The dance-based single-camera-shot pop music video is a classic form. There’s something thrillingly real and live, yet bizarrely staged about them that creates a sense of ‘could-never-do-it’ awe or ‘have-a-go’ accessibility for the viewer, depending on the example.
What is it about the single-shot music video that is so enduringly appealing? A lot of it is down to the camera-led experience, which mimics our experience of watching live performance – and the excitement and intimacy that comes with it. We watch life in one single shot, and because these videos are filmed (or appear to be filmed) in one take we know they’re real, that they were live, that the whole choreography actually happened at least once like that – and we can feel in awe of the rehearsal required (and then maybe even rehearse the moves ourselves).
The 21st century has produced the best of this single-camera-meets-dance form. There’s a captivating adaptability to the form that means it keeps being re-invented while retaining its impact (and ‘shareability’). They’ve come a long way: the Spice Girls made their hotel party meander Wannabe in 1996 but the choreography is only worthy of the school playground, and thankfully most of us have moved on. (Some might say that it’s a good thing that pop-stars like Beyoncé now nick their moves from contemporary dance royalty like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.)