Arcade Fire, QOTSA and Bob Dylan: The rise of the interactive music video

An interesting trend has sprung up in the cash-drenched and often-pretentious world of music videos, one that has huge potential.

More and more bands (well-funded bands, I might add) are seeing the potential to make videos that their fans can interact with in one way or another, so that no two people experience the same video.

It all started back in the summer of 2010, when Arcade Fire teased the launch of the third album ‘The Suburbs’ with an “experiment” with the then novel technology of HTML5, as supported by Google Chrome.

The result was ‘The Wilderness Downtown’, a half-constructed music video for ‘We Used To Wait’ by Chris Milk, which fans could customise by putting in the name of their hometown.

Tapping into Google’s burgeoning Street View image library allowed the video to superimpose imagery from the viewer’s hometown into the scenes, reflecting the themes of the song in an intelligent and, to my knowledge at least, completely innovative way.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to try it. It’s quite an eye-opening and rather personal experience, as you see places you remember from your childhood overlayed with a music video.

arcade fire the wilderness downtown we used to wait interactive music video

After that it all went quiet for a few years, but Arcade Fire brought back the idea this summer in anticipation of their fourth album, ‘Reflektor’.

The new project, called ‘Just A Reflektor‘, goes one step further by asking you to turn on your webcam so that you can star in the video, as well as tracking the movement of your mouse so that different sections of the screen come into focus.

In truth, the effect created was pretty cheesy and seeing my gormless face staring back at me during the climax of the song was hardly gratifying and a bit of an anti-climax.

Thankfully the torch has now been picked up by two more acts, who have refined the idea into something simpler, more easy to adapt, but no less impressive.

Queens of the Stone Age’s new single ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory‘ is played out across several rooms of a haunted house, with the band playing in one room and some actors creating a cryptic scene in another.

In the areas between, you can click through a book of lyrics, click through to iTunes to buy the accompanying album ‘…Like Clockwork’ and plenty more besides.

This is a huge improvement on ‘Just A Reflektor’ as you feel in control and curiousity compels you to explore and even start again in case you missed something.

For what it’s worth, the band have published their own Director’s Cut on YouTube to draw people into this eerie world:



Not to be outdone, even dear old Bobby is getting in on the act, and with quite a fitting choice of song.

This is partly because ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ was released in the days before music videos, but also because it was part of Dylan’s controversial electric period, where he departed from his bluegrass acoustic protest music roots.

In the video, which was posted online this week, you are given 15 TV channels to flip through, and on all of them the actors are lip-synching along.

This allows for brilliant, often comic, juxtaposition. When I watched it through, I laughed at a street reporter asking a random member of the public: “How does it feel to be on your own, like a complete unknown?”

In the end, I settled on an East Coast rap rendition for its sheer unlikeliness.

Give it a try for yourself and you’ll find that making up your own music video as you go along is a very addictive and empowered experience.

I can only hope more bands take this idea and run with it. My money’s on Muse going one better than their live videos that allow you to simply switch camera angles, but the possibilities are literally endless…

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