Images of America -
Analyzing Music Videos: Other Videos
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)
There are twelve other videos on this year's class tape. Some are third
generation copies and a little blurry. If you wish to analyze one these
videos, and the screen is not sharp enough, please see Ms. A for the master
Babyface with Stevie Wonder.....Dean
Miller.....John Michael Montgomery
Lee Greenwood.....Billy Joel (Leningrad).....Billy
Ray Cyrus.....John Anderson
Garth Brooks (We Shall Be Free),(The
Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA),(War),(Atlantic
This is a very topical video about violence toward women. What is the
title of the video asking? How come what? How long what? What does your
research show about the social problem addressed by this video?
"How Come How Long" - Babyface with
What do you think contributes to the problem? What do you think might help
solve the problem? What do Babyface and Stevie Wonder think will help?
A common image in this video is reflections, reflections in the eyes, reflections
on ceiling fan blades, etc. Why was this image chosen? How does the weather
in the outside scenes contribute to the video? There are several brief shots
of people in the opening of the video. Who are they? What did they do in
The ending of this video is ironic - the ending is different from what you
might expect. Why is it ironic? What recent legal developments have spoken
to this issue?
Some images in "How Come How Long" are in direct contrast to the
images in "Nowhere USA" (the following video). Contrast the two.
"Nowhere USA" - Dean Miller
On the surface, this is a typical country music video about small town
life in the "good old USA." But the images are much deeper than
the lyrics. Where is Miller's small town likely to be located? What do the
images say about how both country music and small town Amrica are changing?
What are the "country values" that Miller's lyrics talk about?
How do the images support this?
Interview somebody from a small town. How accurate is the video?
Some images in "Nowhere USA" are in direct contrast to the images
in "How Come How Long" (the preceding video). Contrast the two.
"No Man's Land" - John Michael
In this video, Mr. Montgomery pays tribute to single mothers who have
overcome danger and difficulty. The phrase "no man's land" is
usually used to indicate a place full of danger and difficulty. Is the title
also partly a pun? What social problems cause single motherhood? What are
the causes of these problems? Can society change to solve these problems?
The photograph of Jaqueline Kennedy is one of several that refer to historical
events associated with the video's theme of single motherhood. Can you find
others? What do they show?
One of the recurring images in this video is broken windows? What does this
image mean? What other images are used? Why an iron? Add 2 or 3 more.
"God Bless the USA" - Lee
Love of country is the bottom line in Lee Greenwood's video. What images
represent that? Many of the images are designed to evoke the past. The image
of the family and neighbors around the table is evocative of what famous
American artist from the 1930's to the early 1960's? Where on the internet
can you find out about that artist?
What picture is pointed out in the photo album? What message from the lyrics
does this underscore. Who do you think the young man is? Compare the message
of this video with Billy Ray Cyrus's "Some Gave All" video (see
Why are there "Public Auction" signs visible at the end of the
video? Would most farmers have Mr. Greenwoods attitudes?
This video focuses on children -- children growing up in the United States,
and children growing up in the USSR/Russia, from WW2 in the 1940s to those
growing up in the 1980s. The very end of the video shows the theme of the
video -- reconciliation. Part of your analysis of this video should be a
consideration of the the validity of Billy Joel's theme. Is reconciliation
between these two countries possible and/or advisable? What recent news
stories back up your conclusion about this question?
"Leningrad" - Billy Joel
"Some Gave All" - Billy
Billy Ray Cyrus's video is a tribute to Americans who died fighting in
various wars, and to veterans of those wars who returned. A simple explanation
of the song and video is that the dead gave all and veterans gave some,
but other images in the video show a variety of people who gave some or
all. Who were they? Are there some people who gave some or all that Mr.
Cyrus left out?
The opening image of a flag at half mast, combined with the video being
shot in black and white gives the video a particular tone. What is that?
The name "Sandy Caine" is mentioned twice in the video. Who do
you think he was?
The video is full of imagery. Some images are: Cyrus's T-shirt; the mother
of a veteran; people watching TV in the late '60's / early 70's. What other
images are significant? Why? Why were these images chosen?
"We Shall Be Free" - Garth
Mr. Brooks, himself, describes this video as a tribute to the inner strenth
and inner courage of humans. Of all the videos, it is the least political,
and the easiest to analyze. The images are often stark, often touching,
and range through a great variety of national and international issues including,
racism, reconciliation, the importance of families, caring, religion, police
brutality, poverty, and more.
These relatively old videos (some of the earliest made) have only a few
context rich images. Their themes, however are both clear and political.
In an interesting historical error, President Reagan recommended "Born
in the USA" to US teenagers for what he believed was its pro-USA, patriotic
views. What is a patriotic view? Is there one patriotic view? Many? What
is the difference between patriotic and unpatriotic? These are some of the
questions you should consider when you analyze this video.
"Born In the USA" and "War"
- Bruce Springsteen
Because they have few images, the two videos above should be analyzed together.
"The Change" - Garth Brooks
Unlike most of the other videos, this one focuses on one tragic historical
event. The lyrics, however, extend the meaning beyond the event to a more
encompassing theme. In analyzing the video, you need to analyze the history
behind the event. What happened in Oklahoma City and, most especially, why?
What does Mr. Brooks think did change? What will not change, according to
Mr. Brooks? What does this say about Mr. Brooks' view of the United States
and its people? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
"Atlantic City" - Bruce
This is the most difficult video to analyze. It deals with the influence
of the gambling industry on the culture and life of Atlantic City. Anaysis
of the video needs to include the history of the gambling industry on politics
and life. Who controls the industry? What are the connections between the
industry and politics? How has the face of the city changed since gambling
was legalized? How have people's lives and incomes changed?
Select this video only if you are up to a challenge. When grading your project,
the difficulty of the video will be considered.
"Seminole Wind" - John Anderson
This video, approved by the Seminole Nation, pays tribute to the Seminoles
and their native land. Analysis of the video should include information
about what Anderson is saying about the Seminoles and the United States.
What do you think Anderson's theme is? What is happening in the Everglades?
What images are images of the tribe's history? Which images are modern?
How does Anderson put these images together? Do old and new fit together
well in the video? Do they fit together easily in real life?
Introduction - Analyzing Music Videos
Music Video Assignment
Comparing and Contrasting Music Videos
Stills of Sample Videos, with Sample Analysis Questions:
Billy Joel.....Erykah Badu.....Pop
up Videos.....Tracy Lawrence
Rage Against the Machine.....Vince
For examples of recent student projects on analyzing music videos:
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