The 9 Best Animated Music Videos - VRGyani News and Media


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The 9 Best Animated Music Videos

Music videos are an incredibly unique art form with a surprising amount of artistic variation and relatively expansive history. But what of the subcategory of animated music videos?

Though it might not initially seem like it, animation has actually been a fairly important part of music video history, or at least, played a strong supporting role. Though promotional clips were primarily live-action, once MTV came around and music videos hit their stride, more and more experimentation within the form began to occur. With this, the implementation of animation began seemingly as early as the 1980s, less than a decade after the birth of the art. This brings us to today, where music videos are becoming even more experimental, more daring, and more envelope-pushing, especially when animation is involved. It's no secret that animation can portray and convey situations, thoughts, movements, and characters that live-action simply cannot. Animation in music videos understands this, and takes full advantage of the medium to birth truly groundbreaking art.

Today, we'll be discussing some of the best of that animated art. This list, much like animation itself, won't be limited to a single category. We'll be exploring a wide range of genres and mediums, from Japanese rock duos and American EDM to traditional stop motion and boundary-pushing 3D computer animation. So sit back, turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and explore nine of the best animated music videos.

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Dire Straits - Money for Nothing (1985)

Starting off our list, we have something of a historical landmark. Released the year MTV debuted, "Money for Nothing"s music video was groundbreaking for its usage of 3D computer animation. The visuals are a fascinating look into an extremely early version of this medium, as well as one of the very first instances of human characters being created and animated with it. Interestingly, Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits' lead vocalist, guitarist, and the writer of this song, originally didn't want to create a music video for the song. He was a performer at heart, and music videos being very new at the time, he was concerned that the purity of the band's performances and songwriting would be somehow tainted by the introduction of video. But MTV and director Steve Barron were unrelenting in their insistence. During a meeting with Barron, Knopfler's girlfriend agreed with the idea, saying that there weren't enough "interesting videos" on MTV at the time, and that the concept sounded brilliant; this was seemingly what tipped the scales and got the video made. The animation itself was done by the Canadian Mainframe Studios (at the time Mainframe Entertainment), who would later go on to create other pioneering 3D CG works like the ReBoot series. But early 3D isn't the only form of animation found in this video. Rotoscoped snippets of the band's performances are overlaid with bright colors and wildly scribbled textures.

Interestingly, the song itself discusses producing music for music television, or MTV. The actions of the characters mirror the lyrics of the song, and the slower-paced movements of the animated sections are complemented by more snappy, energetically edited rotoscoped live-action segments. Sometimes the two mediums are overlaid on top of each other, making for a fantastic blend of pacing and visuals. Despite the character designs and assets being blocky and low poly, textures flat, and character movements stiff and slow, there's this sort of polish to the video, this odd energy and capturing of life that might not be the same with more modern animation. The colors are vibrant and the cinematography engaging and surprisingly daring. This video holds an important place in both music video and animation history, and for that, it's one of the best.

Nightrunner feat. Dan Avidan - Magnum Bullets (2020)

Our previous entry's animation was bare-bones but groundbreaking. Nightrunner and Dan Avidan's "Magnum Bullets," however, is a very different creature. The anthropomorphic and cybernetic character designs are sharp, stylistic, and emote incredibly. Facial expressions are gut-wrenching at times, amplified by fluid and artistic body language. Color theory is masterfully applied, with saturated blues, purples, and fuschias contrasting burning oranges and yellows. The aesthetic of this piece is an incredible blend of sci-fi and vaporwave, a perfect match to the song's hybridization of synthwave and rock. It brings to life a city populated by animals and robots, and a narrative befitting an action movie. Grief, loss, and a mission of revenge are the primary focus of the narrative, and they're felt throughout the piece. The most incredible parts of this music video include visual transitions between scenes such as a platter of wine glasses spinning into a revolver's chamber, and the fight scene in the latter half of the video. The choreography of the entire thing is so masterfully done, leaving you feeling like you've finished a feature film in four minutes. Texas-based Knights of the Light Table is the studio behind this piece; while only founded in 2017, in that short timeframe they've created not only the video for "Magnum Bullets" but videos for the likes of Ninja Sex Party and TWRP. Headed by Patrick Stannard, who worked on Netflix's Castlevania series, this rapidly growing studio is already showing they're capable of creating absolutely incredible works of art.

