Have you ever wanted to watch a former Disney starlet eat a tube of lipstick? Or the serious actor Riz Ahmed whisper into the ear of a giant pink teddy bear? The last month has seen a sweep of music videos from female solo artists that are delighting audiences with their eccentric aesthetics.
In Dua Lipa’s colourful and acutely choreographed video for “New Rules”, the British pop singer glides around a Miami hotel with eight seamlessly in-sync girlfriends in pastel dressing gowns. “Perfect Places” shows Lorde utterly alone in different sites of natural beauty. Charli XCX’s “Boys” features male celebrities (Stormzy, Joe Jonas, Tom Daley) flirting with the camera in a way usually reserved for female models. And Selena Gomez’s “Fetish”, directed by artist Petra Collins, is a suburbia-set horror film in which she writhes around on the floor covered in food. They’re all wonderful.
Mainstream female pop stars are moving consciously towards artier statement videos. Ten years ago, the press declared “the internet killed the video star”, citing the rise of YouTube for the fall of MTV. Without TV channels to curate what music we watch and when, they said, the music video debut would no longer be an event, and the video itself less of a big deal.
Now, these theories seem faintly ridiculous. Gomez, Lorde, Charli et al trailed the release date of their new videos on social media. Kanye West livestreamed the debut of his video for “Famous”. And of course, Beyoncé announced that her album-length film Lemonade would be premiering on HBO at 9pm on 23 April 2016 – without giving anyone the slightest clue as to what Lemonade was. Not only is music television as big as it ever was – it’s better than ever, too.
This article appears in the 09 Aug 2017 issue of the New Statesman, France’s new Napoleon