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On OK Go

Posted in Waxing Philosophical by unboundpage on November 8, 2010

Let me start this by confessing that I love OK Go.
I wish I could say I was an early fan – y’know, I loved them before they were loved – but I found them in college through YouTube, just like everyone else.  I happen to have an eclectic taste in music, and their latest is one of a very few albums I actually bothered to purchase this year.

Now, YouTube has created many a one-hit wonder (Oneders, for those of you with a taste for marginally obscure movies produced by Tom Hanks).  Really, it is celebrated for them.  But every so often, YouTube propels a talent that just keeps producing more and more quality entertainment.

A Million Ways

OK Go first gave us this little gem:

Things I instantly loved:
– The dance moves are at once ridiculous and clumsy, yet notably coordinated and immensely ernest.
-The lead singer is not singing.  The short bald guy with the awesomely largly glasses is the bassist, lip-syncing while the lead singer is just one of the lanky guys in the background.  What is not to love about that level of ironic non-ego?
-This is obviously filmed in someone’s back yard with a single camera, in one take.  These guys formed a band, made some rad music, and then made an album that did pretty well, but just wasn’t getting enough attention.  What is a kitchy alt-rock band to do?  Why, make something silly and put it up on YouTube, of course.  And most importantly, despite the obvious non-budget, it totally worked.

Here It Goes Again

Following quickly on the heels of the Back Yard Dance, we were gifted with the Treadmill Dance:

Things I loved, instantly and forever:
Treadmills.  There are eight of them.  They are being danced on.  With deathly seriousness and precision, but yet a relentless silliness.  I mean, this is clearly a workout, and I shudder to think of the hours of choreography and rehearsal that went into this three-minute video, but the end result is just unpolished enough to draw attention to the fact that it is one single take, and these four random guys are dancing on treadmills.  And who does that?  No really, who does that?
-The lead singer still isn’t singing.
-Pink shirt.
-Pink pants.
-Sweater vest.  (’nuff said)
-Right at 1:00 Damian (tall lanky guy who is actually the lead singer) stumbles.  This was done in one take.  Had he eaten it right there, the whole thing would have been over, and they’d have lost the whole take.  For just a split second, you can see Damian wobble back into position, and then he totally plays it off by throwing his shoulders into it and adding an extra groove to his moves.  I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the guys are doing at that point, because I’m watching him perform the hell out of that ridiculous dance.
-The salute at 1:55.  Almost everything is symmetrical up too that point.  There are a few little silly bits thrown in where Tim (the amazing lip-syncing bassist) gets out of line, but by and large, the other three are still being Very Serious and every action seems to have an equal and opposite reaction occurring on one of the other treadmills.  Then in an astounding feat of athleticism, our two Tall Lankies (Damian and Andy, the man on guitar/keyboard/backup vocals, for those keeping score) jump up onto the handles, do some very symmetrical moves, and then salute at right angles.  Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but to me that telegraphs the mischievousness of the whole thing.  The salute breaks up the order of the rest of the video as it reaches its climax, and Damian is practically winking as he points directly into the camera.
-The emphatic jacket tug at 2:01.  I’m not sure if this was choreographed or just spontaneously happened while performing, but I love it.  Andy is dancing on treadmills in a blazer.  This is ridiculous.  The blazer is obviously riding up on his shoulders the more he moves.  He could leave it be.  He could surreptitiously wiggle it down.  Instead, he grabs hold with both hands, and with a matching toss of his head, vigorously tugs it back into place right on the downbeat leading into the last verse.  If anyone doubted if these guys were having an awesome and totally intense time making this video, there’s your proof.
-The ski-walk thing.  They all do it at varying points in the video, but the Tall Lankies do it most often – the bit where they step onto one treadmill after the other, gliding in opposite directions almost like they are skiing or skating.  First of all, who thinks this up?  Secondly, who practices the move enough to make it look totally effortless?  Every once in a while, I watch this video and think, “Oh, I could do that.”  Then I give it one more second of thought, and have a vivid vision of violently face-planting on one of those treadmills.
-The Amazing Lip-Syncing Bassist is having a total runaway with himself, especially at the end.  ❤

Even when OK Go delved into the more traditional music video formats, they were still ridiculous and amazing:

Do What You Want

The Amazing Lip-Syncing Bassist is not lip-syncing, but once I got over that little disappointment, I was completely blown away by the full circus/dance party performance happening in this video – while cleverly disguised in wallpaper.  Honestly, these guys could be singing “I’m a Little Teapot” and I’d probably find it completely compelling.  It is simply icing on the cake that I happen to love their music.