Porter Robinson & Madeon - Shelter (2016)

The "Shelter" music video is the longest one on our list, clocking in at six minutes. This entry is equal parts music video and short film, as it begins with a musicless narrative section. The animation of this piece was created by industry giants A-1 Studios and Crunchyroll, while the narrative was created by Porter Robinson, one of the artists of the song alongside Madeon. Beautifully rendered 2D anime-style animation is laid atop a gorgeously imaginative world. Though 2D is the primary method of animation here, 3D can be seen in some of the more complicated visual effects. The bass-heavy electronic synthpop music emphasizes every important story note, shaking the viewer with both a musical and narrative explosion. The most impressive aspects of this music video are its narrative, its character movement, and its environments. The narrative is emotional, heartbreaking, and so full of love. An excellently executed blend of sci-fi and apocalyptic catastrophe, this short anime creates something unique, exploring the idea of loneliness amid simulated perfection, the lengths a parent will go to out of love for their child, and the reciprocated love and gratitude of the child. The movements of protagonist Rin are beautifully done, full of energy and an uncoordinated, youthful grace that breathes life into her. The environments she exists within in both her past and present are gorgeous, immaculately detailed, and richly designed; they feel expansive and magical, making the visuals all the more impactful.

SIAMÉS - The Wolf (2017)

"The Wolf" music video has an incredibly individual style. Created by RUDO co., a Japanese company known for its energetic animation, wild camera angles, and work on Cartoon Network's cartoon bumpers, this music video was created for SIAMÉS' undisputedly strong debut single. The song's indie-dance-pop is paired surprisingly effectively with a monochrome color palette. The narrative deals metaphorically with the topic of addiction, with addiction taking the form of an amorphous, monstrous wolf that hunts the three characters we're shown. Sharply divided black, white, and sparing fuschias are used to create what feels like a foreboding world, perfectly complementing the darker tone of the story. Character designs are angular, motions are sharp and quick, and smear frames are used frequently and effectively throughout the video. Subtle details, like how light shines across a pair of glasses or how a motorbike wobbles as the rider loses control, are carefully crafted and excellently rendered. The framerate is high and each fast-paced motion is smooth, slicing through the screen as the characters move. Shading is done with solid blocks of black laid over areas of white, creating cutting chunks of black and sharp-edged divisions in the already angular visuals, though the section featuring varying tints of vivid fuschia seems to be slightly more rounded. Both styles are signatures of the studio, and they work amazingly together here.

Freak Kitchen - Freak of the Week (2014)

Bet you didn't expect to see an experimental Swedish heavy metal band with a gorgeously animated music video on here, now did you? Freak Kitchen's "Freak of the Week" was animated by Fortiche, a well-known French studio that specializes in mixed 2D and 3D animation, and that has done multiple other advertisements and music videos. They showcase this mastery of mixed styles here, with 2D characters set atop a 3D environment. Interestingly, this music video has less of a narrative style and follows something slightly more akin to the Dire Straits song earlier on the list. This music video features animated versions of the band members performing the song inter-spliced with footage from old-timey freak shows, extreme sports, and stunts, all meant to follow along with the message of the song: the desire of some people to play chicken with death to garner views and likes online. The design and animation done for the band members are strangely reminiscent of Disney's earlier works, with sketchier lines, beautifully fluid motions, and fantastically executed facial expressions and hair physics on the characters (though you get to see their real faces at the end of the video). The 3D background is also incredibly done, full of that same motion and intensity that the band members themselves have. Mechanical objects are shown moving and assembling in incredible detail, and the colors are balanced well, primarily reds, oranges, and yellows punctuated with blues and blacks.

Yorushika - That's Why I Gave Up on Music (2019)

Another anime-styled entry on our list, but with a twist — this music video is entirely 3D animated. "That's Why I Gave Up on Music," created by Japanese rock duo Yorushika, was animated by seemingly only two people: Popurika and Magotsuki. This piece is fascinating, partly for its creator's obscurity in the West, and partly for the visuals themselves. This 3D animated piece focuses far less on character movement than our previous entries, with the main action the characters perform being walking. However, it's the backgrounds and coloring that make this music video a beautiful work of art. Bright vivid colors — blues and oranges and yellows and greens — burst from the characters and landscapes, creating something that looks almost like a painting. The environments the characters inhabit feel wide and open, peaceful and full of a quietly pulsing sense of life. They're mostly grounded in reality, places you feel like you could have seen, like a train crossing or a grassy path outside of a city. But there are more fantastical places cut between these grounded landscapes, such as an underwater field and a pair of giant megaphones atop wooden scaffolding. The visual composition of shots is reminiscent of an anime or manga, with the often pulled-back camera and vast sky making the world of the characters feel truly expansive. The powerful guitar and melodic piano of n-buna mixed with the utterly impassioned vocal work of suis creates a piece that both looks and sounds incredible. Though relatively little action takes place in the video, the spirit with which the lyrics are sung boosts the visuals. This is definitely a music video where the importance of the video and the music is balanced; both complement the other, and without one, the other could easily feel less impactful. The song is in Japanese, and though the experience is still incredible if you don't speak the language, having your captions on will add another incredible layer of emotion to the work for you.

