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The 5 Most Captivating Animated Music Videos of 2020

With the rampant spread of the global coronavirus pandemic, musicians across the globe have had to reinvent their ways of crafting new music. A lot of stars have had to resort to building in-house studios for the recording process, which doesn’t sound too bad. But new releases are often accompanied by music videos. So, when you’re stuck within four walls, what’s to be done about that?

Music videos often depend on special locations, outfits and sometimes even a whole crew of backup dancers to convey certain themes. The concept behind a song is often brought to life through these different aspects. But due to the global pandemic, these very resources are currently out of reach. So, what is the next step? Some artists have resorted to shooting music videos from their homes. Others have looked towards fans to send in footage that can be crafted into montage videos. But there is also one new avenue that’s gaining a lot more attention than it ever did before – animation.

2020 has been witness to a number of stunning animated music videos – each being defined by its choice of style, colours and manner of storytelling. And so, here’s looking at some of the finest animated videos this year has given birth to.

‘my future’ – Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish recently arrived on the scene with her sparkly, lulling track, ‘my future’. This tune got treated to its very own animated music video which was riddled with metaphors and moody landscapes.

The music video arouses a sense of familiarity and thrill for fans of the legendary Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki. The opening shots of ‘my future’ take a page from Miyazaki’s book, particularly in relation to his works like “My Neighbor Totoro”. From the lonely moon, to Billie’s hair whipping in the wind, to the gentle ripples distorting the reflection seen in a puddle – every frame draws its inspiration from his work.

The video, created by the Melbourne-based ‘Chop Studio’, also dabbles with lighting and colour in an interesting manner. Billie’s slow, lulling verses are accompanied by visuals of a dark, sombre forest – a sort of haven for lost souls. But under a new day’s sun, the song sees a shift in mood. It transforms into a lighter piece, one defined by a groovier flow and sweeter verses. The landscape witnesses a burst of colour – a simple, yet effective way to denote a brighter mood.

Now, Billie herself is a die-hard fan of Miyazaki, so it’s no surprise that her love for his work has bled into her own. In fact, when discussing her process of creating music, she emphasized the importance of illustrating her thoughts and emotions. She went on to confess, “I owe so much of it to Miyazaki and his weirdly unrealistic but realistic characters.” She then proceeded to gush about her love for the classic film, “Spirited Away”, “I watched it over and over and over again. Oh my god I thought it was so dope. And I had the biggest crush on the dragon in that movie.”

And so, that’s the tale behind the music video for ‘my future’.

‘Snowchild’ – The Weeknd

In the latter part of July, The Weeknd arrived on the scene with his animated music video for the track, ‘Snowchild’. The video combined anime-esque visuals with some top notch story telling.

The use of colours and shading plays an important role in this video. Hues of grey and black are reserved for the daytime and the past. The nighttime awakens with faded neon colours that create a mystical, inviting glow in every nook and cranny of the cityscape.

The visuals parallel moments from The Weeknd’s past. They speak of his fears, temptations and struggles while also paying tribute to characters and creatures seen in his older music videos. ‘Snowchild’ also adopts classic anime-esque styles used prominently between 2008-2010. They can be recognized by the slightly robotics movements seen in the characters, the typical eye-glisten under sunlight and the dramatic fight scenes – among other things. Interestingly enough, the visual was created by the D’ART Shtajio studio – the first black-owned animation studio in Japan.

It looks like The Weeknd himself has a certain fondness for animated music videos. The remixed version of his track, ‘In Your Eyes’ featuring Doja Cat was treated to animated visuals and more recently, his collaborative track with Juice WRLD also received the same treatment.

‘Hallucinate’ – Dua Lipa

Finding a home in “Future Nostalgia” Dua Lipa’s groovy track, ‘Hallucinate’ finally received its very own music video. Ripe with sparkly retro beats and Dua’s husky hooks, the visuals parallel the vibrant nature of the song perfectly.

In a rather humourous twist, the video gives us a taste of the star’s “hallucinations” – which include dancing vegetables, rainbow doorways, moody flower beds and ultimately, Dua dancing upon what appears to be a disco-ball planet. Yup, it’s a real treat from start to finish.

Now, coming to the process of creating this video, Lipa approached production company ‘The Mill’ and director Lisha Tan with a 2D animated music video idea for the song. It was inspired by the 1970s disco heyday, which included loud character deigns and diverse colour palettes. Tan then took this cue to begin research on iconic photos from the disco aesthetic of the 1970s. She then compiled references and inspirations from the debauched behavior and crazy costumes everyone displayed at the time. Dua and Tan also dabbled in the concept of dreams and nightmares. Tan additionally based much of the video on the track’s lyrics, in order to keep the concept watertight.

Tan then gave the design team a general brief and parameters before allowing them to bring each aspect of the video to life. The teams were in constant communication with each other through video chats. In fact, Dua’s choreographer, Charm La’Donna, even reached out to help them create the dance moves and mannerisms to add a certain authenticity to the whole project.

And finally, that’s how ‘Hallucinate’ was born.

‘The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim Shady’ – Eminem & Kid Cudi

Eminem and Kid Cudi teamed up for the track, ‘The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim Shady’. This track witnessed their respective verses settle over a haunting melody and low-key beats. Now, the lyrics draw a lot of parallels between their lives, and ones of superheros. And the visuals have beautifully weaved in this running theme.

Now, we’ve picked out some of the lines that reference the superhero world, take a look:

Oh, having visions of the city and I go to war
See me in the day through the late night (night)
Tell ’em it’s the charm, I’m in freeze mode
To the gods, can’t stop a hero when he in flight (flight)

Earthlings, I adapt to ’em
Certain things, I don’t want to do, but have to in
Order to just act human

The adventures of Moon Man and Slim (ah)
Yes, who want it with them?
The trilogy continues

The music video sees comic book versions of Eminem and Kid Cudi – out to fight crime. The use of a neon colour palette, rough textures and Ben Day dots all tie in to the common cliches of comic book art.

‘The Scotts’ – Travis Scott & Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi notched yet another impressive collaboration, this time around with Travis Scott. The duo put out the moody, sinister track, ‘The Scotts’.

Now, ‘The Scotts’ premiered on the online, multi-player video game, Fortnite. It later arrived with not one but three separate visuals. The video that takes the cake features a hyper-realistic style, often seen in new-age video games. The violently coloured visual, shows us the happenings on various different worlds. In most, we see Travis Scott rising above surreal landscapes as a 50 foot giant. He towers over dark buildings, entire islands and cherry coloured meadows. Sitting upon one of these many worlds is an astronaut, watching planets and galaxies explode right before his eyes.

Interestingly, as the lyrics speak of a certain anarchy, the visuals seem to parallel an equal amount of chaos. Unlike the previous animated videos we’ve seen, this one doesn’t follow any storyline as such. It’s simply the visuals that demand your focus and honestly, that’s enough.

If this video did one thing, its immersive nature and captivating visuals proved Fortnite’s potential to become more than just a game.

By: Nina Karun

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