In this essay I will be comparing two different music videos from two different artists and explaining why they were made that way, any theories that apply, and the differences between them. The music videos I will be comparing are Elastic Heart by Sia, directed by Sia herself and Daniel Askill. The other music video is Dance Dance by Fall Out Boy, directed by Jeff Seibenick.
For Sia’s Elastic Heart, the format is concept based. This is because the music video ties in with the meaning of the song, but the music video doesn’t directly follow the lyrics and is not literal. It is a simple music video, showing two characters (Shia LaBouf and Maddie Ziegler) dancing a complex and meaningful choreography in a cage. The song Elastic Heart is about an inner battle that Sia faces with herself and debating what she feels, and the strength it takes to leave a crushing relationship. I think that Sia used this format of video because she wanted to illustrate the emotion of the song. A concept format allows for a lot of creative expression which Sia used to her advantage.
Fall Out Boy’s Dance Dance music video is both in the format of performance and narrative. In the music video, the band are performing the song as a band playing at homecoming. The camera focuses on them heavily in the song. They are also performing as ‘nerdy’ students attending the party – Pete Wentz, founder and bassist of the band, is also performing as part of a couple and has multiple dance offs with other students and wins. Both of these types of performance presents them in a protagonist position, linking in with Andrew Goodwin’s theory of music videos consistently showing the musician as the protagonist. In addition to this, the format of the video is also narrative, as the song is about dancing and the music video takes place at homecoming. I think that Fall Out Boy chose these formats because together they make a strong music video, it is intelligent and it allows for the music video to stand on its own as a creative media piece. It also caters to the audience to turn the songs meaning into a literal music video format, as a dance at homecoming is relatable to the teen audience.
Elastic Heart by Sia is created in an impressionistic style. This is because the video is abstract, displaying two characters (a child and a man, perhaps a father and daughter) dancing a very specific choreography to illustrate emotions and fighting. It is set in a big, bird-like cage, further interpreting the meaning of the song. The song talks about an inner battle with feelings, so the dancing is impressionistic of the two feeling’s Sia feels, and being trapped with them (represented by the cage). I think the artist chose this style, as her music has a youthful but deep image and this style of music videos continues that theme. In addition to this, music videos that have deep meaning through visuals often gain large amounts of popularity.
Dance Dance by Fall Out Boy is created in a narrative style. Like the format, the song is directly about dancing and romance, and the music video is set at a homecoming, with band member Pete Wentz attending the homecoming with a girl, trying to win over her affection. The pace of the music video keeps up with the pace of the song, interpreting the energy of the song and turning it to narrative. In the beginning, as the energy of the song increases, so does the mood of the music video. We see the crowd get increasingly excited the more the song plays. During the chorus, the pace of the music video is at peak and the dancing gets faster. Then, while Pete debates whether to show off his dancing in front of the crowd, the music is suspenseful. In the music video, The lyrics also fit with the song – the opening lyrics ‘She says she’s no good with words, but I’m worse Barely stuttered out a joke of a romantic stuck to my tongue‘ reflect the opening of the music video. Before the song starts, romantic couple featuring Pete Wentz exchange awkward conversation before entering the hall, which is when the music kicks in. Every piece of the video has been put together to show a narrative.
In Elastic Heart, the lyrics have been interpreted and amplified into the dance sequence. The lyrics to Elastic Heart demonstrate the conflict of how Sia feels – it goes into detail about how she wants to feel the love – ‘but why can I not conquer love?‘ and ‘I wanted it and I wanted it bad‘, but then not show how it affects her – ‘but you won’t see me fall apart ’cause I’ve got an elastic heart‘. The lyrics show the back in forth in how she feels and this reflects within the music video through the setting and the dancing. The meaning of the lyrics is reflected through the setting, which is a room with a large cage in it. The cage represents being consumed by her feelings, so when dancer Maddie Ziegler leaves the cage, it represents her being free of those feelings. The lyrics reflect the reluctance Sia feels, so in the beginning, the dancers are wary of each other and spend a portion of the video running toward and away, whilst Maddie retaliates and tries to ward of Shia.
In Dance, Dance the lyrics contradict what is happening in the music video. The lyrics are negative and cynical in comparison to the music video – the lines ‘tonight it’s it can’t get much worse versus no one should ever feel like‘, ‘we’re falling apart to halftime‘, ‘this is the way they’d love if they knew how misery loved me‘, and ‘I’m two quarters and a half down and I don’t wanna forget how your voice sounds‘ reflect the cynicism the writer feels about a relationship they are in. The lyrics illustrate that the writer may be fighting or breaking up with a partner. The music video contradicts this as it is set at homecoming, where there is lots of dancing, laughing, and romance. In addition to this, it is cliche that homecoming and prom are times when romance comes together – mentioned in the music video by Pete – ‘One night could change it all!’ This highlights what is happening in the music video and contradicts the lyrics and meaning of the song.
In Sia’s Elastic Heart, the first camera shot we see is an establishing shot. We see the full picture before the music starts – the room, the cage and the dancers within it. It introduces us to the scene, but also could symbolise the beginning of Sia starting to feel the feelings that she talks about in the song. Then, when the music starts, the dancers start to edge toward each other and begin to fight. When this happens, the shots vary from zooms, tilts and pans – the camera zooms in to show their expressions, or when the dancers try to intimidate each other, emphasising the aggression they represent. There are also mid and long shots when they chase each other which shows both of their reactions and movements.
The editing is fairly even paced throughout the video – this could be because each movement the dancers make is long and that they want to show the full action. However, the editing does differ in places slightly – when the dancers are moving slowly and are wary of each other, the editing is slow and this reflects the unease. The editing is also slower when they accept each other, reflecting the tenderness. In addition to this, the editing speeds up when they fight and chase each other making the scene more intense. The editing here shows the contrast of Sia’s feelings showed through the dancing.
The lighting in the music video is natural, coming from lights above and windows. The natural lighting effect could represent the bareness of the feelings Sia writes about in the song.
- What are the similarities and differences between the camera, editing and lighting techniques used within each video? Fully explain how these techniques affect the relationship between the visuals and the music. Do any of these techniques consolidate the songs meaning? Explain why.
In Fall Out Boy’s Dance, Dance, the lighting used is low key lighting. This adds mood to the music video, and the warm colour of the lighting gives a positive vibe. The camera shots used are varied, making the video more interesting and adding energy. There are high angle shots looking down from the perspective of the band to the audience which adds perspective. There are mid and close up shots of people when they interact – for example when a boy asks a girl to dance – it shows their reactions, and it also takes us away from the song and drives our attention to the scene. There are also long shots of the crowd dancing, which shows how busy the event is and creates energy.
The editing used is fast – there are a large number of jump cuts used, flitting from scene to scene and showing us everything that is going on at the event. The editing also matches the rhythm and beat, keeping the energy levels up and reflecting the mood of the song.