The Shins - The Rifle's Spiral (2012)

This music video is our only stop motion entry on this list! The Shins' "The RIfle's Spiral" is co-directed by Jamie Caliri and Alexander Juhasz. Done with a mixture of clay, wood, and paper puppetry, this music video's narrative was created by Caliri writing down a few words and phrases from the song that stuck out to him, and after mulling them over for a while, building the story seen in the music video. The narrative follows a young magician who steals a rabbit from three older practitioners, and the battle for it that follows. The words don't immediately correlate with the visuals, but the movements of the characters and flow of the scenes line up perfectly with the tone of the song; it feels like the characters are almost dancing along to the song. Character models have a rougher style that oozes personality, displayed through wooden puppets for the three older magicians, a clay and fabric model for the younger one, and a paper puppet for the rabbit. Character movements are another strong point here; though intentionally uncanny in a few places, they're surprisingly smooth and extremely well executed. One of the more interesting aspects of stop motion animation, as opposed to digital, is the ability to see crafting fingerprints on the models, assets, and backgrounds (you can literally see the love felt on this project). Little physical imperfections and rough edges, tiny details in costume design and backgrounds, how the paper physically folded and the wood hinged together — these small things that are absent from the relative polish of digital works serve to further enrich the already labor-intensive art of stop motion. This music video is a piece of art physically made by hand, and that makes it special on this list.

Stuck in the Sound - Let's Go (2012)

Another music video for an indie rock song, "Let's Go" by Stuck in the Sound, this Alexis Beaumont and Rémi Godin-directed video focuses heavily on ideas of determination and tragedy as we follow a Chinese cosmonaut on his mission to the moon. This piece makes use of heavily saturated pops of blue, purple, and red on top of blacks and greys, giving it a striking sense of visual style. Character designs are gritty and somewhat misshapen, giving the world a rougher feel. That same roughness can be seen in the movements of our main character, especially in the latter half of the video. Character movements depart from the slower motions of the beginning and become frantic, clawing, and desperate as the protagonist is wracked with grief and a feeling of loss. The scale of devastation he encounters and desperation he feels is something powerfully expressed in the climax of the narrative through the usage of these more wild motions and facial expressions. In the same way the motions become exaggerated, so too do the fantastically done facial expressions. The narrative and the character animation are the strongest parts of this music video, culminating into a strange, sad, and unexpectedly existential piece that will linger in your mind even after you watch it.

a-ha - Take on Me (1985)

Finishing off our list with a song that came out the same year as our first entry (from the same director to boot), we have the 1985 single "Take on Me" from Norweigian synth-pop band a-ha. The music video for this one is part live-action and part animated, cutting between the two mediums as the video goes on. The animation itself is experimental, featuring 2D rotoscoped characters drawn in penciled lines, with wild scribbles and stray marks creating a feeling of energy not dissimilar to the song itself. Live-action and drawn portions feature band members, mainly the lead singer Morten Harket. The plot is disconnected from the lyrics of the song, instead featuring a fantasy-romance narrative about a young woman who gets sucked into a comic book and falls in love with the hero, being played by Harket. It just drips a kind of eighties nostalgia that's impossible not to love (especially when it was originally released on MTV to high acclaim). The stylization of the visuals was experimental, but very well done. It isn't a traditional comic book style, which might have made more sense given the narrative, but the pencil lines of the finished product function better than a standard comic style would have. Rotoscoping in music videos wasn't uncommon at the time, but how transformative it was to the visuals is impressive even by today's high standards. This one is definitely one you should watch — though given it has over a billion views on YouTube, maybe you already have!

KEEP READING: Katy Perry Releases Pokémon-Themed Music Video Starring Pikachu

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