I believe a music video should be only one of three things: a performance, a literal depiction of the story like Martina McBride’s Independence Day, or something funny. That’s it. Don’t try to throw any extra messages in it unless they are inherent in the song itself.
A recent example of a video gone wrong is Joe Nichols’ The Shape I’m In. It starts off with a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan talking about picking yourself up and going on no matter how bad it gets. Then it goes to Joe Nichols strumming a guitar in a motel room then goes to a couple of proud disabled veterans attaching various prosthesis and going about their daily business. Great message right? Yes, if that is what the song is about. But, it isn’t. The song is about a guy who woke up after a drinking binge caused by the loss of a woman and now he’s finally made the decision to move on with his life.
I’ve got a number on a napkin, a pounding in my head It takes everything I’ve got to crawl out of bed I lost a hell of a woman, freedom caught me on the chin But I’m doing alright for the shape I’m in
Then a later verse goes:
Well I’m getting better at barely getting by When I look at her picture, I don’t break down and cry And all this time on my hands, it’s getting easier to spend ‘Cause I’m doing alright for the shape I’m in
What do any of those lyrics have to do with disabled war veterans adjusting to life at home? Nothing, that’s what. Nichols talked about the video on CMT Insider and said that he and director Trey Fanjoy wanted to do something that was “more meaningful.”
First, if he wanted more meaningful, he should have chosen a different song. Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) by Alan Jackson or Have You Forgotten? by Darryl Worley were well-written, deeply meaningful and memorable songs written by the artists that sang them. Nichols didn’t write The Shape I’m In. It is a product of the Nashville songwriting factory.
Second, they could have gone more meaningful if they maybe made the video about a guy whose woman died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or died of breast cancer. Or any number of other things. Hell, they could have even found a way to go funny with it.
But no, instead they tried shove the wrong message in where it didn’t belong. Bad move, big fail.