Yesterday my best friend Jan was celebrating his 30th birthday at a local bar, which had an oldies music video party that same day. They spent the whole night playing songs from the 70s through the 90s. Inbetween conversations with other friends, I caught a glimpse of just how funky and unique the video clips were back in the day.
One video really stuck with me. It was Billy Joel’s music video to his hit single “Uptown Girl”. Unlike other videos from the early 1980s that I saw yesterday, this video was very simple and featured Joel as an automechanic trying to impress an “Uptown Girl” in the style of mid-century musicals.
It was like watching a scene out of West Side Story. Everybody was dancing in perfect harmony with the the music and beat of the song. Very much like the 1961 classic movie rendition of the musical.
I must have heard the song “Uptown Girl” hundreds of times in my life but I only vaguely remember the music video for it.
Why is that?
Obviously in the age of streaming services like Spotify and the Facebook feed, I no longer watch as many music videos as I used to back when I was hoping MTV would play my favorite song.
Back in the 90s, I would spend hours in front of the TV just waiting for them to play that one song I was obsessed with.
That makes me think though, would a video like this even work in the age where the MTV broadcast has been replaced by my Facebook newsfeed.
I would like to think so. But even at the time of the original song’s release, the video was a througback to a bygone era of early movie versions of Broadway musicals like the infamous 1961 West Side Story movie, which featured a 5 minute musical intro playing on a red screen. Try doing that to a modern audience. They would be bored out of their minds.
On the other hand, the “Uptown Girl” video was masterfully created with perfect choreography and even a brief storyline to go along with the lyrics. While this video might have been a throughback to the early 60s, it was after all just a video to a song that was meant to be primarily listened to and not watched.
Either way, “Uptown Girl” music video is a product of its era. It was designed to feel familiar and friendly. It came out just two years after MTV started broadcasting. Music video producers were still learning what a pop music video was supposed to be.
Would it be watched in the era of 60 second Instagram clips and autoplaying Facebook vids? I would like to believe so. Maybe it would evem spawn yet another viral sensation like Gangnam Style, where kids replicate the scenes from the “Uptown Girl” video on their Instagram profiles.
But it is still mindblowing that today, mere 35 years after the video was released, the TV screen to which I was glued waiting for my fav song to play, has now turned into my phone as I scroll my social newsfeed in the hope of finding yet another gem to like.
Its funny how I haven’t really changed my behavior. I just changed devices.
And the MTV feed has turned into my Facebook feed. It’s funny, that I had to watch an 80s music video to realize this 🙂