Thursday, June 25, 2009

David Scott and the art of the literal music video

David Scott and the art of the literal music video is an article follow-up to the video featured on the "Total Eclipse of the Heart: Literal Video Version" TOTI. Basically, Simon Owens, a social media consultant, explains the origins of the video on The article is written in a very casual, 25-year-old style. Anyway, I love finding out the origins of these viral memes, so enjoy!

"His literal version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” has received over 2 million views. But how does he choose which videos to satirize?

David Scott couldn’t quite put his finger on what it is about 80s music videos that makes them ripe for satire, but he said it has something to do with the fact that the 80s witnessed the birth of the medium and artists suddenly found themselves overwhelmed with three to four minutes to provide visual acrobatic interpretations of their lyrics.

“This is when it stops becoming just a performance clip and goes on to become this whole audio visual extravaganza,” he told me. “So everyone would be throwing everything and the kitchen sink into these visuals, whether they made sense or not. They could go for this grand metaphor that nobody gets or something else entirely.”

Scott lives and works in upstate New York creating videos and commercials for local businesses, and though you likely haven’t heard his name, you might have seen his work. A few weeks ago he posted a literal version of Bonnie Tyler’s music video, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” to YouTube, and since then it has received over 2 million views. The literal music video is a meme that first gained popularity a few months ago, starting perhaps with a literal version of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” video. The genre involves taking a music video and dubbing over the original lyrics with ones literally describing all the actions and reactions of the characters in the video, often adding in humorous commentary and pop culture references. For instance, in the literal version of Total Eclipse, at one point you hear the Bonnie Tyler impersonator describe the “close-up on some candles and dramatically posing” of Tyler as she looks out a window.

Scott said he became intrigued with the literal music video meme when it first gained popularity and began playing with some ideas with creating his own, putting together literal interpretations of Monkees and Beatles videos in February. He went on to create a literal version of Meat Loaf’s “Anything for Love,” which proved to be especially challenging.

“There’s just quite a bit of technical trickery involved, so it can be more fun in hindsight to talk about,” he said. “The Meat Loaf one for instance, that took awhile to just get the instrumentals. There’s no karaoke track to match up against the video. He put that out as the album version, and there’s all these different single edits made from this 11-minute album version, and then they’re all different from the version that appears on the video, which to my knowledge never appeared on a CD. And so I had to take two CD versions, and then thankfully I was able to use Adobe Audition to filter out the vocals for the most part, and I was able to insert my vocals in there. It’s harder than it would seem. So you definitely have to really like the artist and the song.”

He explained that it’s not just a matter of replacing the lyrics, but also managing to uphold and mimic the inflection and context of the original lyrics, matching up how they’re being presented. This creates a kind of authenticity of the satire because it correlates with the “cognitive memory” of the original. 

I asked Scott how the “Total Eclipse” video became so popular, and he said that the only thing he knew about how it spread was that it did so organically. When he launched it he only had a few hundred subscribers on YouTube, and he also placed a link to it up on his Facebook news feed. It eventually began to spread so quickly that his own friends were getting sent the link from people who didn’t even know him.

The artist puts together the videos from where he works, usually during after hours. He said it often can take a few hours a night to line up the lyrics and the music, and he can finish a video within a matter of days. He got the idea for the Total Eclipse video after someone on a message board thread about the literal video meme suggested it.

I asked him if he had any plans to somehow incorporate his YouTube exploits into his career, but he seemed to have little interest in mixing the two. He said that he prefers to keep his work life and his “goofy side” separate, leaving his more creative endeavors into his after hour video creations and acting in a local dinner theater group.

Though he said he wants to mix things up a bit, he has definite plans for more literal music videos. His next target?

The 80s soft rock duo, Air Supply."

(From Simon... Yeah, he got through.)

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