Sally Campbell is Managing Director of Somesuch & Co, which was D&AD's Most Awarded Production Company 2015. She started her career in ad agency production, at WCRS then BBH, switching to production company producing in 2001, becoming joint MD at Academy Films. In 2016 she will be Foreman of the Music Video category at the D&AD Professional Awards
In this short article, Sally identifies the core themes where creativity is excelling in music videos: the video as a global phenomenon, unique creative talents, artist identity, and innovation with technology. She illustrates these points with a wide variety of genres, including videos from artists such as Skepta, Bjork, U2 and Beyonce. If you love music videos and what to know what’s hot in 2016, this is the place to start.
However we choose to view them, music videos remain a hugely powerful medium capable of striking up a global conversation in minutes. The biggest ones trend across social platforms, sparking news, comment and comedy skits whilst they rack up millions of views and ignite real life chatter, making them compulsive viewing.
Watch Saturday Night Live's sketch 'The Day Beyonce Turned Black'
More immediate than films and television, and with greater freedom than adverts, music videos rapidly harness emergent technologies and can respond to global (or local) events. So whether they aim to make an impression through artistry, innovation or provocation; they allow musicians and filmmakers to experiment like no other medium.
Beyoncé’s epic Formation promo is a perfect example of music video as global phenomenon. Grabbing the world’s attention, it topped Billboard’s real-time and Twitter Trending 140 chart almost instantly. As with Kanye and Taylor Swift, Beyoncé’s fans’ hunger for even a few new frames from the star, means that the second anything appears, it flies - and rightly so.
Proudly taking charge of the conversation around her heritage and current and historical racial tensions in the USA; Beyoncé performs against a backdrop of thought-provoking, and beautifully designed, set pieces captured on various video formats. Whilst only a handful of artists can command the internet in this way, 2016 looks set to be a vintage year for sociopolitically charged pop videos.
Watch Beyoncé’s Formation video
It also promises to be a stellar one for videos that further enhance the appeal of unique talents such Grimes, who is self-directing videos to glittering effect using visuals awash with subcultural references.
Watch Grimes's self-directed Kill v. Maim video
FKA twigs also remains a stand out example of a contemporary artist whose creative control has elevated her artistic brand. And where the avant-garde head plenty will follow, from those readying their first promos to the highest echelons of pop.
Watch FKA twigs' M3LL155X video
But naturally not everyone can self-direct, so the idea of ensuring the artist’s identity and message - whether deadly serious such as Kendrick Lamar’s outstanding Alright, or on-brand entertainment with viral-primed dance moves (Hi Drake!) - gets across will enable deeper collaborations between filmmakers and musicians. And there are many ways to do this, one, exemplified brilliantly by both Skepta and Taylor Swift, being populating the video with the act’s crew.
Watch Skepta's Shutdown Video
Another is to focus on an element of the act’s backstory, or their hometown, and render it in anew in cinematic form as Aoife McCardle did in her short-film-style piece for U2’s Every Breaking Wave.
Last year, Björk’s 360° Virtual Reality Stonemilker, video, directed by Andrew Huang, showed us how effective new technology can be in strengthening fans’ connection to an artist and The Weeknd also impressed in this area. With a Youtube Channel dedicated to 360° and advances in immersive filmmaking accelerating, we’re set to witness a fresh crop of promos which leverage both the wow-factor and narrative possibilities of our new toys.
Watch Björk's 360degree video for Stonemilker
Watch OKGo's zero gravity video for Upside Down & Inside Out
And then there are the thousands of videos made annually with less than a tenth of the budget of those mentioned above, as the medium is still a crucial gateway to a career in filmmaking. We understand this as much as anyone else at Somesuch, having developed directors including McCardle (U2, Jon Hopkins), Daniel Wolfe (The Shoes, Paolo Nutini) and Rollo Jackson (Jamie XX, Hot Chip).
Music videos offer an (at times precarious) adventure playground for young directors; providing an opportunity to grab the attention of agencies as well as music fans. And it’s these massive efforts to make an impression through eye-catching visuals for artists across all genres at every level, which deserve to be recognised here. So send D&AD your best work as we really can’t wait to be floored by you.