I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to go through the whole of #AnimatedApril ignoring animation in music. For decades music videos have played in the animated space and incorporated film-grade methods to create mini music movies. Here’s 5 (and a bonus video because I couldn’t help myself) animated music videos for you to check out.
John Redcorn - SiR
This song alone invokes daydreams of a lonely character that wears his heart on his sleeve and never quite got that same love back. With John Redcorn being inspired by the fictional animated character from King of the Hill, it’s only right that its music video mimics that artform too.
These visuals allow SiR to star in his own episode of the show, kicking off with depictions of friends & label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul. Throughout the video, we see John at first fighting the feeling but trying time and time again to prove his love for Neicy. Their affair didn’t last as long as John and Nancy’s 14-year stint and of course, our John ended up alone. Every night alone...
Okay quit crying, we’ve got the rest of the list to get through!
Nightrider - Tom Misch & Yussef Days ft. Freddie Gibbs
Nightrider is such a wonderful composition I don’t think a video with real people would’ve done it justice - it deserves a smooth video, humans would interrupt the vibes. Just as well Tom Misch, Yussef Days, and Freddie Gibbs appear as animated characters cruising amidst a warm sunset and eventually into the clouds.
You can’t help but nod along with them in the car, it feels like they saved you a space at the back next to Freddie. Join the ride.
Feels Like Summer - Childish Gambino
Now here’s one you might have to watch a couple of times to get everything. When Gambino’s Feels Like Summer dropped in September 2018 I wasn’t feeling like Summer, let me not lie.
However, this cameo-filled video sent music bloggers into a frenzy as everyone tried to unpack what the scenes meant. A lot of the theories seemed reasonable, but can someone tell me why The Weeknd, Ty Dolla $ign, and Frank Ocean were playing tug of war against Willow Smith, Solange, and A$AP Rocky, please?
Saturn Barz - Gorillaz
I couldn’t make this list without including Gorillaz, as a virtual band technically all of their videos are animated. What stood out with Saturn Barz was their use of the crazy (relatively new at the time) VR/360 function on Youtube.
From sitting on the battered train to arriving at the Spirit House, these animated visuals are extremely textured. There’s something in every scene to invoke your senses and none of the extra scenery is irrelevant. Whether you’re floating through space with Murdoc or using the 360 view in the music room with Noodle, this video is a crazy immersive experience.
Heartless - Kanye West
There’s no way you can think about animated music videos and not talk about this one real quick. Yes, it’s another breakup song but this second single from 808s & Heartbreak was kind of a big deal and a key example of using film-grade methods in music videos.
I was a bit confused about how they managed to achieve Kayne’s likeness and movement so smoothly in the video and it turns out that this is thanks to the rotoscope method of animation - they filmed the video in real life, then drew over it.
Paying homage to Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop movie, the end product looks great, and what better way to accompany this heartbreak anthem than with an animated Kanye drowning his sorrows in a neon city.
Opposites Attract - Paula Abdul
Okay, slight curveball here but if you know me you know I love my 80s music and had to get one on the list! I’m sure this video used to play on MTV well into the 2000s and I got up to try and match the choreography every time.
Taken from Paula’s record-breaking debut, Opposites Attract talks about exactly what it says in the title. However, instead of showing Paula with an ‘opposite’ male counterpart, the Disney-animated MC Skat Kat joins her in live-action scenes as they dance at and with each other.
Similar to the Heartless video, which came out about 20 years later, Rotoscope animation was used but it wasn’t the first time. 43 years prior, this same technique was used to illustrate Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse (from Tom & Jerry).
From part-animations to 360 virtual experiences the art of music videos have come a long way, and although we aren’t presented with them as much as we were in the good old MTV days, the good stuff’s out there if you’re looking for it!