Music Videos My Students Tell Me About

As a teacher of freshman composition, I insert a tiny clause in the very back of my first-day syllabus promising students a point of extra credit on their first assignment if they bring me the name of their favorite music video on the second day of class.  This is basically a test to see who’s reading the syllabus through, and this semester for the first time I actually got hits — and not just one, but four!  The other point of this exercise is to give me music videos to think about for when I demonstrate film analysis in the course’s second unit.  Reproduced below are the music videos my students told me about, followed by a brief paragraph of commentary.

Gas Pedal

Sleek and dark — oppressively Gothic but also chic. Women are objects, props. Furniture and wind-up dolls. Shots of figures down hallways at times Kubrickian. The video seems to know how terrifying it is, hence a little post-credits “blooper” that shows Sage the Gemini tripping before doing a light-hearted dance. We watch the script that has been dictating this haunted house ride fall through.


Very 90s in a way I can’t precisely pin down, since the entire video is a kind of recapitulation of 80s pop culture. A distinction between dream and reality that the viewer might be tempted to make is turned on its head as the end suggests a series of interlocking dreams culminating in the band’s spectacle — music stardom as ultimate dream/fantasy.

Wake Up Call

A series of incoherent vignettes stylized to look like the trailer of a contemporary crime film. The strongest discernible plot thread concerns Adam Levine shooting a ladyfriend’s manfriend (notably bloodless, woundless) and then enlisting her to dispose of the corpse, which for unclear reasons leads to him (but not her) being arrested. The police are women in very tight uniforms, for some reason. Did the ladyfriend betray him (and also the other band members, who are also arrested)? Shots of the band performing interspersed with “obviously” fake film scenes accomplish a similar sort of double logic as the Gas Pedal video — yes, women are sexual objects, nameless props for this story about men, but none of it’s real.

Story of My Life

One Direction shows us their family photos. They gaze upon their pasts, but so do we, as their family members are pulled into the video for reenactments.  A nod to similar trends on line, recreating childhood photos with older siblings, etc. Intense nostalgia. Suggests both the closeness One Direction fans feel with the band but also, via the strangely panopticon-like structure in which the band stands with the camera, the sort of prison such fame constructs.

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