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The Objective of all narratives within a music video is to sell the artist and the music they produce. Over time, music videos have changed dramatically, rather than simply showing the artist singing, modern day videos have developed in depth narratives and storylines that grab the target audience attention. Music videos tie in with Richard Dyer’s theory that stars are commodity, the narrative is in place to entertain the target audience making them more likely to buy the music and products of the artist.
From examining Ed Sheeran’s music videos we can learn a lot about him as an artist and a person. The main point of comment is that Ed is often not seen in the video or plays a cameo role within it. From this we can infer that the artist ideology is not centred on star image and the main focus is on the music produced. Furthermore, in many of his videos he expresses things about himself either through lyrics or narrative.
Released in July 2011, ‘You need me, I don’t need you’ shows many of the codes and conventions seen in the typical Ed Sheeran video. However the content of the video is not typical at all, in fact it is a unique music video first that has not been in any other. The video is an illustrative representation of the lyrics as 17 year old British actor Matthew Morgan signs the lyrics to the song. This may sound like something plain which will easily lose your attention, but it is quite the contrary.
The signing from the young actor is more characteristic of a dance and his stern direct mode of address makes it hard to avert your eyes from the screen.
In the first few seconds of the video we can recognise that the shot is of Ed playing his guitar, but his face is not in the mise-en-scene. From then on Ed is not featured other than extremely quick snapshots of him that are fairly hard to recognise but do appear regularly during the course of the video. Ed’s lack of appearance ties in with the message delivered within the lyrics, which is that Ed does not agree with the control that record labels have over an artist. The typical music video would focus on the artist and by doing the opposite Ed is making a statement. Another message he is enforcing is that a lot of artists get attention from their image and not from their talent. By having someone who is not singing as the main focus of a music video, could link to what Ed thinks about artists who are lacking in musical talent but are still the focus of audience attention.
Although there is no storyline to the video, the lyrics follow the form of a biography, telling the story of many events in his life. This allows the audience to relate to him and learn about both his personality and history.
The whole music video is in black and white which makes it much more dramatic. It is considered more artistic in black and white and also relates to the message he is trying to get across which is very ‘black and white’ as there is nothing to hide; he doesn’t need a record label, the record label wants him.
The song is of R&B/hip hop hybrid genre which is typically targeted at young audiences. Although Ed is not known to be a hip hop artist there are several features which help to identify the song in-between the pop and hip hop genre. The stereotypical Hip-hop Setting would be in an empty dark space with not much character, whereas a pop video would have more focus on glamour and luxury environments. In addition, to help target the younger age group, a 17 year old actor has been selected to be the main feature in the video. Lastly, the fast paced camera changes link to the pace of the rap and tempo of the song.
The mixture of spotlight, flashing lights, quick camera changes and prominent music beat makes for a very eye catching production that does not follow the usual codes and conventions of this type of media.
‘A Team’ the first song Ed released, is an example of him using a narrative that deals with a social issue. The narrative follows a young woman who is stuck in a vicious circle between prostitution and drug addiction. By making a video addressing such a serious social issue it gives the impression that Ed is down to earth and in touch with reality.
The video is a circular narrative beginning with the main character lying dead with her friend in tears. We then go back what we assume is several days to follow the story of how she died. One of the first shots we see after the flashback is one with her arms wide resembling the Angel of the North, linking with many references made in the lyrics to angels and the connotations of white.
Once again Ed is barely seen in the video. In this case he is seen as ‘the good guy’, in a scene where the young woman is selling magazines on the side of a street, people walk by without glancing at her, whilst Ed is seen stopping and talking to her.
Ed’s appearance in the video to ‘Lego House’ is typically minimal and in place of him, actor Rupert Grint is the main character in the video. Subtle comedy can be seen through this as the resemblance between Ed and Rupert is quite prominent, in fact, in the first few frames of the video where Grint has his back to the camera the audience could easily mistake it to be Ed himself.
The video demonstrates the humorous side to Ed’s character which also makes the audience relate to him better. Grint’s character shows quite a negative display within the narrative, from eating a piece of Ed’s used chewing gum to conversing with dolls with his face placed on them, the whole narrative is quite negative and depressing. The humour envelops through the selection of Grint who is commonly known for his harmless character ‘Ron Weasley’ in Harry Potter now being seen as a stalker which is considered to be someone quite dangerous. Furthermore, the fact that he is a world renowned actor now shown to be a crazed Ed Sheeran fan is comedic.
The narrative to the video is a unique way to target the desired audience. The main fan base for Ed’s music is teens and young adults and Rupert Grint will be a common face to this age group as they will be familiar with the Harry Potter series whilst growing up.
Toward the end of the video and the track the music contrasts with the behaviour of the character as the character is behaving angrily and erratically whereas the song takes a slower melodic feel.
The music video comes across as low budget which could suggest that the artist wanted to focus more on his music than the accompanying video. There are no noticeable costume changes by any of the characters. However there are a number of different locations used throughout this connotes loneliness as he’s always by himself in very isolated areas. Additionally a lot of voyeurism can be seen while the music video explores every aspect of the character’s obsession which dominates his life.
To conclude, the narratives in Ed Sheeran’s music videos say a lot about him as a person and separate him from other artists in the charts. His music videos and narratives allow us to see that he does not conform to Dyer’s star theory as he does not want to rely on an image to catch audience attention, and consequently features minimally in the majority of his videos.
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