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Inaction Video

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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 or meaningful 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 the inability to cope with information overload and withdrawal.
  • Icehouse had two releases for Crazy; the Australian release has frontman Ida Davies wandering around a derelict industrial site with various dangerous things going on behind him, including random welding, grinding, pyrotechnics, an idiot or two on motorcycles, a vehicle crashing into a column right next to him; all without him apparently noticing until a truck runs into him, at which point the two girls who have followed him throughout the whole video at a respectable distance scavenge his jacket.
  • 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 vomiting. 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.
  • The iconic video to The Verve's ''Bittersweet Symphony'' features Richard Ashcroft walking down the street and singing 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Played humorously by Kero Kero Bonito for the video "Break", featuring frontwoman Sarah Bonito posing completely still in her bright, pastel-colored outfits in very public areas. As to be expected, many of the shots contain at least a few confused and/or intrigued onlookers.
  • Eels "Are We All Right Again" video uses a variation without any band members showing up: Instead, Jon Hamm stars as an Eels fan attentively listening to the song on headphones, oblivious as thieves enter his apartment and start stealing everything in the background.
    • Goodshirt's "Sophie" used a remarkably similar concept a good 18 years earlier, with a young woman as the listener and the band themselves as the robbers. Eels and the video's director claimed coincidence.
  • Green Day's "Redundant" video has the band playing in a house filled with tons of people doing various activities around the house, the only ones who aren't being the band themselves. Attentive viewers will notice how all of these activities are looped and played again exactly as they were before (coinciding with the song's title and its lyrics). This comes to a stop at the end where the band members leave and the woman picking up the newspaper sees that there isn't one, and screams.
  • Fiona Apple's "Across the Universe" video has her calmly lip-sync the song as a slow-motion riot rages on in an idyllic 50s diner behind her. Loosely tied in to Pleasantville, the movie the Cover Version was produced for.
  • SinĂ©ad O'Connor's video for "Nothing Compares 2 U" is basically her singing the song in front of the camera. It won her the MTV Video Music Awards in 1990.


Video Example(s):


Emily, I'm Sorry

The video for the boygenius track "Emily, I'm Sorry" is almost entirely made up of Phoebe Bridgers standing still and singing the song in front of a monster-truck rally.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / InactionVideo

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