Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

Music Videos as Art?

1 Comment

Recent music videos, specifically recent Miley Cyrus, have taken on a life of their own. While they might not “need [to] pretend to be art,” music videos are no longer just images with correlation to the lyrics; they have meaning (40). Even though, her songs no longer “have … a contempt for meaning,” they are still “reduced to the monotony of sexual symbolism” (48). Miley’s newest single, “Wrecking Ball,” was uploaded to YouTube yesterday already surpassing 35 million views. In the video, she swings on a wrecking ball with little or no clothing, and is seen running her tongue over a sledgehammer. The name of the director, Terry Richardson, carries a negative preconceived notion, swirling with sexual harassment and contention, likely, thought about by the producers in advance before hiring him. According to Adorno and Heorkheimer, while her video should not have to hide under the pretense of art, the exhibitionist level of her nudity and actions, generate talk and backlash – or in the studio’s eyes, viewership and money, since “business is their ideology”(48). In a way, “Wrecking Ball” is attempting to be avant-garde art, giving in to the “constant pressure to produce new effects (44).” As Miley is trying to push her image out of the norm, with her drastic makeover, her music videos and lyrics have followed.


It has become increasingly popular to use a filmic formula in music videos, signing famous director (who insist on an ending credit), or using aesthetics seen on the silver screen. As a result, creating “differentiated products… to be all alike in the end (41).” In “Wrecking Ball,” Miley is the sole person seen; she has extreme close-ups, rivaling those of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserable. Both women are seen singing, crying, and staring into the soul of the camera. Miley’s music video is attempting to take the Academy Award winning “formula” and transfer it to a different media product to “satisfy the … wishes of the public (41).”


In today’s media, society uses the exploitation of sex for views, it has always been said that “sex sells,” but now it is more likely that “controversy sells.” As the music videos becoming more daring, more people attempt to understand them. However, when the answer is not on the surface, some may fall back on humor. The public may use Schadenfreude to take “pleasure” of the industry (49).  Many people have taken to Vine add their own twist to the sexually explicit music video. They are laughing and trying to find the humor in something that they cannot wrap their heads around, since “Wrecking Ball” is attempting to be meaningful art.


One thought on “Music Videos as Art?

  1. I saw your post and had to comment on it, because I thought seriously about writing about Wrecking Ball myself. I was talking to some friends about it yesterday, and how it seems like the controversy coming from a video like this (and Miley’s other recent exploits) is the POINT of it all. The quote saying that “business is ideology” is definitely something coming into play here. She is displaying herself in this manner to generate not only publicity and interest, but money. The more people who talk about this video, the more views it will get, and then the more money it will make. I also thought your comparison of the close-up singing shots to Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables was particularly interesting. It definitely draws (or attempts to draw) a connection between her music video and oscar-winning film (one that had an insanely large audience) in order to make the public see her pain and suffering (by comparing it to that of Fantine), and create even MORE interest.

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