top of page

Exploring the Limitless World of Music Videos: The 7 Different Types of Music Videos

Updated: Mar 22

Music videos, often abbreviated as MV, are a captivating realm within the audio visual universe, unshackled by the constraints that sometimes bind other visual media such as films, series, or documentaries. Within the realm of music videos, there are no prescribed formats, no rigid genres to conform to, and no predetermined durations that artists must adhere to. The only constants are the harmonious sounds of the music and the mesmerizing visuals that accompany it.

Hebe Tien (田馥甄) in One, After Another (一一) music video

A still image from Taiwanese musician HEBE TIEN'S ONE, AFTER ANOTHER music video.


However, all music videos, regardless of their uniqueness and artistic liberty, can be classified into seven distinct categories. Each music video undoubtedly belongs to at least one of these categories, and yet, some of them can seamlessly blend elements from two or more of these classifications.


LYRIC VIDEO

Let’s start with arguably the least creative type of music videos: lyric videos. As the name implies, the major element of this type of MV is the song’s lyric, which is typically displayed largely on screen. Any other visual elements are secondary. Lyric videos are usually meant as a sing along medium for the viewers and is the quickest and cheapest type of music video to produce. However, it still needs to have an overall design theme that reflects the song.

A still image of Jain's Makeba official lyrics video

A still from French singer MAKEBA's Jain lyric video, which garners more than 19 million views on YouTube.


PERFORMANCE DRIVEN

Up next is traditionally considered the oldest type of music video: the performance driven videos. In these videos, artists take center stage, delivering their songs directly to the camera, in a set, studio, or through a montage of live performances. Due to its rather limited nature, a performance driven video relies on the art design, location, or editing to stand out from the rest.

It's an art form that walks a fine line between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Bono performing in U2's Atomic City music video, filmed in the iconic Freemont Street in Las Vegas.

Bono performing in U2's Atomic City music video, filmed in the iconic Freemont Street in Las Vegas.


DANCE

Dance, while technically a subset of performance-driven videos, is a genre vast enough to warrant its own spotlight. The central focus here is on mesmerizing dance choreography and glorious set design, both serving as the driving force behind the video. Today, dance videos have become synonymous with the global phenomenon of K-Pop, and some songs even boast separate dance versions to showcase their intricate choreographies. These videos are the embodiment of rhythm and motion, setting the stage on fire with electrifying moves.

BLACKPINK with a group of dancers in the music video for Pink Venom, which is the biggest music video premiere in YouTube for 2022.


NARRATIVE

Narrative music videos tread the path of traditional storytelling, mirroring cinematic narratives. They craft a compelling tale with a clear beginning, middle, and end, covering a spectrum of tones – from melancholic and dramatic to comedic and action-packed. While they often accompany slower tempo songs, this genre has been known to transcend boundaries, weaving engaging stories regardless of musical genre.

A still image from the music video of Tokimeki (by Japanese musician Vaundy), in which a comatose girl (played by Angela Yuen 袁澧林) finds herself in a dreamlike world and must win a dance off in order to return to the real world.

A still image from the music video of Tokimeki (by Japanese musician Vaundy), in which a comatose girl finds herself in a dreamlike world and must win a dance off in order to return to the real world.


DOCUMENTARY

A sub-branch of narrative music video, documentary music videos are probably the rarest type of MV. Rooted in reality, these videos take on a role similar to traditional documentaries, aiming to spotlight social or political issues. Or sometimes, the musicians themselves. Documentary MVs incorporate interviews, archive footage, and specially shot segments to delve into real-life narratives. These videos are the intersection of art and reality, offering a unique blend of storytelling and advocacy.

A still image from Thirty Seconds to Mars' documentary music video for City of Angels, which features a numbers of celebrities and artists with a unique connection to the city of Los Angeles.

Thirty Seconds to Mars' documentary music video for City of Angels features a numbers of celebrities and artists with a unique connection to the city of Los Angeles.


CONCEPTUAL

With concept videos, the sky's the limit. Above anything else, it relies on its artistic vision to capture the viewers’ attention and emotion. Abstract or concrete, linear or nonlinear, raw or polished; concept music videos have no rules apart from the fact that the song has to be featured in the video.

Concept music videos generally have two different intentions: to build emotional resonance between the song and the viewers, or to create a strong visual identity for the song. These videos unleash a surge of creativity where nothing is off the table.

A still image from Japanese rock band Bump of Chicken music video for their song, Small World.

A still image from Japanese rock band Bump of Chicken music video for their song, Small World, which focuses on evoking an emotional resonance with the song instead of a clear cut narrative.


ANIMATION

Lastly, music videos that use the form of animation to execute either a narrative or conceptual music videos. In a sense, they act more as a canvas to portray the ideas or concepts of the artists rather than a standalone type of music videos. In some music videos, animation and live action are even blended together, crafting a unique experience for the viewers.

A still image from Coldplay's music video for Biutyful blends puppet animation characters with live action settings and human characters.

Coldplay's music video for Daddy blends live-action puppetry, digitally painted sets and 2D animation.


Throughout the years, music videos relentlessly evolve, pushing the very limits of what defines them. I Am Easy to Find is an exceptional short film from filmmaker Mike Mills that gracefully weaves together six distinct songs from The National's eponymous album, bending convention to fit within the realm of music video.

Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in a still image from the short film I Am Easy To Find.

Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in a still image from I Am Easy To Find.


And as artists and filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of music videos, its intention has always remained consistent: to breathe life into the emotional resonance between a song or album and its audience by supplying a visual context. A great music video has the power to transform an unmemorable song and etch it permanently in our memory. In extreme cases, it also provides an entirely new perspective for a song, reshaping how you actually feel towards it.

In this realm, where sound and vision entwine in a dance of creativity, the possibilities are as boundless as the artist's imagination. As the future unfolds, it is certain that this captivating medium will continue to transmute, offering new surprises and delights for music lovers and visual aficionados alike.


33 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page