During the past few days, two new music videos appeared that seemed to provide an example of each extreme answer to the perennial question — how far does one have to go to connect with fans and to make an impact?
The first video was for a song by Urwa Hocane, the actress and one-half of the current ‘it’ couple in Pakistani entertainment along with her fiancé, Farhan Saeed. Both Farhan and Urwa — Furwa if you must — have been extremely visible over the past year.
They’ve appeared in videos where they’re asked to answer questions about each other, pictures of their Eiffel Tower proposal was on every blog and magazine, and they performed an elaborate dance medley at the LSAs.
Seen cynically, the entire relationship can feel like an elaborate PR campaign, with both performers playing out the expected roles of celebrity power couples in the modern age.
At the same time, this isn’t exactly a criticism either. The couple have understood what the modern audience wants and they’ve provided it. Urwa Hocane's 'Ao Lay Kar Chaloun' has a lot of autotune and clunky choreography but is still an agreeable pop song that does most things right.
It is hard to not view the song and video with skepticism, and a feeling of cashing in on audience expectations. At the same time, you can’t help but admire the execution of such a clichéd concept by pretending to be meta and self-aware when it clearly isn’t.
The video shows off Urwa as a glamorous star (which as per the PR narrative, she is) who finds true happiness in doing the simple little things. It works very hard at showing how Urwa the celebrity often gets jaded, while the ‘real’ Urwa finds pleasure in simple things like dancing with children. The star comes across as extremely sexy, while the real person is shown in almost a childlike girlish light, bounding along in the sunshine holding onto a bagpack. The entire effect is to make her both desirable while also maintaining the desire for her to be ‘innocent’.
The other video to come out was for 'The Desert Journey' by The D/A Method. In an extremely broad sense, the video also works with several cliches — sex, violence and deception in a brothel — and executes them brilliantly. Yet what sets it apart is that rather than looking to create a meta-narrative about the performer, it looks to bring a very visceral experience of the song.
Just in terms of the skills involved, the video is jaw-dropping. A single-take shoot always brings the excitement of its precise choreography, but what elevates this video is the way the camera rushes through a tapestry of different night colours. The location is marvellous, while the acting is tight enough to create a vortex around the screen as the story hurtles through it.
In the first few viewings, the sounds of the dialogue seem to overwhelm the music, and the video feels more like a short film. Yet the genius of the video is that it articulates the emotions of the music, which means that every time you are reminded of the images they come intertwined with the song. In other words, it does a great job of making you feel the song rather than just listening to it.
It was easy for me to decide which video I liked better, yet after some time I couldn’t deny that I was glad to see both.
Pop music in Pakistan has always been intimately linked with music videos, and they have always been at the heart of any boom in the music scene.
At a time when each one of us walks around with a camera in our pockets and constantly shoots videos, it is difficult to avoid the need for videos. The economics of it don’t make sense at the moment, which is why we have seen two extremes - one video which serves entirely to service a larger narrative beyond the music, and another that solely look to explore the song and nothing else. But it is extremely important that we keep seeing more of each kind.
Patari Top Charts
The country seems to have gone for nostalgia over the past fortnight, as Junaid Jamshed returns right at the top with his 'Us Rah Par' number one on the charts. He narrowly beats out Noori’s latest collaboration, 'Dil Ki Qasam', at number two. Mooroo's superb debut album, Pehli, has slowly started sliding down the charts but still ends up with five songs in the top twenty. There’s also multiple appearances for the Dobara Phir Se OST, which is a really good album overall.
There were also some great releases that didn’t make the charts this fortnight. There are two 'Chai Wala' songs (!), new releases by Noorzadeh Raja and Jamboree, and a really intriguing little instrumental called '5 to 4' by Saad Hayat.