Monday, 12 October 2009

CW - Product Analysis

The Shins – ‘Phantom Limb’


I chose to analyse this track due to its similarities in the genre and style of the track both I and George have chosen for producing a music video. I therefore hope that analysing this video will stimulate new ideas, and enhance ones already present. The band is also the same band George and I are creating the music video for, and should help build a bigger picture into what the band’s image is.

The genre of this track is alternative, and so comes with its own set of forms and conventions. Conventions evident in this video are its asynchronous narrative, which is present in a majority of alternative videos, as it builds a more cryptic feel to the story of the video. Another typical part of an alternative genre video is that pieces of performance are used throughout the video. This advertises the band as genuine as they can apparently perform in reality. This is heightened by the naturalistic depiction of the band, denying the artificial look to create band image. This makes the audience empathise with the band further and makes it easier to form a ‘relationship’ with the band. Alternative videos often contrast between use of bright colour and dark and dull colours. This was shown in the video when the bright red backdrop in the video is used to depict the band, which then cuts to a battle scene at night, contrasting colours heavily to quickly change mood and connotations within the viewer. Another convention typical of alternative bands is style of dress. This can include either bright, colourful and inventive costumes, or dark toned suits, and or smart style of dress. Here the band is shown collectively wearing suits. Therefore the band is conforming to the stereotypical style of clothing associated with alternative bands. This video conforms to typical conventions within this genre. The video reinforces Goodwin's theory that music videos demonstrate genre characteristics. For example, style of dress.

The lyrics are amplified through the visuals in the video. Parts where the video and lyrics match literally are ‘file by one five and one’ as people are marching, and ‘latent power I know they hide’ when an angel pulls out and holds a sword, as a symbol of power. The meaning of the lyrics are very cryptic. My own interpretation of the lyrics are about a girl in High School who is an outsider and wants to be part of the ‘cool’ group. She follows the cool girls to malls and houses, and no matter what the cool girls do or say to her, it feels good to be part of the group no matter the cost. Though the surreal meaninglessness and superficiality of that particular way of life seem wrong to her, but she’s too far along in her ‘crime’. ‘This is that foreign land, With the sprayed on tans, And it all feels fine, Be it silk or slime.’ The lines convey negative connotations about artificiality, and suggests that this is what people now aspire to, and the girl in the narrative of the song is unsure whether to join in or not. The video however doesn’t really convey this meaning. The video is instead about how idealization of innocence, purity and god can lead to inspiration and willpower to further better mankind, but how this ultimately leads to bloodshed through the self-righteous nature of humankind. This is shown by an angel giving a young girl (Joan of Arc) a sword (a symbol of violence) to fight for freedom over the British. She kills everyone on stage, and raises her sword in victory as all her kin are dead on the floor. She is then burned at the stake later on. Due to ‘God’s’ inspiration. Other historical events are then shown throughout the video that convey the same meaning, and further enhance this idea that idealisation just provides reason for people to separate and ultimately die at the hands of it.

There are significant links between the sound and the visuals, in the way of change in pace of rhythm. At the beginning, the song is fairly slow, so the camera tracks in slowly, to convey a calming mood as enhanced by the track at this point. Then the curtain opens and a beat is established, people are shown marching, and march to the beat of the song, which anchors the beat in a visual format into the viewer. Cuts are also made when the beat hits, this establishes a visual beat which further enhances the rhythm. When the song slows down later into an instrumental, the video slows by showing people struggling in slow motion in the snow. This represents the slowing of the beat aesthetically. The cutting pace also speeds up and slows down according to the pace of the song. The band is always depicted within a normal time signature so as the beat can have a direct link with visuals.

This video could mainly be considered as art, while also advertising the band. This is why the music video is postmodern. The video presents challenging ideas, by showcasing idealisation of martyrdom, religion and purity as naive, and generally used as a reason to display separation form others, while being intolerant of others ideals, ending only in killing and prejudice. This is a provocative idea, as the meaning of the video displays what is stereotypically depicted as entirely good, and the ultimate aspiration in a negative and haunting way through truth of historical events that seem identical despite location and time period. The video is however also an advertisement as it contains a performance piece of the band, displaying them as genuine musicians, and so this attribute of the band is commercially shown to the public by the product. The use of meat shots create a band image. The fact that the product can be considered art in itself, can force the video to become advertisement, as the band is now conveyed as deep and thoughtful through the challenging ideas of the music video. Music videos are postmodern as they are visual representations of sound. They combine advertisement with entertainment in order to create band image. This is also true due to lifestyle associated with the band as a product e.g. clothes are advertised through costume.


