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Moving beyond brief music videos extends artistic reach, message

A line of people wearing black suits, with their hands stuck to their sides, slowly lifted their arms in unison while the music transitioned from the ending of one song to the first ambient whispers of the next in Solange’s musical film: “When I Get Home.” The compelling visual was the beginning of the segment for her song “Almeda” in the musical film. The short film accompanied the release of her latest album, also entitled “When I Get Home,” on March 1. 

The album included features from a variety of high-profile artists like Gucci Mane, Sampha, Playboi Carti and Earl Sweatshirt, among others. While singing and writing the enthralling songs on the album, Knowles produced and collaborated with a variety of creators to design the visual representation of the album. But she isn’t the first to pair her entire album with a curated visual piece that acts as a separate medium of expression of her work. She is the first of many to incorporate a visual concept of her songs.  

Over the past couple of years, the music video scene has been redefined by artists all over the music industry. From Solange’s work to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Earl Sweatshirt’s ”Nowhere, Nobody,” music videos and musical short films have become another form of storytelling. While select songs are turned into visual creative masterpieces, the goal of the generic music video has been redefined to include a conceptual narrative. 

This component of the music is its separate form of expression because it allows artists to visually represent the meaning, inspiration and message behind the song. It's a form of musical and artistic proclamation that conveys a piece of an artist’s identity and offers a glimpse into the creator’s world. 

In conversation with with art curator Antwaun Sargent, Knowles explained what producing this short film meant for her. She called producing her “heart and soul,” and said: “Speaking my truth, it is rather difficult as a producer to be reduced to just the songwriter or just the artist when you spend 18 hours editing one drum sound,” according to Pitchfork

Musical short films and music video production is something artists like Solange use to convey a side of their identity that the world may not know, all while making sure that they are still telling a story close to their heart in their music. But there is also a commercial appeal in putting out visual representations of songs and albums. 

When Frank Ocean decided to release his visual album “Endless,” people all over the world took 45 minutes out of their day to not only watch, but also take to Twitter to discuss and analyze the album. The black-and-white feature with no concrete narrative wasn’t something that most would take the time of their day to watch if it didn’t have a mainstream artist like Ocean's name attached to it. 

The same can be said about Beyoncé’s captivating album “Lemonade.” The commercial appeal behind such works is the virtue of having a mainstream artist’s status attached to it ,which uplifts its value and turns even the most "out-there" art to a popular trend in the industry, according to Esquire

The visual component not only acts as its own form of artistic expression, but also sells really well to the fans and to the public. It brings in more money and allows artists to take full advantage of putting their work out on a multimedia platform. With the media industry expanding to various mediums, these short films reinforce the multi-faceted nature of art and music. 

Time after time, it has been proven that visuals and images can convey a greater emotional impact than words, according to a historical study by Facing History and Ourselves. It allows fans to feel closer to the artists' messages and concepts behind their work. In Prince’s musical drama film “Purple Rain,” the narration makes a crucial point in the first 20 seconds of the trailer. It said that “before he created music, he lived every bit of it.”  

This is what short films accompanying albums offer fans. They get to interpret what living through that music feels like. Solange’s newest album was rooted in her concept of home and delved into her Texan roots. A fan consuming her work gets to do more than only listen to what home feels like for her. Now, through this medium, they get to see it and interpret what this means for themselves.  

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