So you're ready to film a Music Video
for your new single. The only problem is you think that a simple Performance Video
just won't cut it, you haven't got a budget for the Great Balls of Fire
, you find the Surreal Music Video
idea pretentious and the Animated Music Video
stupid. Or you're just tired and don't feel like doing it.
Times like this call for the Inaction Video. The concept behind such a video is remarkably simple: the band or the Face of the Band
stand around motionless or calmly perform their song while the background's dedicated to either Funny Background Events
or a wild party
with lots of people. The key here being that the band never acknowledges their surroundings and just does their own thing independent of what's going on while looking completely bored/disinterested/high. May involve an extreme Weirdness Censor
. Usually they Leave the Camera Running
Almost always Played for Laughs
. Understandable, since it's not a concept that lends itself easily to drama. Or if it does, it tends to tumble into Narm
Not to be confused with monochrome backdrop videos
. The funny
background events and the Weirdness Censor
are essential for the Inaction Video.
- Possibly the Ur-Example: "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky sit around eating cornflakes and reading while a bunch of people enter the room and go wild. Includes a blink-and-you-miss it cameo from Courtney Love. Almost the Trope Namers before being rejected for obscurity.
- It makes a bit more sense when you know the background of the song: while on tour in England, the band got stuck in London on Christmas Eve - when everything closes down. The video represents how stir-crazy they went while waiting for the city to open up again.
- The other iconic example, "Numb" by U2. The Edge sits and drones the lyrics while random stuff happens to him (the other guys tie him up, somebody cuts off his shirt, a young girl slaps him, a belly dancer appears out of nowhere). Aside from being probably their funniest video, the concept perfectly complements the song's lyrics about inability to cope with information overload and withdrawal.
- Tyler, the Creator's "Yonkers" video is just him sitting on a stool performing the song. And coming uncomfortably close to the camera at points whilst doing so. And eating a cockroach. And hanging himself.
- "Leave It" by Yes. The band members in suits... just standing there and singing. (Oh yeah, upside down, too.) The video that most often got played put all sorts of special effects on the figures, but many other versions were made, which were variations on... the five guys standing there.
- LCD Soundsystem's video for "Drunk Girls" hangs a lampshade on this trope. A low budget was given to a bunch of people to buy whatever costumes and props they wanted in order to use any means necessary to distract and make the band screw up while they were calmly performing, a notable difference from the usual Inaction Video where the band doesn't acknowledge their surroundings.
- The video for The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" (AKA, the Friends theme). The band is just playing while the Friends cast fool around.
- "Plan A" by The Dandy Warhols. The band members sing, play and walk around while they Leave the Camera Running.
- Spanish singer Bunbury parodies this in his 'Hay Muy Poca Gente' ('Very few people') music video; in it, there is no Funny Background Event, and the whole video is comprised of the static faces of random people (with the singer among them) and how they are hit by random objects coming from offscreen. Oh, and the entire video is shot in slow motion.
- A sort of example would be Weezer's video for "Undone (The Sweater Song)", where the band calmly play the song while a bunch of dogs start running around the room. This required many takes to get right, since the video itself was filmed at a faster speed and then slowed down to match the song. Also, during filming, one of the dogs shat on Patrick Wilson's kick pedal.
- Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels".
- In Vampire Weekend's video for "Giving Up the Gun" whenever the band appears, they ignore the (increasingly weird) tennis tournament taking place in front of them. They also ignore the guy in the background with the "Go on" sign. Here it is.
- What about The Verve's iconic ''Bittersweet Symphony'' music video? It shows the singer, Richard Ashcroft, walking down the street and singing/miming the lyrics while completely ignoring everything around him.
- The Replacements' "Bastards of Young." There are no background events, nor is there any more than part of a leg of a band member. There's just the camera, trained on a speaker with records leaning against it. The only "thing" that happens is when the guy gets up off the couch and kicks the speaker. Truly inaction at its most inactiony. To top it all off, the song is being played at the wrong speed, and is slightly sped up from the normal recording.
- The Replacements made the same video for two more songs off of their Tim album: "Left of the Dial" is virtually identical except that the speaker isn't kicked over and the song's being played at the right speed. "Hold My Life" is in color and has a little intro of the guy picking through his LP collection.
- Elton John's "I Want Love". The video consists solely of Robert Downey, Jr. lip-synching the entire song. (According to reports, they filmed a whole bunch of takes, and for the final take - the one that was finally used - RDJ was just too exhausted to do any emoting whatsoever, which was what the director apparently wanted all along.)
- Sinéad O'Connor's Cover Version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2U" was helped on its way to number one (UK) by a strikingly simple video consisting of two long close-up takes with a brief cutaway to some landscape images to cover the join.
- Korn's "Coming Undone" features the band playing the song in a desert while they ignore the sky falling and the ground collapsing. They do take notice by the end, where they unravel and fade into nothingness themselves leaving a blank white screen at the end of the video.
- Soundgarden took this up to eleven with their video for "Spoonman". They're only in the video in a series of photos. The rest of the video is of the titular Artis the Spoonman. Chris Cornell later admitted they did it on purpose:
You see various pictures of us, but it's not quite the same as having us in your living room all the time. We're trying to maintain some degree of mystique about Soundgarden, I guess. I remember back when I was a kid, long before MTV
, and the only way to see my favorite bands was to go to their concerts. It was an incredible experience. MTV has helped a lot of bands, but they've also helped rob a lot of groups of that special mystique. It's tough when you can see a great rock band on TV one second, then hit the clicker and be watching a soap opera or a sit com the next. That's what rock and roll has become for some people.
- Perfume's "I Still Love U" is just a close shot of the group singing ...at least at first.
- Inverted by TISM's video for "Whatareya? (You're A Yob or You're A Wanker)", as the band themselves are the Funny Background Event: At first the band are participating in an aerobics program, and there's already a little bit of Weirdness Censor in place, since no one sees anything unusual about a large group of men dressed in all black and wearing balaclavas taking up the whole back row of the class. Then the members of the band get bored of exercising and haul in a couch, a television and a cooler full of beer - by the end of the video, the band are watching soccer, drinking, and generally littering and making a mess of the set, all while everyone else is obliviously continuing the aerobics routine.
- In Hurts' "Wonderful Life" video, the singer looks like he's being forced to pose for a class picture and the keyboardist shows slight movement in the hand/wrist area. Meanwhile they're accompanied by a very animated backup dancer.