Last Friday, with relatively little fanfare, The Dear Hunter premiered the official video for the lead single of Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise, “A Night on the Town.” I’ve already given my effusive thoughts on the track, but if for some reason you have yet to hear it, now is an excellent time. Perhaps unsurprisingly though given how these things go these days, the video is referred to as a “lyric video,” and technically that’s exactly what it is. It consists primarily of still images and kinetic typography. Once you see it though you’ll understand why that label and its associated baggage (more on that shortly) doesn’t really hold up, as well as why, in spite of the criticisms the genre often (rightly) garners, you can expect many more of these types of videos in the future.
First off, just speaking in context of the song and as a fan of the band and the greater story of the Acts series (of which I plan to dive into more deeply in the coming weeks), this video offers a whole lot of compelling and fascinating imagery. With our protagonist having survived the turmoil of World War I, all signs now point to Act IV focusing on his return to America and living out a new life in the profligate fantasy of wealth and excess that was urban life in the 1920s. Bright lights, billboards heralding the first explosion of American consumerism, gangsters, Art Deco cityscapes, Flapper girls, jazz, and plenty of “illegal” alcohol (seriously, so much alcohol) litter the video underneath lyrics that appear to speak largely about the lengths we go to to delude ourselves and forge false identities (in the protagonist’s case this is, of course, literal). It’s a beautiful juxtaposition marrying the struggle of the protagonist with the slowly rotting decay covered in sweet perfumes that defined the post-WWI decade (you know, at least until that whole Stock Market Crash thing created the hangover of the century).
Now, speaking as both a fan and as a video producer and editor, I’d like to just point out how creatively and technically-impressive this whole thing is. It makes brilliant use of archival photos, stock elements, and other graphical touches to create a dynamic and immersive environment that actually creates a sense of story. Compared to your standard lyric video this thing is high art. And yet the mere act of labeling this as a lyric video is likely to make eyes roll and turn many of those eyes away from even looking at it. Why is that?
Since the modern “lyric video” boom began around five or so years ago, fans have come to associate the genre mostly as a lazy cost-cutting measure or a quick way to put up placeholder videos for new tracks before releasing the “real” music video. With good reason! Given that the whole thing mostly started as a way to stem the tide of awful fan-made lyric videos (featuring bright primary colors, comic sans, and misspellings galore), there was a very low bar set to better those and little incentive to put much more effort in. Labels saw a new promotional tool that was virtually free, and bands saw a way to put videos out for their music on the cheap. The result has been an all-consuming wave of cheesy stock photos and effects, and if you’re a fan of this blog and metal as a whole, you’ve likely been subjected to countless ones (often paired to some metalcore or deathcore track) along the way. A quick Google search revealed a treasure trove of just these.
It’s not surprising that we’re all generally sick and tired of these things. It seems like even when bands try to do something different to merge live action and text elements the result is either hackneyed or straight-up confusing (Nightwish, I’m looking at you). But unfortunately lyric videos are unlikely to disappear anytime soon for a key reason, which brings us back to “A Night on the Town.” In spite of the fact that TDH mastermind Casey Crescenzo should have been completely consumed with finishing up the album and touring these past few months, you’ll notice that at the very beginning of the video flashes a title card reading “A Short Film By Casey Crescenzo.” If one man who’s already writing, producing, and touring his own music can put out something great like this with such ease for minimal cost, it’s no wonder that labels would be less willing than ever to shell out money for proper music videos and that bands would favor spending a day or two in After Effects over actually trying to do something more interesting visually. All we can hope is that more people will be willing to push themselves and the genre creatively in hopes of standing out.
Too bad more people can’t be like Casey Crescenzo.