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Archive for Friday, October 2, 2009

Net Worth: Revelatory music video relies on ‘crowdsourced’ contributions

A still from Sour's “Hibi no Neiro."

A still from Sour's “Hibi no Neiro."

October 2, 2009

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Hibi no neiro

Do people still watch music videos?

The high-profile Kanye West/Taylor Swift rift at the MTV Video Music Awards suggests they do. Logic dictates it would be impractical to stage an awards show of that magnitude if videos weren’t being played somewhere at some point.

But the last time I checked — which was admittedly a while back — MTV was still mired in reality-driven fare. Actual videos couldn’t count for more than 10 percent of the network’s programming — I mean, besides Michael Jackson retrospectives.

So it’s no surprise that when a friend suggested I watch “the best music video ever,” he didn’t point me to MTV or VH1 or any other notable network. The video was available exclusively on YouTube and the band’s MySpace page.

Said band is Sour, a Japanese trio that’s been issuing CDs since 2005. The act is known for its clever music videos, which rely on lo-fi creativity to augment its “organic, urban, tight, mellow, sharpened and totally comfortable” sound.

The lead single “Hibi no Neiro” (translation: “Tone of Everyday”) from the band’s “Water Flavor EP” is the foundation for this video. In a major undertaking of orchestration, Sour recruited fans from around the world to film themselves at their home or work computers using MacBook Pro Webcams. These images were combined — sometimes using just one or two contributors, and sometimes dozens — into a “crowdsourced” music video.

Often the individuals are blocked on top of each other like the “Hollywood Squares” set. But then they will each lock hands in seeming harmony, using their bodies to form intricate visuals. Or some folks will lean into the camera with a different part of their head — the combined imagery will form a singular face, which is singing along to the song.

It comes across like “The Brady Bunch” intro as directed by Spike Jonze. And it all matches up perfectly to the quirky (and slightly irritating) song.

Keep in mind these fan components are all shot on different computers at different times ... in different continents. The massive pre-planning necessary to pull this off is bewildering. (The video gets credited to four directors: Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland, Magico Nakamura and Masayoshi Nakamura.)

Like OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” (the treadmill video) or Mute Math’s “Typical” (the backward video), Sour conjures elaborate magic from a rudimentary concept. No digital chicanery necessary.

Posted in July, the piece has already been viewed 1.4 million times.

Perhaps the members of Sour will one day be big enough to interrupt an awards acceptance speech by Kanye West.

— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet. He can be reached at 832-7178.

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