Gwen Stefani — Assorted

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Gwen Stefani. Her songs are almost uniformly interesting and her music is so professionally produced she could be singing the words to a Victa lawnmower manual while playing Rolf Harris’s wobble board and you’d still be rushing to the nearest dancefloor. All that’s a complete ‘given’. I’m just fascinated as to how far she thinks she can go with these video clips…

Gwen’s like the embodiment of a fully-evolved music video creature. When it comes to music videos, most bands have barely made it down from the trees, but not Gwen, she’s upright, sentient and has very finely manicured opposable thumbs.

Back in the ‘days’, music videos just seemed like the next delinquent child of the music industry. Band’s had to put up with it, mostly through gritted teeth. To extract a music video out of most groups you plonked them in a rehearsal room, propped a camera up somewhere and let them get on with it. Fatal. It was a chore to get the lead singer to simply look at the camera.

Soon the MTV zeitgeist revolutionised music videos, mostly because there was actually somewhere on the telly that showed them. Pioneers like Michael Jackson turned the genre on its head, raised the bar, and (to throw in another metaphor for good measure) threw truckloads of cash at over the top productions. But mostly they adhered to the same sort of plot as the lyrics of the song.

These days, music videos are the best way for a budding film director to get a leg up in Hollywood. And you don’t come to the attention of a ‘big-time Hollywood producer’ by doing a slow-moving ‘sing earestly into the camera’ tear jerker, you’ve got to go for ‘high concept’ weirdness. This is where Gwen comes back into play. She’s the queen of camp. The high priestess of weird. Expect the unexpected and hang on for the ride.

Not to say there aren’t some common themes going on.

First up, Gwen has two looks: either she’s an aerobics instructor out of the mean streets of Bronx (think: ‘Fame! I’m going to live forever…’) or she’s looking like Marie Antoinette after a particularly stiff breeze has blown off most of her clothes.

Next: every video, regardless of what other weird-ass chicanery’s going on, has got to include a small bevy of Japanese schoolgirls tittering behind their dainty hands.

Other than that, all bets are well and truly off. To be honest, I can’t remember which video is which, but in any one of Gwen’s vids you’re quite likely to find a ship’s crew that looks to have been press-ganged from The Flying Zucchini Brothers; you can also expect Gwen to be wearing a doll’s house; and then, of course, there are more Japanese schoolgirls.

So Gwen, where to from here? Personally, my vote is for more Japanese schoolgirls — doesn’t matter what the subject matter, a suitably ditzy Japanese schoolgirl will instantly inject an atmosphere of intrigue, of demure kinkiness… Makes me think of what a few of these schoolgirls could have done for some of our homegrown music video howlers. Guy Sebastian is obviously in dire need of some Japanese schoolgirls. A few Japanese schoolgirls might turn Jet’s frown upside down. Imagine the surprise on Missy Higgins’ face if a half dozen Japanese schoolgirls wandered onto the set of her latest video shoot. Priceless.

I can see the future of music videos quite clearly now and Australia has virtually unlimited stocks of Japanese schoolgirls milling around Sydney Opera House — in short, we’re ideally placed to seize the initiative. Just remember: you heard it first here.

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