Lots of meat shots were used during the band performance pieces, this was to allow the audience to form a closer relationship with the band members. This is in concordance with Dyer’s theory that a band must seem distant, yet close paradoxically at the same time. At the beginning a red curtain is seen opening, connotations associated with this image is of theatre, which establishes the location as a play or stage to the audience. LSs were used to establish ‘location’ or time period on the stage. MLSs were used constantly on stage to display costume in further enhancing establishment of time period and location. Leading lines were commonly used to display opposing sides, e.g. the Indians and crusaders. A telescope mask was used to convey distance. Here the fourth wall was broken by a band member looking into the camera. This creates discomfort in the viewer and spoils the voyeuristic nature of the shot. White fluff was used to connote snow to help show temperature and location of the pilgrims. The performance section is located on a stage presumed to be by the side of the stage by the camera only filming the band location from the left. A red curtain and green bush comprises of the mise-en-scene, as well as the instruments. The green bush, and red curtain glamourises the naturalistic look, a motif of ‘The Shins’. When Joan of Arc receives the sword a bright light is shown behind her head, and a low angled shot is used to convey moral superiority. Slow motion used in editing during fight scenes and struggling in the snow, this is used to show the brutality and simplistic nature of the fighting and suffering and the moral blindness of it. Jump cuts were used throughout the video to give a jarring effect aiding in the visualisation of the beat of the song. Fake fire and snow are used as profilmic special effects. Other effects used are smoke machines and a sword being lowered on a clear string. These effects are all done during filming, and add to the child’s play connotations. Slow motion effects were done during editing. Dark lighting and red lights were used during fight scenes to create negative, evil connotations of fighting. Costumes were used to portray ethnicity e.g. the Indians wore little clothing, and tribal garb, while the crusaders wore armour with the Templar’s cross on it. Dark filters were used during the burning of Joan of Arc and when depicting the angel at later stages to connote negative aspects of the situation, and give a general depressing feeling to the video. This challenged the dominant associations of angels, aided by her facial disposition which is seemingly cold natured.

Little reference to popular culture is mentioned throughout the visual text. Instead reference to historical events are shown throughout the video in the style of a school play. This creates parody of these events, as the crude styles of the play depict what was a serious and terrible event, and shows them as light-hearted entertainment. Which then becomes a play on innocence due to the obvious association with children and purity. Meaning created through this use is that idealisation of religion and senses of moral responsibility lead to hate eventually through lack of unity in lifestyles and opposing theologies.


The band are represented in a stereotypical alternative band style. This is due to the style of dress that conforms to the conventional clothing options of their genre. This agrees with Dyer’s paradox that the band must seem ordinary and extraordinary simultaneously. The band wears suits which are commonly worn by everyday people at work and casually. The performance also keeps to the paradox as the performance piece shows the band as talented musicians, and so makes the artist-audience relationship inaccessible, which then inspires the viewer to try to regain this relationship through continued consumption. This is enhanced by the use of a red curtain positioned behind the band throughout their performance, this brings out the glamourous connotations of their performance, depicting the band as extraordinary, and unattainable, whilst exaggerating their talent. This glamour conforms to the cult of youth and beauty, therefore heightening their status, further distancing themselves from a relationship with the audience. This makes the audience want to buy the product to establish a more personal relationship with the band, to show something about their personality to make themselves seem unique, original and meaningful as the audience might find the song.

Really only one age group is represented in this particular video. However it is the ethnicity that is conveyed differently. The Indian tribe are conveyed as savage people who sacrifice animals to their god in one way, but are also depicted as care free through the boy’s smile when he holds up the sheep’s head. This is a stereotypical view of this ethnicity, and so the crusaders see it this way, they act on this and kill them, reasoning it to be for God. The angel is represented as a negative being, whilst still maintaining most signifiers that connote the angel to be good. This is done by showing the angel (or idealisation) in a cold disposition and being the cause for all the conflict throughout the world, as shown when the angel gives Joan of Arc the sword, only to be burnt at the stake later on. This creates a negative depiction of the angel, and by association, religion. This creates a challenging ideological discourse on the stereotypical view that religion embodies all that is good and purity, and is the one true motivation and aspiration. This instead shows this ideology to be null as it only succeeds in creating destruction and conflict within humankind, due to flaws in the human condition and its intolerance of oppositional values. The band here makes a statement on the naivety of a perfect ideal and self-sacrifice provided by religion throughout our history. This is conveyed more meaningfully as children as they represent pure and innocent forms. These forms are then corrupted by conflict motivated by the angel or religion and its myth of true heroism.


This text would be consumed at both a focused viewing mode and ambiently. This is due to slower editing, historical historical significance and complexity of the narrative. However, parts may be viewed ambiently, for example the performance sequences would be viewed ambiently as narrative is no longer present and editing is faster paced. Whilst aesthetically pleasing shots are used frequently, without complex signifiers, which can be viewed ambiently without difficulty. Music channels this video would be shown on may be such channels as ‘The Hits’ or ‘MTV’ while staying away from the more R&B channels. This piece is aimed at alternative music stations due to its genre that strays from such genres as rap, due to its oppositional values on wealth and success. The record label would promote the video by advertising the complexity of the messages in the text to create an enigmatic aura attracting consumers that enjoy this genre of entertainment. This video would be promoted as art to bring in the correct demographic, which intentionally, is also a main aspect within the alternative music demographic. This creates an intellectual ‘puzzle’ for audiences to solve, and becomes a talking piece (social currency) due to its cryptic meaning, which further promotes the track.

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