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Narrative in

Music Videos

Look carefully at your video at how the story is structured

and how the audience is positioned (i.e. who are we led to
identify with?)

Narrative Theory:
Consider the following:
the concept
How the narrative is organised and structured.

How the conflict is established and how it is resolved

The construction of the characters in the text and how we are
led to relate to them
How heroes and villains are created within the text
The importance of sound, music, iconography, mise-enscene, editing and other technical features in telling the
How the themes and ideas are put forward in the story.

Your chosen track :


Summarise the lyrics in your music video.


How far did you choose to follow the lyrics in

your storyboarding?


Are there key lines that you are choosing to give

visual dominance to?


Are you choosing to concentrate on the music

with the visuals/ use abstract visuals?

How much narrative?

videos tend to only suggest storylines
and focus on fragments of the lyrics
(Steve Archer).

The Main Artist


What role does the artist play in your music

video narrator, protagonist or both?
Is the video a vehicle for the artists star
persona? (Refer back to Andrew Goodwin)


Did you chose a subjective or objective

character identity in your music video and why?

(Subjective character identity a range of characters

stories or points of view are shown.
Objective character identity one characters story or
point of view is shown)

Importance of the mise-enscene in your narrative

Does your mise-en-scene:

Add authenticity to your singer/ band?

Is it key to establishing setting and


Is it part of the voyeuristic context e.g. By

suggesting a setting associated with sexual allure
like a sleazy nightclub or boudoir?

Is it to emphasise an aspirational lifestyle for the

audience (John Stewart)?

Applying music video


Music videos can be

characterized by 3 broad
(to convey
a sense1988:
of the in-concert experience)

"Performance oriented visuals cue viewers that the recording of the

music is the most significant element. (BUT see John Berger)

Narrative (linear, love stories most popular Action in the story is

dominated by males who do things and females who passively react or
wait for something to happen (Schwichtenberg, 1992)).

Conceptual (metaphors to create a mood, offer multiple meanings)

These types describe the form and content selected by the director or
artist to attract viewers and to convey a direct or indirect message.
They can act as extended advertisements, as popular art forms or as
self-referential filmic texts (e.g Madonna videos)

Narrative and Performance:

Steve Archer (2004)
Often, music videos will cut between a
narrative and a performance of the song by
the band. Additionally, a carefully
choreographed dance might be part of the
artists performance or an extra aspect of the
video designed to aid visualisation and the
repeatability factor. Sometimes, the artist
(especially the singer) will be part of the
story , acting as narrator and participant at
the same time. But it is the lip synch close-up
and the miming of playing instrument s that
remains at the heart of music videos, as if to
assure us that the band really can kick it.

Applying Andrew Goodwin

- there is always a narrative within a music video
What is the relationship between lyrics and visuals and
Is your narrative:
Illustrative? (images provide a literal representation)
Amplifying? (repetition of key meanings and effects
to manipulate the audience)
Contradicting? (images contrast with the music)
Disjuncture?: (When the meaning of the song is
completely ignored)

A given music video may actually have elements of

more than one category.
Goodwin (1992), in describing Madonna's videos,
suggests that the essential narrative component of
a music video is found in its ability to frame the
star, "star-in-text," as all Madonna's videos seem
to do.

Narrative in dance videos?

John Berger: Ways of Seeing
Dance tracks may just have pulsating abstract visuals
which follow the beat with no visual reference to
human agency. However, it is more likely that the
music video will feature members of the band
either performing or acting, placing a visual
dominance on the band involved in the telling of
a story in some way.
We are preconditioned to make narrative in
preference to shapeless, abstract, eventless images.

Narrative paragraph
John Berger states that music videos are always interpreted to have
narrative meaning, regardless of their forms and conventions. The
aesthetics of our music video contained paradigms of abstract features.
For example, we applied the use of paint to signify emotions of hurt and
betrayal. The music video used an illustrative translation of the lyrics to
metaphorically amplify the themes. Despite the abstract nature of our
music video we adhered to Todorovs narrative theory of five narrative
states; Equilibrium, disruption, recognition, repair and new equilibrium.
At the start of the music video we denoted a close-up of a woman
content, she smiles and feels joy in her being as the light enters the shot.
She is in her state of equilibrium, as the sun glare represents her state of
love and freedom. However, as she steps away, her feet leave red paint
prints implying there is a foreboding emotional hurt, occurring or about
to occur. This is the state of disequilibrium. As the hurt within her
expands and the music crescendos, the paint increases as it pours from
her eyes, this is the state of recognition as she acknowledges the
emotional fear within her. Her attempt of repair begins as she removes
the sins from her past, she cleans the paint and has regained strength
from within. The music video is a circular narrative as the music video
ends as it had begins, only this time in reverse. It shows the light before
herself to represent that she realised the light was always within her.
Although the music video does not have a classic narrative, as Berger
states the audience are preconditioned to interpret a narrative despite
the abstract symbolism throughout the music video.

Analyse one of your

coursework productions in
relation to the concept of
(homework due Friday 13th )