What connects these music videos: Pharrell Williams’s video for “Happy”, Bob Dylan’s interactive video for “Like a Rolling Stone” and Queens of the Stone Age’s video for “Vampyre of Time and Memory”? That’s right. Aside from their interactive gimmickery, they all feature lip-syncing, or what I like to call a lip-synced-relay.
For all their digital innovation, interactive music videos do seem to be a little short on ideas. And yet this trope hasn’t bothered me in the least. In fact, while watching these videos last weekend, I was genuinely charmed by them. I can’t remember the last time I watched a music video, let alone was charmed by one. And I don’t think it was in spite of all the lip-synched-relaying – I think it was because of it.
I am aware that sync-relaying is an easy way to create a tie between disparate video clips. Rather than a thematic bridge which the viewer has to figure out, lip-sync-relays allow the viewer to flick through multiple videos without a care in the world. More importantly, it works as a narrative device. It’s the first person plural. “We” can imagine ourselves assuming the role of the artist too. In an online medium, this feels incredibly inclusive: any one of us could film ourselves mouthing the words to a song, uploading it to YouTube and becoming a bit part in the video.
This is most obvious with Pharrell’s video, but even in the others, someone who isn’t Bob Dylan or Josh Homme has the chance to become them. I think this device is most apparent in video games – and not as a camera perspective either. We are able to play as a protagonist whose achievements become our own, even though they are replicated by anyone else who plays the game. Watching the interactive videos, I felt as if I’ve just yet to play the games.
Perhaps the future of music videos is in authoring more inclusive pieces of art. Perhaps the future has already been done. The Johnny Cash Project asked the public to draw frames for the song “Ain’t No Grave” in order to create an ever-evolving homage to the icon. This is the interactive video at its most democtratic. But I’m equally happy, sitting here, at my desk, mouthing the words to “Like a Rolling Stone”.