Invincible

Let’s make a totally normal video of the band just rocking out, except for the part where we randomly blow shit up:

It’s no treadmill dance, and the (inappropriately) appropriate musician is lip-syncing, but I think it’s effective.

WTF?

New album!  Let’s play with a cool digital video trick!

Again, Tim is not lip-syncing, but he’s dancing very earnestly with a bright blue umbrella, and that is adorable.  The utterly random assortment of props and the dodge ball fit in the middle are fantastic as well.  Once again, extensive planning and very careful, if apparently casual execution is evident, and the final result is satisfyingly surreal.

This Too Shall Pass

Early this year they offered up yet another insane and highly conceptualized video that made my inner band geek squeal with delight:

It’s filmed live.  It features the Notre Dame marching band in Swamp Thing uniforms.  It… caused some critical friction with the label that ultimately spawned an entirely new label and a second version of the video:

Suffice it to say the things I love about this video are far too numerous to list here.  The Rube-Goldberg machine is simply epic.  Having built a comparatively tiny one myself for a high school physics class, I can fully appreciate the difficulty of the beat-by-beat precision with which the monstrosity was constructed, as well as the creativity that went into the many (many, many… many) parts.*  When you also consider that this contraption started out as a very random and fairly artistic brainstorm of Damian (as, I can only assume, did all the other videos mentioned here), and was brought to life by the combined powers of these four nerds, 20-some-odd actual engineers and… State Farm Insurance?  Well, you can clearly see that the collaboration wrought something wonderful.

*My particular favorites:  the ball bearings disappearing on beat, the spoons-on-glasses solo, the flags, the Mars rover, the smashing of the television, and the utter chaos at the end.  And the paint cannon finale, obviously.

I did not think they could possibly top this.

I was mistaken.

I realize I’m a full month behind what I can only hope was a massive celebration throughout all of the Interwebs, but this is simply unbelievable:

White Knuckles

-A dozen dogs.
-A goat.
-A random assortment of IKEA furniture.
-One (appropriately) inappropriate lip-syncing bassist.
One take.

As I watched this for the first time, the only thought that could fully process was the repeated memory of my musician aunt first warning me of the dangers of performing with small children and animals.

About halfway through I convinced myself that this really couldn’t be a visual effects trick, and upon completion of the first viewing, immediately ran back to Dear Roommie’s room, where I insisted she watch, so I could watch her reaction to be sure mine was justified.  (Jake, meanwhile, obliviously wandered around and tried to lick my face, only proving that while he is adorable, he is not as awesome as the dogs in the video.)

The video is a three-and-a-half minute celebration of unmitigated audacity, coupled with their old ironic non-ego, as it totally gives the impression of the dogs having trained the band.  And if the joy of the little guy jumping at 2:35 and the gleefully wagging tail at the end of the song weren’t enough, the pitch for animal rescue at the very end just leaves you with real, earnest warm fuzzies.

One last reason why I love OK Go:  They keep an extensive collection of behind-the-scene videos on their YouTube channel.  You can watch Dan, the OK Go drummer, locked in a staring contest with Animal, the Muppet drummer.  You can see the creative process behind the latest videos, which somehow doesn’t ruin the effect at all, but makes the effort that much more impressive.  You can share in the silly little moments that they just decided they wanted to give to the fans.  And what is not to love about artists who love their fans back?

(We will not be discussing the celebrity blog on which I first found this video, because then I would have to explain how I came to be on that blog, and, well, that would lead to some embarrassing revelations.)

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