"Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles
The song we chose for our music presentation was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. It was a song that appeared on their Age of Plastic Album in 1979 featuring Linda Jardim and Debi Doss. Originally the song was written by Trevor Horn, Bruce Wooley, and Geoff Downes, but only Horn and Downes actually performed it as members of the band. The style of music is called Synthpop, which became very popular during this time period because the synthesizer became the main musical instrument that was used. This song became extremely popular internationally. It was at the top of sixteen international music charts, such as the UK, Australia, Austria, France, Italy, etc. and it was ranked number forty on VH1’s 100 greatest one-hit wonders of the 80s. However, what really made it popular is how it was distributed. This song is known as the first music video to appear on MTV. The video was directed, written and edited by Russell Mulcahy, and it truly showed the power of MTV as a music distributor due to the overwhelming popularity the video, and thus the song, received. Before this people could only see their favorite artists at concerts or hear them on the radio, but now they could watch them out of the comfort of their own homes. The invention of the music video was radical for this time period.
Synthpop shares some rhythmic characteristics with disco, which had occurred just a few years before this song was released. The synthesizer was the main instrument in synthpop; it had been used here and there in the ‘60s and ‘70s but really became popular in the ‘80s with bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Devo and the Buggles. The song was well received upon its release. “Video Killed the Radio Star” is considered an ironic song. The lyrics lament the decline of radio to the rise of video and new music technology. Meanwhile, this song made use of the new technology and its music video was the first to play on the new MTV and helped to usher in the “MTV generation” of videos. The video did receive some criticism for what was deemed “unnecessary violence” at the beginning of the video with the exploding radio. Music videos were still relatively new and this was the first time they were placed in heavy rotation for a mass audience--there had been no guidelines to what could and could not be in the videos. The audience for “Video Killed the Radio Star” was young adults. This was the target demographic for MTV and was typically also the audience for most synthpop acts. Aside from being entertaining, the song also serves as a commentary of the changing climate of the music industry. Different from the other songs from around this time that we listened to in class which had strong social and political critiques accompanied by heavy music, “Video Killed the Radio Star” had a message but hid it underneath upbeat danceable music and a chorus that played as a catchy jingle. This song was the perfect description of what was going on in pop culture at the time that would make it what we know today. So many important music videos came out of this decade and the fact that we can call them “important music videos” just goes to show how right the song was when it predicted that video would triumph over the radio.
The 80s was a decade for progression. With “Video Killed the Radio Star” the main type of progression we analyzed was technological. Music videos offered a new way for music to be distributed and for artists to connect with the fans. Because MTV popularized music videos, they were easily seen by anyone, and they were for everyone. In the music video industry, we see a breakdown of high and low culture – one did not have to go to a concert to see their favorite artists, they could now see them in the comfort of their own home. With this music video in particular, there are also postmodern touches in the video. In the beginning when we are shown images on top of images. Here, copies on copies on copies are emphasized. Along with the copies of copies example, this video had a little bit of traditional pieces (i.e. the piano, radio) and newer pieces (i.e. synthesizer, the sci-fi theme). The video is a combination of different things which really projects a postmodern view on culture. Overall, this video helped to pave the road for continuous technological and musical advances for popular culture.
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