Monday, December 19, 2016

Monochrome Music, part 1

It's easy to believe that black & white films are a dead art form. Modern audiences are so conditioned to believe that color is "superior" to black & white that almost all motion pictures and television shows are now filmed in color. Every few years a director will film a major motion picture in black & white – mostly for the shock effect – but that's simply the exception that proves the rule.

However, somewhat surprisingly, beautiful black & white films are still being made… in the form of music videos. This might strike you as strange: music videos tend to embrace innovation, so why would they employ something as old-fashioned as black & white?

Music videos differ from theatrical films in that they have a ready-made audience (the fans of the featured performer) who generally don't have to pay anything to see the video. Someone who would never buy a ticket to a black & white movie will probably watch a black & white music video without complaint. This allows music video directors to add black & white to their arsenal of creative techniques.

Feli – Creioane colorate (2015)

One of the most striking ways to use black & white is to combine black & white and color elements in the same scene. "Creioane colorate" (Coloured pencils), from Romanian singer Feli, does this beautifully.

English lyrics:

Super Junior – Sorry, Sorry (2009)

The black & white imagery in "Sorry, Sorry," from South Korean pop group Super Junior, emphasizes the shape of the dancers as they move… especially in the backlit shots where the dancers are seen only as silhouettes.

English lyrics:

Madonna – Vogue (1990)

Madonna's "Vogue" uses black & white to evoke the cool elegance of high society.

Silent Siren – Kakumei (2014)

The technical term for black & white is "monochrome" (one color), but black is not the only color that can be used. This video from Silent Siren, an all-girl pop/rock band from Japan, uses both traditional black & white shots as well as color shots where the colors are so muted that the scenes are nearly monochrome themselves. These muted color shots are reminiscent of old-time sepia-tone photographs.

English lyrics: