both a literal threat of taking her cat and leaving her man, and more frequently, a sexual allusion to what else will be leaving with her. "and that includes my sweet little nooky too." so in the video having a huge cat, plus being dressed as a cat herself, simply implies that beyonce is very "feminine" or sexual. she also repeats "what about my body, my body" a number of times, drawing further attention to sex. associating herself and femininity in general with a cat just plays into classic stereotypes of women as being weak and refined animals, and while she contrasts that with a strong statement of individuality (i.e. her intention of leaving), she also uses it to sell herself as ultra-female. all of this is interesting enough, but it doesn't make the video any better. and could be the description for almost all of these videos, just by replacing the cat with a different metaphor.

Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie