Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

For the Affective Aesthetics of Contemporary Music Video

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2019), 13, (2), 187–208.


Drawing on the ongoing dialogue between current music video scholarship and a cultural turn to affect, this article argues for an approach to affective aesthetics that focuses on both the aesthetically and theoretically generative work of affects within the music videos’ audiovisual forms and their performative mechanisms. Through a close analysis of ‘National Anthem’ by Lana Del Rey (dir. A. Mandler, 2012) and Baauer’s ‘Day Ones’ (dir. H. Murai, 2016), it examines anachronistic strategies through which contemporary music video performs political history, encompassing both past events and their mediation. While Mandler’s video generates nostalgia through the combination of archival media materiality, trip-hop tunes, and the narrative loop, mutually reshaping Kennedy’s 1960s and the Obama era, Murai’s piece plays out the ironic reenactment that actualises the remote past through the affective perspective of anger enacted by the existential lyrics, dark beats, and anachronistic imagery of violence, merging the American Revolutionary War with suburban hip-hop reality. Opening up past events to the contemporary affects that shape audiovisual forms and trigger a transhistorical experience, both videos compel us to rethink the force of music video affects as neither emotional, nor representational, but rather performative.

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