(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Music news - OK Go for the money

After treadmills, extreme timelapse, and the Muppets, it must be getting hard for OK Go to come up with entertaining video ideas. Where most bands might have a song that needs a video, OK Go has almost reached the point of being a video in search of a song. Eventually, the pressure to deliver will almost certainly drive the band crazy (which will probably be the subject of their final video).

Their latest, for Needing/Getting, is a collaboration with General Motors and director Brian L. Perkins. GM got a Superbowl Chevy ad out of the deal and the band had their next wacky video concept. It's sort of a variation on the Rube Goldberg machine idea: set up a desert course with instruments and other sound generating stuff and run a Chevy Sonic through it to "play" the song.

It's a cute idea and the band delivers total commitment to the premise -- "we're pop, but we mean it, damnit!" Getting someone else to pay the video production cost was nice, but OK Go's real win was the Superbowl exposure.

Of course, there's been some backlash against the band for selling out, although a fair number of fans are supportive. The whole debate raises the larger question about money's role in the arts. Effectively, corporate sponsorship is just taking the same place that the Medici's did in supporting Leonardo da Vinci (among many others).

That perspective has always been uneasy for rock and roll, though, where people like their rebels. The idea of Jim Morrison, John Lennon, or Jimi Hendrix shilling for the Man would have torpedoed their social cred. But modern aesthetics have come a long way. The Who Sell Out's social commentary has yielded to some artists making their first music sale to a commercial before they even cut an album. Now, when we look back at Microsoft's use of the Stones' Start Me Up for Windows 95, that's merely "ironic".

So, has OK Go sold out? Hipsters will be purist hipsters, but I'm pretty sure that working with GM didn't compromise OK Go's musical integrity.

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