So OK Go are a fun and quirky group, quickly gaining renown for their quirky videos.
How did they get to this point?
Here is my trip down OK Go video discovery lane
I was, of course, assisted in this by the existance of all the OK Go videos on one neat site. Conveniently, it’s their own: http://www.okgo.net/media/videos/
Also note: I will mainly be focusing on their video/visual style and evolution, with only passing commentary on the music. Finally, I was assisted in this by my silent partner in review, and her comments will occasionally find note here too.
…And so, on to the chronological order… [edit: it's not really chronological order, it's just the order they appear on their site. This page is basically a snapshot of the conversations my friend and I had about these videos, as we watched them in the order presented to us by the OK Go site]
What To Do
There is not much to say about this early clip. It looks for all the world like label-dictated style for an upcoming group who has yet to define themselves. It features a pretty ‘mainstream indy’ style. Simple setting, shot in black and white. No effects
Notable lyric: “could have been a genius if you had an ax to grind’
You’re So Damn Hot
Another clip which looks for all the world like a label formula. Clips from live shows on the road interspersed with flash-inspired animation. Nothing to write home about.
Get Over It
Yet another label formula clip. This time they’re in the center of an empty hall, performing, with occasionally clip-art shots of popculture items to sync with the lyrics.
Notable video moment: the slow motion ping pong. This felt like the first moment of OK Go’s future video quirkery coming out.
Don’t Ask Me (Dance Booth version)
This is clearly when OK Go started to cut their own creative teeth, as it were. It has a low budget self-made feel to it, with the band and random extras singing/dancing or just showing off (or even looking bored sometimes even!) to the music.
It’s gorgeous and smile inducing.
Don’t Ask Me
This label version of the same song is totally formulaic, and could have been produced for any generic band. Black and white, with simple colour patterns in the background, and don’t forget the cookie cutter dancing girl! (you will though)
It’s boring and yawn inducing.
Notable anything? Sorry, nothing at all.
Do What You Want
This video is a little bit dizzy inducing with it’s rapid motion hyperactive bullettime-esque motion pans. I’d guess that band had creative input, but still played within the label marketing system. We get a generic band-surround-by-girls setting - but the wallpaper (more of this next clip) behind them is quirky, and the girls are real (not fake models). But yet we still get a girls-dancing-in-slow-motion scene…
Do What You Want (Wallpaper version)
Taking their own lyrical advice, we have here an amazing example of the band striking out and just making what they want. At least, that’s how it feels! The concept is simple – the band and some performers, all performing… stuff!
The frenetic editing pace suits perfectly – but the masterpiece is the outfits. Everyone and everything (within reason) is covered in the same gorgeously hideous wallpaper pattern. It adorns clothes, instruments, the floor, the wall, furniture, segways…
Watching this, I feel that they have found themselves…
Notable video moment: the pogo stick…
[edit: as noted by Rachel (thankyou!), this clip came after the Treadmill listed below. I don't feel it changes my overall conclusion though. I think it just places it as a clip made with the groups new-found confidence in their own artistic abilities ]
This is an odd one. I think it’s a group idea – to blow things up (cos that’s always fun, who cares about originality ALL the time anyway?), but it’s also full of generic ‘band performing’ clips too. My guess is that this is the band’s idea, but that they ceded some creative license to the label for the sake of finances and ability to make it…
Notable video moment: the chandelier
A Million Ways
To me, this is the precursor to the genius of Here It Goes Again, in the same way that Rubber Soul was the precursor to Revolver.
I think this may have been the first time the band ‘just went ahead and made it’ and totally circumvented the ‘system’. And what do they do? They dance around in the back yard! And it’s great!
For the first time we have a feel not only for the groups quirky style, but for the band members involved. Without this, there never would have been the treadmills…
Notable video moment: letting the video run past the end of the performance
[edit: again, thanks Rachel. This was a practice video which was leaked and went viral. Ok, so it wasn't deliberate in it's low-key, but shows their style coming through loud and clear ]
Here It Goes Again
OK Go, On Treadmills.
The clip which may have guaranteed OK Go lasting posterity even if they never made anything else again. I can’t say much to this that hasn’t been said a million times. How do you know it’s genius? From the sound of a million viewers all saying “why did I never think of that?”
Notable video moment: when you rewind to watch it again.
I must admit, this video actually annoyed me, but my silent partner in review thought it amazing. To my eye, making a whole video where the visual effect is that of a crashed Windows 3.1 (or 95/98/2000/XP) program – was cringe worthy.
In fairness, it did have potential though. If the effect had been applied selectively, whilst other times ‘locking’ the background in place, then I may well have been equally impressed. Silent partner, otoh, thought it was great.
And it’s not like there weren’t scenes which made good use of the style either – I don’t deny that. But the basic premise upon which all this cleverness was built? Just didn’t do it for me. So overall: cringe, with a concession of clever.
Notable video moment: the chair (which instead reminded me of old-skool demo scene
This Too Shall Pass
I love this and think it’s genius (though my silent partner thought it ‘meh, with a side order of cute’). It just grows and amazes as one long clip unfolds and expands, with new people and camera angles when you least expect. I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll only say that it’s the first reveal of the brass which does it for me.
Notable video moment: every time you wonder how you didn’t see that person before now
This Too Shall Pass (Rube Goldberg Version)
Their most recent piece is a stunning piece of fun invention. I think it shows that the band is willing to now use the medium of video clips to make cool stuff, even if it has only a passing meaning to the song (and why not, it’s not like the formulas the labels push do any better anyway!).
This time a huge Rube Goldberg machine accompanies them in time with the song. A song which soon gets stuck in your head too (though I did find the Marching Band version to be rather forgettable, so ymmv).
The treadmill video gets a cameo here, and I think that the band feels they have more to show the world than just that one idea, and don’t want to be overshadowed by their own history after all.
I only hope that they don’t burn out, forget about the music, or typecast themselves in trying to escape the treadmill meme…
Notable lyrics: “let it go / this too shall pass”
Some groups – and indeed, people, start out quirky and imaginative, but when they begin to achieve fame, they get scared. They close down and start repeating themselves for fear of losing what they have, and instead lose that very edge that got them started.
Others instead, seem to use the power of fame to push the envelope of what is possible/accepted or expected – and so expand their own edge, in relative fearlessness of the effect it may have on their fanbase or reputation.
And it is into this latter category that I put Gonzo the Great.
oh, and also: OK Go.
Being a newly confirmed fan of both their video and their music – and I am kicking myself that I found out they were here in Brisbane a few weeks ago… and only found out this week when I discovered this clip history. No matter, next time…
[edit postscript: I wrote this review after an evenings entertaining video watching. I have since been corrected on some chronology and facts, and no doubt will find new errors in my assumptions down the track. In the interest of satisfying both my desire to not revise history, but also to not spread misinformation; I will update this post with edits like this as I find or am informed of errors. The original post will remain otherwise untouched.
…that’ll sure teach me to write and post at midnight! ]