Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Searching for Soul, Reframing the Pursuit of Capital

A Comparison of Kahlil Joseph’s and Derek Pike’s ‘I Need A Dollar’ Music Videos

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2022), 16, (1), 53–77.

Abstract

Two music videos were commissioned for Aloe Blacc’s breakthrough song ‘I Need A Dollar’ (2010). The Harlem, New York version directed by Kahlil Joseph adopts a split-screen technique, depicting an unnamed man negotiating the city’s busy streets while, at the same time, framing Blacc as a directionless musician singing wistfully at the window of a dilapidated flat. Derek Pike’s Las Vegas, Nevada version, on the other hand, portrays the singer as a struggling musician traversing the desert before - unexpectedly - winning the jackpot at a casino. This article explores two main lines of argument. Firstly, I explore how institutional and industrial contexts result in two distinguishable music videos, suggesting that although both versions are created in similarly professional and commercialised settings one video is produced within a more ‘independent’ environment. Secondly, I explore how two different music videos can emphasise or de-emphasise certain elements of a song’s content and meaning, drawing from Emily J. Lordi’s theorisation of ‘soul’ to suggest that the ‘soul music’ qualities of Blacc’s ‘I Need A Dollar’ record are emphasised when practitioners adopt a more ‘soulful’ approach to music video creation (Lordi, 2020).

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Author details

JACKSON, JOSEPH O.