You know that one band that you started listening to when they were just an unknown indie act, then they suddenly made a song or video that was incredibly popular and you felt really smart for catching on before everyone else, and simultaneously a little annoyed at all those “bandwagon” fans?
For me, that was OK Go. My older brother got me hooked on their first album back in 2004, two years before the treadmill dance briefly broke the Internet. Their not-so-creatively-self-titled debut “OK Go” was full of quirky, catchy power pop tracks, and they shrugged off any suggestion of a sophomore slump with their rocking, mature, near-perfect follow-up “Oh No.”
Unfortunately, their third effort, released in early 2010, was a bigger pile of shit than the Golgothan from “Dogma.” A tip for the Chicago quartet: when you decide to call your album “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” British spelling and all, WARNING – you may have gone off the pretentious hipster deep end.
Luckily, even after OK Go inexplicably replaced their monster guitar hooks with falsetto ballads, their whimsical charm has lived on in their music videos. On Wednesday, the band released an absurdly cool interactive video over Google Chrome, confirming both their technological savvy (they prominently fought against DRM and even quit their last label in order to keep releasing their videos virally) and their white-boy dance cred. So I’m taking the opportunity here to look back at the history of OK Go music videos, which will hopefully waste as much time for you at your job as it did for me.
As you can see, OK Go videos weren’t actually anything exceptional at first. Uncomfortable close-ups of the lead singer and oh-so-clever references to the band name are staples of the genre. The only particularly original element here is the random slo-mo ping-pong insert, which doesn’t even make sense unless you also watch their ping-pong instructional video.
Again, nothing special, but we’re drawing closer to the elegant simplicity of OK Go’s later videos, as the basic concept here was just “let’s blow some shit up and film it.”
And here is the moment where true inspiration struck. Abandoning the slick production values that characterize basically every other music video ever, OK Go decided to just dick around in their back yard, put the grainy home recording on YouTube, and see what happened. The result? “A Million Ways” was (albeit briefly) the most downloaded video in history. Get me drunk enough, and I may even give you my own rendition, carefully choreographed and memorized by my 2006 self.
Then of course, there was this sucker. Five years later, and the ingenuity of this video still blows my mind. From here on out, we would expect all OK Go music videos to be 1) shot in a single take, 2) some sort of dance, and 3) clearly imagined while the band members were high. Only after the success of the treadmill dance, OK Go had significantly more cash and industry clout…
…so when they said things like, “we want the University of Notre Dame marching band for our next video,” someone actually listened…
…and when they said “we want to hire a bunch of former MIT and Cal Tech engineers to design us a warehouse-sized Rube Goldberg machine,” someone replied, “no problem!”
Musically, we’re moving into ear-gouging territory, but the band manages to keep creating video magic using just one camera trick and a bunch of gaffe tape, broom handles and beach balls.
“Dude, dude, two words: dancing dogs. Fuck yeah. Pass the bong.”
In all seriousness though, major props to Trish Sie, sister of OK Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash, who choreographed and directed the videos for “A Million Ways,” “Here It Goes Again” and “White Knuckles.”
I almost didn’t post this one because I really hate the song, but I just can’t figure out how they got that duck to follow them around, and was wondering if anyone here had any theories.
At first, this video seems a little out of place, considering it doesn’t feature any of the members of the band, dancing or otherwise. Then you read that this was made using 2, 430 unique pieces of laser-etched toast, and the world makes sense again.
And we’ve finally arrived at the present, where OK Go teamed up with modern dance troop Pilobolus for this mind-bending gem. If you’ve got Google Chrome, it’s worth checking out the HTML 5 version, where you can have fun personalizing your own bizarre foot-message.
In an industry dominated by glitz and self-glamorizing, I like to see a band that’s willing to innovate on a budget (not to mention confident enough in their sexuality to rock the skin-tight jumpsuits). In this era of viral video, it’s time for the industry to move past the MTV model and start thinking outside the box.