Smashing Pumpkins

Iconic 90’s Rock: Music Video Analyses

This music video draws us into a bright and colorful world of five teenagers as they wander throughout California without direction, though certainly not without a sense of youthful adventure.

The lyrics “and we don’t even care… as restless as we are” seem to sum up the general mood of the piece: carefree and bursting with energy as the kids play and drive around almost aimlessly. The mise en scène of the entire video is equally bright in mood, as the vivid blue sky and colorful clothing matching the overall tone that is conveyed throughout the whole piece. The camera seems to have a fish-eye effect, which only adds to the surreal and almost fantastic feel to the entire video. Our attention is directed in a 360 degree sweep of the interior of the car in the beginning of the driving sequence; making for an almost panoramic shot of the five kids as they wander through their lives. Similar to the next video for “Perfect,” the video opens from a sort of point of view tracking shot that follows the kids as they roll around in a large tire. The car sequence first struck me as an example of a “time-image,” as the characters don’t seem to have any sort of clear-cut adversary or purpose in their action–they are simply driven by the passing moments which carry them in an uncertain direction. The choice of using grunge-rock in the concert sequence next serves as a means of connecting this apparent mischievousness (in various pranks like turning the shower onto a couple in a bathtub and throwing toilet paper on a house, or in abandoning adult self-consciousness and jumping in someone else’s pool) to a musical genre that people of this time would already have preconceived notions and ideas about. Billy Corgan, the lead vocalist, narrates the story through lyric as he sits in the car for the duration of the video, apparently along for the ride.

This piece chronologically carries these characters throughout the events of one day, and while there are concrete events that take place and obstacles that serve as conflict, the tone of careless euphoria is never lost in this video, completely unlike that of “Perfect.”

The video for “Perfect” brings both the Pumpkins and our characters into adulthood; the story, music, and general mood of this piece in reference to the first is altogether grown up–dark, subdued, and seemingly resigned to the apparent loss of childhood innocence and carelessness that so marked “1979.”

This video uses graphic matching multiple times to move the action to different locations, connecting multiple characters and stories to one universally connected plot. This song appeared on a relatively new album, “Adore,” whilst “1979” was from the mainstream success, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the latter being one of the most commonly referenced albums as forming the alternative rock genre of the 1990s. The characters in this music video are acted by four of the same five who took part in the video “1979” (the fifth was in jail), which gives us an excellent point of reference. Not only is the entire mood of the video much blander and darker than that of “1979,” but the title even contrasts the goings on in the story. James Iha, the guitarist of the group, plays the same character of the store clerk as he did in the prior video, and the parted-hair boy, now an adult, shoplifts from the store just as he did in his childhood (how darling!).

The first sequence of this video makes use of shallow focus and computer graphics to follow the ball as it makes its way from the machine to the character at the batting cage; a sort of POV tracking-shot that carries our focus towards the first human character in the story. My favorite graphic match of the video is from the mother handing the bottle to her newborn baby that cuts to the beer bottle–an interesting take that may be telling of the directors’ (there were 2) opinion on alcohol. This graphic matching technique is used several more times, together with the “bump” effect, in images of button pushing, post-it notes to pregnancy tests, and the cassette tape playing music to illegally recording it at a SP gig. The mise en scène of the latter sequence serving as an avante garde contrast to the drab black Billy wears in his narrative frame singing in “real time.” The musicians on stage wear blue eyeliner, sunglasses, and other over-the-top glam-rock uniform which suit the 90s underground rock setting quite nicely. This scene also differs greatly from the bright punk-rock house party concert from the “1979” video, and when viewed from this point of reference is both darker and more controlled; much like the album it was released on, which departed from the “fantasy” imagery of Mellon Collie.

Another interesting point–the scaffolding Billy stands on throughout the music video was real, as was the danger that surrounded standing on a moving, unstable object elevated hundreds of feet in the air!

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