Dua Lipa, Beyoncé and the art of music videos

New Rules: Dua Lipa’s distinctive music videos have been instrumental to her success.

Should music videos count towards the charts? Teeming with social commentary and dynamic self-expression, music videos are having a heyday. For others, they are a big-budget distraction.

In 2004, after five decades of relying on physical sales, the Official Charts Company (OCC) announced it was including song downloads in the charts. Streaming was included a decade later and, since last Friday, music videos are being counted too.

“The way that music fans are consuming music is changing by the month,” the OCC argues. It says it is anachronistic to only count song plays when 40% of all music streaming in the UK is done through YouTube.

Dua Lipa was already established in the UK when New Rules came out in 2017 but had struggled to make an impact in America. It was only after the release of the song’s music video — with its dreamy sleepover setting and pastel colours — that the hit began to climb the Billboard Charts, peaking at No. 6 in February. Dua Lipa’s status as the creator of one of 2017’s most streamed music videos cemented her as a huge star.

Increasingly, innovative music videos are breaking the internet and traditional song releases cannot compete. Childish Gambino’s This Is America, which pairs scenes of real-life violence against black people with frenetic dancing and lyrics, sparked a frenzy of analysis and debate across the globe. The Washington Post said the video showed “how black people have been trapped and/or harmed by American culture.”

In their latest video, The Carters danced around the Louvre in dramatic costumes, while Drake surprised members of the public with bundles of money in God’s Plan. Spotify and Apple, meanwhile, are slowly adding videos to their platforms. And some 73% of teenagers now say music videos are the best way for artists to show their creative vision.

But what about artists without the funding for flashy videos? Some even say streaming has already killed the charts and we should abandon them altogether. Ed Sheeran’s last album occupied 16 of the top 20 chart spots after its release — an achievement unheard of in the days of physical sales. Including videos could reinforce the idea that the charts are the preserve of the musical elite.

Should music videos count towards the charts?

Video killed the radio star

Of course, say some. Videos are increasingly shaping our perception of music and directing industry trends, only philistines would dismiss their relevance. Plus, YouTube is the favourite platform of young people. The charts will become irrelevant if they don’t move with the times.

No way, argue others. The purpose of the charts is to recognise the most popular songs. This trend for big-budget videos is taking away from the authentic experience of music and uses cheap tricks to boost mediocre songs. From now on, only artists with millions to spend will dominate the charts.

You Decide

  1. Should music videos count towards the charts?
  2. Is it time to get rid of the charts altogether? Would anything change if we did?

Activities

  1. What do the best music videos have in common? Write down three common features and discuss them in a group.
  2. Choose your favourite music video. Watch it closely, picking out any symbolism and cultural or political references. Put together a five-minute presentation on what you think the video means.

Some People Say...

“There’s not a lot of pop music in the mainstream that makes you feel scared.”

Prince

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The Official Chart Company now counts streams and downloads of music videos towards the official UK charts. Unofficial videos and user-created content featuring songs will not count, but official videos played on YouTube, Apple, Tidal and Spotify will. The first chart including video streams will be published on Friday, July 6. The new rules also mean that paid-for music will count for more sales than free streams.
What do we not know?
The effect the change will have on the charts. The OCC insists it has measures in place to stop the change disproportionately benefiting artists with big budgets. In test charts, songs with viral videos only received a small upgrade to their chart position, but we won’t know the true outcome until Friday.

Word Watch

Official Charts Company
The body responsible for compiling the charts. The first singles chart was compiled from 20 record shops in 1952.
Anachronistic
Belonging to a different period of time, out-of-date.
Most streamed music videos
According to Forbes, the most streamed video of 2017 was Despacito by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee.
Real-life violence
Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, makes several references to violent events in the US, including the 2015 Charleston church shooting, when a white attacker killed nine black churchgoers.
The Carters
Last month, music’s power couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, released their first joint album, Everything Is Love, accompanied with a dramatic video of the pair taking over the Louvre in Paris. Beyoncé has been instrumental in the resurrection of music videos; her 2016 album Lemonade came with a film counterpart.
73% of teenagers
Vevo, a company that hosts music videos online, carried out a survey of its users in August last year.
Philistines
Someone who is hostile and indifferent to culture and the arts.

Subjects