Images of America -

Analyzing Music Videos: Compare and Contrast

Integrated U. S. History and American Literature Class
Deborah Aufdenspring and Sandra Mings-Lamar

New Technology High School, Napa, CA

(Quick Links to related pages)

Analyzing Music Videos
Compare and Contrast

Note: the video segments on this page do not work. They are here for example. Download time is simply too long. Students may view a working video page in class.

"How Come How Long" by Babyface with Stevie Wonder and "Nowhere USA" by Dean Miller are two very different songs and videos. Yet both portray valid images of America.

One assignment in this unit, should you choose to accept it, is to compare and contrast two videos and their images of America. Let's take the Babyface and Miller videos as examples:

All pictures and video clips are ©1997 by their respective record companies.
"Nowhere USA" takes place in a small, rural community. "How Come How Long" has an urban setting.


The living conditions of the characters portrayed in the videos are, therefore, quite different. Where do you think these places are? Why do you think one video was filmed in sunlight and the other in darkness?


Life seems simple and safe in one video, full of problems in the other. One representation of this is in the film clips above. How do the videos present this dichotomy? Do you think this is true?


Children are splashing in one video. A child silently weeps in the other. Are children happy in one place but not the other? Does this seem likely? What images support this thesis in "Nowhere USA"? What images support this thesis in "How Come How Long"?


Values are sung about and pictured in both videos. What values? What lyrics and images explain those values? Which video advocates change? How? Or, do they both advocate change? Change from what? To what?


Both videos portray various ethnic groups. How? Why? Do you think the ethnic portrayals in "Nowhere USA" are accurate? Why? 


What do these clips of people walking say about the type of video and, possibly, the values within them?


Both videos use metaphor and symbols, in the above cases, a road and reflections in a ceiling fan. What do the road and reflections have to do with their respective videos? What are other symbols and metaphors in the two videos? Is one video more sophisticated? How? How do you know?

There are lots of other comparisons and contrasts to make between these two videos. What are they?

Quick Links

Introduction - Analyzing Music Videos
Music Video Assignment
Analysis Tips
Comparing and Contrasting Music Videos
Grading Rubric

Stills of Sample Videos, with Sample Analysis Questions:
Billy Joel.....Erykah Badu.....Pop up Videos.....Tracy Lawrence

Rage Against the Machine.....Vince Gill.....Van Halen.....Aqua.....12 other videos

For Teachers...

For examples of recent student projects on analyzing music videos:
Student Work

E-mail me.

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