Concluding Thoughts on Cross Culturalism in Music Videos

Though the sample of music videos I selected were not extensive and cannot possibly speak for every music video that exist, they were certainly popular within their respective cultures even though they were attempting to replicate another. For “Come and Get It”, Selena Gomez potentially damaged the culture which she was trying to replicate. Whether the usage of the Indian culture was because she was simply fascinated by it or because the sexualization of it would allow the song to become more popular, only the artist and producers will know. However, in the contexts of “Tudo Bom” and “Vivir Mi Vida”, the usage of culture was simply to add to the party aspect of the respective music videos, as if to say we, as human beings, have one thing in common – the desire to have fun. Because music videos are largely interpreted as argument for larger social contexts, this appropriation of culture, while bastardizing the original culture, may contribute to a more inclusive environment on the internet. Though it will be consumed primarily in the country which it is from, it will also be spread across multiple others. In general, depending on how the music video is made, it will either bring the cultures together or create stereotypes that will most likely damage a sense of self.

Sources:

Sookeung, Jung, and Li Hongmei. “Global Production, Circulation, and Consumption of Gangnam Style.” International Journal of Communication, vol. 8.
Walker, Gregg B., and Melinda A. Bender. “Is It More than Rock and Roll? Considering Music Video as Argument.” Argumentation and Advocacy, vol. 31, no. 2, p. 64.

“Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony

This music video, by Marc Anthony, is an American interpretation of Spanish culture and music in New York. While the other two music videos showed more separate cultures from other countries, this video attempts to capture a sub-culture that already exists in America, the one that he grew up in.

The lyrics themselves are very similar to “Tudo Bom”, in that the main message of the song is to just live life as it comes. The entire music video is shot in East Harlem in New York, where Marc Anthony was born, in a black and white aesthetic. Within this music video are, as per usual, beautiful women singing along. Compared to the other two music videos, “Vivir Mi Vida” portrays a more interactive timbre where Marc Anthony remains on top.

The entire song is very inclusive except for the idea that Anthony remains on the stage the entire time. There is not a single English word present and the message remains that today should simply be lived, because that is the only thing that can be done. It shows the sub-culture of LatinX population in New York, a unique culture of its own, and has become a phenomena across the board in the United States.

“Come and Get It” by Selena Gomez

“Come and Get It” by Selena Gomez is an American interpretation of Indian culture. Though there is no reference to the culture within the lyrics themselves, the instrumental drums mixed with a modern beat indicates Indian influence. The music video as well utilizes female dancers and imitates classical Indian dance moves, especially in the hand gestures. However, despite these representations this music video is arguably a bastardization of the Indian culture in the way that the music video sexualizes the culture without addressing it properly.

The music video opens in silence, with a sensual image of Selena wearing red lipstick, and a wide view of a lavender field.  We then begin to hear the Indian influence through the heavy usage of drums, and see the image of several men in turbans playing the Tabla, thus confirming the Indian influence on the music video. Briefly following, the beat drums and electronic music layers over the drums while Selena sings to the camera, “when you’re ready come and get it”. Following this the music video continues with a mix of modern and classical Indian dance, wind blowing in a lavender field, and Selena engaging with a man, thus enticing the female gaze in addition to the male gaze.

While it is, overall, an incredibly enjoyable and catchy song, the music video maintains entirely different implications about the Indian culture. Though it is lighthearted and fun to watch, to the untrained mind it is entirely misrepresenting an Indian culture. This does not indicate that Indian culture does not include sex and sexual experiences, for those aspects are certainly a part of every culture. Rather, it implies sexualization in every part of the Indian culture by only showing that as opposed to other aspects, like prayer.

Introductory Thoughts on Cross Culturalism in Music Videos

Since 1981, music videos have been an integral part to the music industry. Adding a video to a preexisting audio file adds an extra few months of production value to the music, allowing a more interactive way in which to engage the audience in addition to adding more meaning to the original tune. Because music videos tend to be shared globally, they have also begun to reach significance within the other cultures. One can see this especially with PSY’s global phenomenon, “Gangnam Style”. Though it was produced and primarily consumed in South Korea, where it was created, it became one of the most popular songs ever created (Jung, 2790). However, this song can be seen of as a parody of American cultures – thus is is imperative to consider whether such a portrayal could be potentially harmful to the culture in question. In the following posts, I will analyze three distinctive music videos attempting to replicate the culture of another. Because music video can be considered an argument in itself (Walker 1), the importance of exploring separate examples of cross culturalism in music videos remains apparent.

“Tudo Bom” – Static and Ben El Tavori

This music video was created in Israel and is an interpretation of Brazilian culture. The words ‘Tudo Bom’ mean nothing in Hebrew, however in Portugese it is casual language for “all is well/everything is fine”. It can be thought of as a Portugese parallel to the Costa Rican phrase ‘Pura Vida’ or the Hawaiian word ‘Aloha’ – it can be used to say hello, how are you, I am well, essentially all polite conversation. Israeli artists Static and Ben Al Tevori incorporated the traditionally fun parts of the Brazilian culture and incorporated them into the music video by emanating a sense of power, sex, and money unique to the wealthier parts of Brazil, such as the party capital of Rio.

In the lyrics themselves, key words and phrases from Brazilian culture were incorporated to indicate that Tel Aviv, the party hub of Israel, can compare to other party hubs like Sao Paolo, as referred to in the first stanza. Phrases like “De me uma batida legal”, “isso nao combina com voce, me da um samba”, and individual words integrated into the lyrics themselves make up a celebratory mish mash of Brazilian and Israeli culture. However, when watching the music video itself it automatically has English subtitles, and one would not recognize the difference in language if they are not a Portuguese or Hebrew speaker. Even the actions and dances are somehow translated within the music video. Colors and beats are used to create a graphic, somehow symbolizing Brazilian dance and behavior, which are then placed and swirled around Israeli dancers. The subtitles then say “Israelis trying to dance like Brazilians”, and shows multiple dancers attempting to do some sort of odd, jerky movement. The music video then resolves, at the very end, where everyone is doing the same dance as opposed to individual twitchy movements. However, I would argue it was a misrepresented dance – they were not doing anything that was particularly Brazilian, in fact it was rather standard regarding a modern sort of twist on dancing. Static called for a samba when he told everyone to dance in the video, yet no one did a true samba. A samba is a partner dance and has very little to do with backflips and back hand springs, both of which were included to add to the excitement of the final dance.

The message that ended up coming across in the final dance is that the viewer should look at Brazilian culture and Israeli culture in order to have a good time, because everything is “tudo bom”. Yet much of the Israeli culture was inpressed upon whatever Brazilian references they were trying to make, due to the fact that Brazil is much more known for their celebration habits. By associating events such as Carnival with places such as Tel Aviv, it can almost be treated as a marketing strategy for travelers to come to Israel. They even mentioned Carnival in the very beginning of the music video, stating that all Israel needed to do was create a carnival and everything would be “tudo bom”. Easy.

Within the music video the two cultures are integrated in that it takes place in Tel Aviv and the dancers and singers are all Israeli, however they somewhat partake in Brazilian dances and traditions. However, as an English speaker myself, I cannot completely find a proper translation of the Hebrew language, though I am somewhat familiar with Portuguese. In this manner I will not completely be able to analyze what the words in the song are, simply because the translations that I can find are all direct, and that does not accurately portray the meaning itself of the music. Israeli attempts to appropriate Brazilian culture ultimately succeed, because this song plays on every radio and the music video has over 305,000 views in a few months.