Friday, April 15, 2011

80's Obscure - When Music Videos Had Impact, Featuring Bronksi Beat's 'Smalltown Boy' & Toto's 'Africa'

A still from 'Smalltown Boy' by Bronski Beat
'No, you never cried to them, just to your soul...'

The first time I saw 'Smalltown Boy' is an experience I'll never forget because it made me cry. I felt enormous empathy for the protagonist and really didn't know why. I was young and I didn't actually know what it meant for someone to be gay. I only saw that he was terribly alienated and it seemed so real and incredibly sad that it tore me up. 

The song itself is very moving, even without any visual representation - but this was the first time I realized a music video can have great emotional impact. In fact, there is more power and gravitas in the video for 'Smalltown Boy' than in an alarming number of feature-length films. Another video that attempts a similar storytelling angle is Pat Benatar's 'Love Is A Battlefield', but hers is over-the-top and unintentionally kitschy. "Smalltown Boy' manages to tell one of the most poignant stories I've ever seen in just five minutes. I still get terribly choked up when I watch it now. Given the recent, long-overdue attention to the issue of bullying, it also feels quite current.

Watch it for yourself here...
But 80's videos that have an impact are not necessarily sad ones. For the most part, they have simple but unique visual qualities that are no longer present in music videos.
A still from 'Africa' by Toto
Toto's video for 'Africa' is not as emotionally moving but its impact lies in a unique aesthetic quality that makes for a satisfying experience. This video made me want to travel to 'Africa' and it just feels warm and inviting somehow. Again, that is a great visual representation of how the song, itself, sounds and feels - which lends to its cohesion. It appears they didn't have much to work with (and were on a tight budget) but they still managed to create the right feeling. 

Check out 'Africa' below...


  1. Nice write-up! Africa by Toto is a classic tune!

  2. Thank you - and yes, 'Africa' is a great one :)