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Will Video Kill “The Man” from Afar? The Buggles

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In 1979, The Buggles, a band from England, released the music video “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  Initially, the video was a modest hit.  However, In 1981, a new cable channel called Music Television (MTV) was born.  MTV chose “Video Killed the Radio Star” to christen their arrival–marking a clear statement by MTV.   They were warning all that they were the new thing.  The song serves as an indictment on the advancement of technology.

The song proclaims that once the technology is accepted by a society–things will never be the same and the civilization can’t turn back.  MTV chose this video to announce to the world that they were that technology, they were changing the landscape and that the world of music would never be the same again.

In time, most of the world would agree in saying to MTV, “Thanks, dicks.”

As “Video Killed the Radio Star” it would grow from a regionalized to become a significant part of pop culture.  Sure, The Buggles are considered a “one-hit wonder, ” but that will forever remain linked to both MTV and to a significant change in technology’s influence on music.  As for The Buggles, they may have lucked into achieving cult legend status, but their original intent was to make a cultural statement.  In truth, they did not seem overly enthusiastic about the changing music scene.  Perhaps it was due to them not being more handsome, who knows?

In many ways “Video Killed the Radio Star” was a pioneer in music videos.  Not only for being the first, but also for offering a “how to” on effective video story telling bu using a variety of techniques to capture an audience’s emotion.

It follows a classic story of a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery.  The trip begins as a small girl sits in front of a 1950s version of the radio (giant by today’s standards).  As the child adjusts the radio knobs, the scary as shit looking singer magically appears in black and white.  He is decked out in a 1950s era rock star style made authentic through his use of a 50s period microphone.

Additionally, his song echoes the sound from a distant period as he belts out lyrics that support his reflection to an era gone by.  The imagery synched with the hymn sets a distinct tone of innocence and nostalgia.  The focus begins to shift as the child attempts to change the radio station.  The radio knobs do not work and the mood abruptly turns from nostalgia to emotional conflict.  This conflict continues to grow as the radio begins to flash indicating that something is wrong with the “system.”  This may signify the radio version of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator.”  Nope.  Chris Hansen does not come to save the day.   Instead, a moment of foreshadowing imminent change it set to occur as the girl stands–HOLY SHIT!  The radio explodes.

Radio is dead.

Feelings be damned, the video does not care for our loss it just moves on.  The little girl morphs into a future version of herself.   The once innocent child has now transformed into a purple-haired adult woman fully dressed in her futuristic space gear.  What a total slut.  The cinematic display takes us through the character’s introduction to a future of “advanced” technology.  By today’s standards–kinda funny, but is it…really?

Although the video does not suck, it does capitalize on sucking technology to signify a feeling of being forced into a future that one does not want.  This sense is achieved by merely placing the main character into a vacuum tube–pretty friggin’ sweet.  The futuristic space slut’s internal conflict becomes evident as the alien wench’s  inner child re-appears and examines her trapped adult counterpart.  Fear and confusion fill the small girl’s face.

As the little girl continues to stare at her adult self, she is forced to address her fear of being trapped in an ever changing future.  Plus, she’s most certainly unhappy with her shoe choice–even if they are comfortable.   Fuck that, the mood rapidly forgets the past and shifts to the now!  The adult woman just flies away; the little girl retreats to a junkyard filled with a stack of old radios.  This party is almost over.

The past is dead, to signify this change of the guard–the child climbs to the top of the radios.   HOLY SHIT!  They explode.  Wonder how many times a young Michael Bay watched this video?  Just curious, this scene is a staple in every Michael Bay-directed/produced flick.

The radio is dead.   In the ashes of the radio’s corpse, arises a beautiful television in its place.  Such a lovely video box, but–hang in there, bro–in 30-years or so, the TVs are going to be HUGE–like 9,000-inch screens and such.

The video closes with the adult version of the girl emerging once again trapped in a tube but now accepting her fate.  She begins to dance to the futuristic tunes and just has a general “Fuck it” mentality.

“Video Killed the Radio Star” was a true pioneer in the music video storytelling.  Overall, the video succeeds in making a thought-provoking statement as it claims, “As the radio, our childhood and innocence are over. PS, MTV seems cool now–but it’s going to suck later.”

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2 thoughts on “Will Video Kill “The Man” from Afar? The Buggles

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