More R&B Music Video History

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the videos have an unseen voice introducing the majority of them, and then show a live performance with very few cuts, if any at all. Some are in color, such as Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” video from the 1950s, while others are in black and white, like Ray Charles’ 1960s “What I’d Say.” The lyrics of these songs were slower than contemporary R&B music, and more about romantic love than sexual love.

In the ‘70s the color of the videos got a lot more vibrant, for example in The Jackson 5’s “I want You Back.” However, the videos were still completely performance-based and had few cuts. The lyrics were still predominantly about women, but about love instead of sex.

In the ‘80s, the videos were still performance based and set on a single stage. However, the songs got a little more provocative and these backgrounds a little more complex, with more cuts. For example, Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” music video has bright flashing lights that flash with the beat, and have more cuts in the video including a split screen in which he is shown twice on the same screen. His lyrics proclaim that “I’m going to rock with you all night.”

In the 1990s, music videos started portraying Contemporary R&B music. The videography became much more advanced, with many cuts and vibrant, clear colors. The videos were no longer completely performance based, but instead contained shots portraying multiple scenes that were cut to throughout the videos in order to tell a visual story or create a theme. For example, one of the most popular R&B songs from the 1990s was “No Diggity”  by BLACKstreet feat. Dr. Dre. There are people in the video, predominantly women wearing scant outfits, who are not the artists performing; instead they are used as sex symbols to set the scene. The cuts in this video match the beat of the music, and the video cuts to many scenes that vary in location, color scheme, and people. The lyrics of this song are also very sexual, matching the women portrayed in the video. The women are also dancing very sexually and provocatively (their knee pads are a nice touch). This style of contemporary music video continued into the 2000’s, with more complex storylines and dance based videos like Usher’s “Yeah!”  music video that mixes dancing with showing scenes of Usher with a girl throughout the video. As videography has continued to become more advanced, music videos made in the past few years have even more interesting and complex ideas, some of which involve special effects such as Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” music video that involves lots of cool colors, shadows, and added images like lips that give the video a less realistic, more artistic flair that matches the lyrics and beat of the song.