One of the few independent artists shortlisted for this year’s Mercury Prize award has been dragged down by their label, thanks to the depths of anti-creative freedom. PMR Records pulled Disclosure's "Help Me Loose Your Mind" from YouTube today, after a small backlash of comments indicating the use of drugs = a good time. A statement on the record label's Tumblr reads: "PMR feel very strongly against the glamorisation of drugs in any capacity." The reason behind PMR pulling the video is uncertain, as a few negative comments cannot be the sole reason for a label to destroy the freedom and artistry of one of their selling artists. If so, then Disclosure will certainly be very frustrated with the way their label has taken action.
The music video has always been a faux pas in the music industry. It used to be a way of promoting music through the art form of sound and vision. MTV popularised the music video in the 80s, but the origins date back to musicals on film. One of the first great music videos was used as the opening to Bob Dylan's documentary film Dont Look Back. Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was used as a promotional piece of video for the film, and was later known to be its music video. This simplicity of holding up cards with references to the sound has been replicated by many artists, and Dylan's position firmly accepted as one of the great music video influences.
It went from being promotional material, to an art form in the 80s. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is still regarded one of the best music videos due to its choreography and story. The beauty of video is the audience’s reaction and how that video is received by different people. Some see "Thriller" as an iconic horror music short film; others see it as a dance recital gone wrong. It was MTV that highlighted the music video, and labels invested millions of cash in to these videos because of the promotion and fame they could garner. It wasn't just a simple smile in front of a camera; it was a dance, or a skit that pushed the video to the top of the pre-album list. Many artists have gained fame purely through the music video. One example being the Grammy award winning work of OK Go, for their treadmill dance routine on "Here It Goes Again". OK Go did something fun, and the expectation has been on their heads ever since "Here It Goes Again" hit the internet. Directors of music videos have changed their focus from promotion and what would look good on TV, to what reaction would work well on the internet. It's all about what sells. Music videos of the 90s and today reference many things, mostly: sex, money, drugs, and alcohol. If it's not just in the lyrics like Rammstein "Pussy", with its hardcore German lyrics: "You have a pussy, I have a dick," then it's more than likely in a message portrayed through an image on the screen.
Now many music videos get banned, mostly from media governing bodies or website rules, such as YouTube's stance on violence which has banned many in recent years - most notably M.I.A's "Born Free". This video is a great example of rule, or an ideological stance getting in the way of creative expression. The fact YouTube banned "Born Free" in the USA and the UK pushed audiences to find links to "Born Free", and see exactly why it was banned. It depicted a dystopian world, which isn't too distant. Red haired kids were the pull factor to M.I.A's anger of genocide in her motherland. YouTube didn't find this appropriate, and banned it. "Born Free" is the perfect example of a music video being taken out of context. It’s not against red haired kids at all, it's simply using them for the message - "Born Free" was fighting violence with violence.
When it comes to drugs, the legality and visual aspects differ. If you listen to Spacemen 3, you'll understand what it's like to hear an album based around drug use. Spacemen 3's music has never been banned, even though they sing about lucid dreams, bad trips, great trips, and a comedown - all on one album called The Perfect Prescription. Let's take this one step further. Primal Scream's 1991 classic Screamadelica glamourises the use of acid. Without this connection to drug use, Screamadelica wouldn’t be the classic album it is today. If you watch the video to "Higher Than the Sun", you'll notice the references to drugs, not just in the title. Drug use is a serious issue in the music industry, and reports suggest it’s only getting worse. It's still a choice artists choose to take, and a choice audiences choose to take. Spacemen 3 famously released a compilation titled Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To. We all know it's out there, and we all have a choice of accepting it as art, or rejecting it as a bad influence. It's not often drug use becomes influential in banned music videos, because of the choice. If you think the 60s psychedelic artists like The 13th Floor Elevators weren’t glamorising the use of drugs, then you're an idiot. Many of my favourite songs have referenced the use of drugs, or highlight drug use through messages - The Velvet Underground's "Heroin" is a great example of this. But showing an image of drug use on video, is different to listening to it... right?
I don't think so. If Disclosure's video to "Help Me Loose Your Mind" was removed for depiction of drug use, then I want to see it. If this wasn't a story, I wouldn’t care less about seeing their music video. The fact Disclosure's record label had removed it from their channel only publicises what the video contains. M.I.A's "Born Free" was so enticing because it was banned, and the same goes for anything else that has been censored or banned in the past - a.k.a Sex Pistols. Censorship can be the most useless aspect of art. It holds back creative expression and when someone can't express themselves either through sound, or vision, then something's definitely wrong with their superiors. This brings me to Miley Cyrus who I couldn’t care less about. She can twerk all she wants and expose herself on industrial machines for simple messages. It might bring a backlash of sexism, hate, or mardy feminists moaning about sexuality... But that's the way the music and video industry has worked for decades. Artists and directors behind the product of Miley Cyrus know exactly what they're doing, they know exactly what sells and how to sell it. Cyrus is just a bi-product of their own vision, and she's bought in to this train ride because she knows how famous and rich she can get through art. And "Wrecking Ball" is art in itself, just like M.I.A's "Born Free" and the removed Disclosure video whatever it may look like. You can’t hold back artistry, and it will be a huge shame if Disclosure don't reveal their music video.