Reading media critically — music video


For this assignment you will be writing a short essay that breaks down and interprets a music video. The YouTube era has witnessed a resurgence of creative, unusual, or otherwise outlandish music videos, but these forms of media have always featured inspired ways for conveying messages in short form. By mixing sound and visuals, these media are able to signify multiple things at once. In this assignment you engage with the power that these media forms can have for communicating ideas while speculating on how different audiences may interpret those ideas.

You must choose a music video that premiered before 1998. 

Provide some background for the video by briefly noting: 

  1. the song, artist, album, year, and director of the video.
  2. A few sentences on what the song is about.
  3. A short history on the release of the video: Was it the artist’s debut, or was it a comeback? Is it a widely known song or one      that only fans would recognize? Did the video spark any controversy?

Then, write a close textual analysis of the music video. Choose two or three moments that you think are most significant and focus your analysis on those. Describe the signs present and explain what you think they mean, and why. Could they be interpreted in more than one way, or in ways other than the creators intended? Do they make intertextual references and, if so, to which other media? Consider also how the song’s lyrics and/or music may contradict or enhance the images.

Finally, consider the cultural context in which the video first appeared, including the popularity of its genre, the social themes it addresses, and/or whether there were significant historical events at the time related to the video’s theme. 

Given these considerations, what would the images in the video connote to audiences at the time? What do these same images connote to you now? Has something changed, and if so, how can we explain this? In this section, you are making an argument about the work of interpretation as historically specific. Make sure you ground this argument in facts about the social, cultural, or political context of the time of release and contrast these to those of today. 

Formatting and length requirements: 

○ Double-spaced 

○ 12-point font

○ Minimum 1,000 words. Max 1,500 words. 

○ MLA format

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