MVA Madness FINAL 4
Your final 4 is here! How does your prediction compare? I checked back and was surprised to see that the west side of my brackets was pretty on point, but the east side could not have been further from my guesses. Instead of breaking down the match-ups, we'll spend some time reviewing videos from each of the four artists individually, but then as usual, you can scroll to the bottom to fill out the polls. Just two votes required this time round. In the west we have two of the greatest video legends who have ever graced us with their imagination and presence; Michael Jackson vs. David Bowie. Meanwhile, in the east, we have the eccentric queen of electronic music who over decades has proven herself able to stretch our very ideas of what makes a music video (Bjork), and an incredibly fresh, theatrical young artist who is currently shaking up the music game by incorporating and marrying all of the important video elements with one another: choreography, narrative, performance, and concept (Janelle Monáe).
Who will be our Music Video Artist winner? I mean, I do have a suspicion about whom it will be, but as we have seen already from some huge upsets so far, anything can happen. So let's take a closer look at each artist's catalogue of work and their journey to get to this moment, shall we? I've chosen 4 videos from each artist's catalogue. They're not meant to be necessarily their best videos, or to be exhaustive in any way; they're just a taste to try and help you discover something you weren't already familiar with.
UPDATE: These polls have now been closed! Scroll down to find out who has made the finals, and check back with us soon to vote for your MVA Madness winner!
Starting with the King of Pop himself - Michael Jackson had a much more treacherous journey to the final 4 than even I suspected. Sure, he basically swept the first two rounds against Robyn and Bruno Mars respectively, but after nearly losing to his baby sister, Janet, in round 3, MJ was in a deadlocked tie with Beyoncé until the bitter end of the competition. Still, fair and square, he made it to the end, giving us all a chance to review his music video legacy. I realized that I haven't yet shared any of his early Jackson 5 videos, so let's start by taking a look at one of my favourites, Blame It On the Boogie, and one of Jackson's most underrated video the film Moonwalker, Leave Me Alone.
Jumping ahead to Jackson in the 90s, Remember the Time was a clear reminder that MJ had no intention of giving up his music video throne while casting himself as an underdog. I often forget how beautiful and touching Earth Song is as both a song and video, so this post is at least a reminder to myself.
Of course there are countless more videos that can be used as evidence for MJ's case, but if I embed too many of them, this page will never load. So let's take this as an opportunity to review his competition from the Green quadrant, Mr. David Bowie.
MJ will face-off against the late, great, David Bowie who has consistently squeezed out wins against his opponents, beating both the Beastie Boys and Arcade Fire with just one vote each. It might be hard to imagine his videos competing against Michael Jackson's, but it's helpful to remember that his videos predate MTV in a way that the majority of MJ's videos do not. In the same way that Michael steered the MTV ship to new destinations, Bowie shaped its conception. Although Bowie wasn't as much of a fan of the big budget spectacles as MJ, he similarly relied on his magnetism in performance, often allowing the camera to simply track his facial expressions. A couple early videos that helped define his image and style for decades to come include Heroes (1977) and Blue Jean (1984).
Bowie famously made videos right up until the very end of his life, choosing to leave behind a concluding chapter to his legacy in the form of his final album, Black Star, which was accompanied by two music videos. The title track is below, along with a strange little video for The Stars (Are Out Tonight), that plays on the physical similarities David shares with actress Tilda Swinton.
Heading over to the east side of the bracket, we have the odd and brilliant Bjork. I may have been somewhat surprised to see Bjork beat out Peter Gabriel, St. Vincent, and finally Radiohead to be here, but that doesn't mean I don't think she deserves it! Bjork has worked hard to always bring us fresh audibles and visuals, thinking outside the box when it comes to virtually everything. She is not everyone's cup of tea, but she has proven herself extremely versatile with videos, so long as the concept is interesting enough - sometimes playful, sometimes disturbing, but always fascinating and captivating. Right from the very beginning, she prioritized working with "out of the box" directors, many of whom have gone on to build incredibly successful film careers. For her earlier videos, I can't help but privilege her work with Michel Gondry who directed both Army of Me and Hyperballad in the mid 90s.
More recently in her career, she has continued to push to find new concepts and images that resonate with her equally distinct sound. In both of the videos below, she expands beyond her past extremes to create new worlds full of creatures and landscapes - the 2008 video for Wanderlust was shot and released in 3D as well as this 2D YouTube version, and The Gate is from her most recent album, last year's Utopia.
Bjork is inspired and inspirational, a regular reminder that a music video doesn't have to be any one thing. She forges a new way, giving other musicians permission to find new paths as well. I would say that her competition this round is someone who builds her work upon the shoulders of giants - making regular references to those gone before her, and playing off of past concepts in order to say something new. That someone is Janelle Monáe, and she is currently attempting to put music videos back on the map. Let's see how she got here.
This is absolutely the underdog story of March (/April/May) Madness this year. She is our lowest seed in the final 4 at spot 9, she beat RHCP, Jay-Z, and favourite-to-win group, OK Go, never by a landslide, but always with a margin. What you don't see in these brackets is that she was also a vote-in winner, receiving more votes than both Solange and Busta Rhymes to enter the competition at all. And now she's here, fighting for her chance to head into the final against one of her own personal idols. Although her newest videos have been getting a lot of visibility this past week, let's remember that this is not the first time Janelle Monáe has mesmerized us with choreo, concept, narrative, and performance. We'll start with Many Moons, which was the first video she ever released, but never got the recognition it deserved. Next to it is Cold War, which is beautifully reminiscent of Sinead O'Connor's video for Nothing Compares to You.
For her most recent videos I certainly have a lot to choose from. All the videos from Dirty Computer have been released during the MVA Madness tournament, and so I've talked about them a lot. I'm fairly sure that the strongest individual video in the mix is Pynk, and since I haven't embedded that yet, I'll go ahead and choose this not-so-subtle queer anthem that I've been very happy to learn is speaking volumes to and for gay men, as well as women-loving-women. What a surprise! We'll also go back just a little bit to a song and video that didn't cause as much of a stir, but it's absolutely worth a watch for beautiful bodies doing some fly, yoga-inspired choreo. Plus there's the bonus inclusion of Dirty Computer co-star, Tessa Thompson!
I hope you had as much fun as I did with these videos! Feel free to do your own YouTube digging, and share your favourite videos from the Final 4 MVAs with me (@PlaylistedPod) on twitter! But first, pick your winners...