Music Video Throwback – Cake

I love music videos. I used to watch them frequently and discovered a lot of great music doing so. It saddens me that quality music videos are rarely made any longer. Although to be fair, I think it is more the case that they are rarely played and that there is not a centralized, expansive source to easily find them. This is because music television stations certainly do not give much airtime to videos nowadays. Regardless, we were lucky to have exposure to a number of great videos before reality shows took over MTV, VH1, and the like. Today, I will share one I remembered after hearing it on the radio recently for the first time in quite awhile, "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" by Cake. (And by the way, it looks like Cake is still an active band – they will release their sixth album in early 2011.)

Perhaps not necessarily an all-time classic, "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" is definitely a creative and memorable music video. As you will see, or recall, its premise is to film people listening to the song and capture their authentic reactions. I like this concept for highlighting how music impacts us, and it is particularly interesting that the listeners do not seem to know Cake and can therefore react with minimal preconceptions. It also was an excellent decision because the song was so pervasive; the video pulls a neat trick of pushing the song to the background and letting the participants have the spotlight.

I do not think viewers of the video mind that because the song's catchiness still comes through, but more so because these participants are a diverse and fascinating group. We spend moments with at least 20 individuals to see what they say and/or how they will dance, in the process getting a high level of characterization in a short time. Or in other words, how music affects them gives us insight into their personalities. We get a sense of who they are because their personalities shape their perceptions of the music. I really dig this idea. I am not one for cheap imitation, but I do find myself wondering what it would be like to see similar videos for other songs.

Anyways, back to "Short Skirt / Long Jacket." The editors did a good job conveying reactions that are thoughtful and humorous. I like that the humor is not such that we are condescending or laughing at the people. At least, not too much – I'm talking about you, hip-hop dancing yuppie. Though even this has a certain charm. The first man shown always sticks out to me for his surprise in thinking the song ends, when he is actually hearing a long pause after the first chorus. I also liked the juxtaposition of contradictory reactions, for instance to describe the lyrics, a powerful illustration of how music means different things to different people. The whole video is full of great moments, and I think everyone has a few characters they gravitate towards.

I encourage you to (re)watch the video and leave a comment about your favorites.