Beyond Video Chicks: What Happened To Music Videos With a Message?


There is an impressive lineage that link artists with social responsibility. Impressive in the sense that we rarely see thoughtfully crafted videos or even lyrics of substance speaking to prevalent issues of today.

There is nothing baffling about the lack of social responsibility artists have. It stops the paycheck. Taking a stand on certain issues has a wayward effect on capitalizing revenues. Social responsibility makes perfect ‘cents’ if it makes good economic sense and seldom it does not.

Marsha Ambrosius recently came out with her newest video, “Late Nights & Early Mornings” directed by J. Erving. Before this video, Ambrosius made a statement with her powerful video “Far Away” combating the blanketed stereotypes of homosexuality and bullying in the Black community. With her latest video, she is promoting safe sex for the title track from her solo debut Late Nights & Early Mornings. Ambrosius explores how safe sex can be enjoyable for couples and the risks of unprotected sex. She shows the opposite side happens when another couple decides to engage in unprotected sex, which leads to spreading the HIV virus. By putting some ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs in a video depicting the message of HIV was brilliant. Simple, yet effective.

So, where have all our socially Black artists gone?

Even with record label support, advocating on a platform becomes personal and allows for vulnerability. For an artist to attack social issues like homosexuality, domestic abuse and even disease prevention really puts a spotlight on their inner beliefs. Nobody is going to push an issue they do not believe in. There are plenty songs out you can easily catch a groove to and still feel no connection with the artist, yet their music stays on heavy rotation.

Female mainstream artists like Ambrosius, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu must deal with the backlash and banter of their strong viewpoints. Most of the backlash shows when it comes to record sales and accolades from peers. Another trouble artists face is not the pressure from record labels but establishing longevity. Artists should be able to preach, practice and participate openly in social issues without feeling the negative subversions of fiasco.

Even the newly found redhead Rihanna has taken a stab at the issue of rape with her “Man Down.” In her music video, she depicted the retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability. Many critiques and social groups attacked the video for it’s violent content and it’s juvenile message of retaliation. At the end of the day, all people saw was murder and challenged their views against Rihanna and BET. Can there be a win-win for both?

History alludes to artists having to stand up for civil rights such as segregation and women’s rights. We all know the story of how Black artists had to perform for their Caucasian counterparts. After a while, many of our beloved artists had to take a stand against segregation that led to Marvin Gaye asking, “What’s Going On?” Our roots help motivate the convergence of different paradigms by being forced to speak out against injustices and issues that hit close to home.

Music will always be music. Music will always be a business. Like any business, trying to find the proper balance isn’t always simple but a conscious effort must be made. Everyone doesn’t have the tools and resources to be socially conscious, rather the budget to spend on pounds and pounds of hair being tossed around in a video or glitterized crotch-less costumes. Bling! Not every artist is going to be socially conscious; however, we need to challenge artists to deliver stronger messages.

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