The music video is such a great medium. It can have so much power to shift and sway your opinion of a song or artist, but in my experience, its power only works in a positive direction. A really great music video can make you love a song you used to hate, but even the shittiest music video ever made can’t rob you of your ability to love a song you’re already in love with. Its powers can only be used for good, not evil.
The most vivid memory of this I have is seeing the video for T-Wayne’s (the original T-Wayne not the dude from every Vine from Spring 2015) “Can’t Believe It“. I was on a long road trip when this song was hot so I heard it on the radio a ton. I loved Wayne already and had nothing against T-Pain (unlike most rap fans at the time) but this song just fell flat on my ears before I saw its video accompaniment.
T-Pain – Can’t Believe It (feat. Lil’ Wayne)
On first watch it was incredible to witness the song transform before my eyes. The sparseness of the beat went from boring to spacious, the synth bells went from tinny to sparkling, and the vocals went from flat to fluid when paired with the imagery in the video. It also always helps to see a rapper’s face and body while he/she is rapping, it can provide a lot of very helpful emotional context, but this video offers so much more than that. T-Pain’s “yeahhhh” mellismas are so easy to ignore in the audio-only realm, but with this new context each one is a nuanced and refreshing unfolding of an image. I’ve never been won over so quickly with a simple change of medium like this.
Two of my favorite new songs got videos this past week; one is a great example of how a video can deeply enhance its aural component and the other is a great example of how even an unwaveringly dumb video can’t ruin the greatness of its matched song. We’ll start with the bad example:
Young Thug – For My People
Young Thug might have the largest gap between music and music video quality of any artist I’ve ever witnessed. “Loaded” is the only video of his I’ve seen that felt like it had any connection to or felt at all like the song it visualized, and even that video isn’t great. All those Rich Gang videos were just gross, and his solo material since then has been accompanied by mildly entertaining, chuckle-worthy but ultimately unfit visuals. It’s a shame because Thug himself is an extremely visually interesting person and performer, and he is consistently the only thing that makes his videos worth watching at all, but even his natural charisma and emotive physicality aren’t enough to make these videos a fraction as powerful as the music they accompany.
Rising star Kodak Black, however, really struck a chord with me on this new one.
Kodak Black – Like Dat
This video is probably lower-budget than Thug’s (and is certainly lower-budget than “Can’t Believe It“) but its power is undeniable. I liked this song before this video came out, now I love this song. Certain feelings are only possible when performing or at least watching someone perform certain actions, and watching Kodak rap from the floor of a shitty hotel room with a head lamp on or do that little doo-wop shimmy with his homie at the end makes you understand how you’re supposed to feel about this song way more than any description could, or even that the song alone could convey.
I was listening to “For My People” daily before I saw its video, and I’m still going to listen to “For My People” daily for at least the next few weeks after seeing this video. But “Like Dat” was only an occasional selection until this visual dropped; now it just might bump “For My People” down a notch in the rotation.