Analysing Music Videos

Watching music videos usually provokes many student responses, but the most appealing is the level of engagement. Most students are more than willing to verbally express their opinions, yet moving from subjective discussion to writing analytical extended responses requires commitment. Read more on the Reflective Writing page.

Scroll down to read about different music videos that have proven effective in engaging high school students.

Download my Textual Analysis Table then view the text to take your own notes. Alternatively, your could use my Film Analysis Table. Remember to take notes on all three elements of a multimodal text: music, lyrics and film techniques.

Using the Metalanguage

When analysing music videos it is important to discuss the features of all three modes: music, lyrics and film. Many students learn the poetic features most useful in analysing lyrics, and film techniques are also taught through each year of English. However, unless a student is also studying music, they are likely to be unfamiliar with appropriate terms and concepts. The following tables and concept maps introduce key ideas that can be applied to a discussion of musical elements in a music video. This information was supplied by Karen Burke, my supportive sister-in-law, a very experienced Head Teacher and now Deputy Principal. Speak with the music teachers at your school – who knows? there could be some cross curriculum opportunity for creating, composing or assessing.

It could be helpful to focus on obvious musical moments, such as the opening – which instruments are heard first? how does this support the introductory lyric? – the chorus – describe the music: how does this reinforce the main idea of the chorus? – and the closing – does the music end abruptly? or fade? what is the audience encouraged to feel?

As a teacher, consider discussing the effect of music on human emotions in general terms. For example, string instruments often evoke feelings of sympathy or empathy, whereas drum beats denote energy.

concepts of music

music vocabulary

These slides are from previous presentations with specific vocabulary terms that match to the relevant concept on the map. The table below offers another way of presenting a word bank to students to help describe and justify the musical choices made in a text.

music vocab : word bank

O Canada – Missy Higgins shares human experiences of refugee children

The Lighthouse Song – human experiences of isolation and protection

The Man – masculinity models in The Killers’ music video

Context and perspective through war poetry – songs and music videos in Stage 5

I Haven’t Got Time to Spell It Out – Muzzy Pep foreshadows the popularity of text messaging

Brothers in Arms – a hopeful perspective of war

Helena Beat – a dystopian perspective

Message in a Bottle – enriching Stage 4 moments

Stripsearch – Faith No More explore transitions

Hill Top Hoods look back on 1955

Against the Grain – colouring pencils not just for colouring

Paparazzi – intertextuality and Lady Gaga

Mountain at My Gates – Foal’s virtual reality

Sail the Wildest Stretch – Powderfinger’s final discovery

Act Yr Age – an interaction to challenge social expectations

Wide Open Road – The Triffids anthem of self-discovery

A Little Soul – Pulp’s tale of regret and hope

The Perfect Drug of Nine Inch Nails enhanced by Mark Romanek

LDN – images of London: reality over the centuries

Brand New Day – Alex Lloyd gives hope to Homo Suburniensis

Living a Conscious Life – Katy Perry’s Wide Awake

Hermitude’s The Villain – challenge your assumptions about crime and violence

Since I Left You – music video miners leap into a new world

Great Southern Land – a distinctively visual representation of Australian landscapes

Aussie Masculinity – Always a Winner

Wish You Well – personal journey promoting a positive outlook

Weird Al Yankovic keeps the parodies rolling

My Island Home – making strong connections with people and place

Coffee & TV – reawakening a sense of belonging within the family

 Belonging in Back to Black 

 Into the World with Coldplay

Streets of Your Town – an Australian Vision by The Go-Betweens

Australian Voices – male urban youth travel The Hard Road of the Hill Top Hoods

Karma – exploring ethics through the music video of 1200 Techniques

Knights of Cydonia – Muse inspires a hero’s journey

A Forest of Possibilities – The Cure’s Music Video as Creative Writing Prompts


2 responses to “Analysing Music Videos

  1. Hi, i appreciate all the time and expertise reflected in your posts so generously shared with us all. I came across this article and though it may be of interest. I also attended the ETA Conference and was privileged to work with the great volunteers planned then who ran the day as well as the wonderful lecturers. Heard so much great feedback too! Thanks again!😄🙏

  2. Thanks for your comments. The article has quite a sombre tone. However, I wonder how the stats would work for Australian musicians – we seem to have a strong indie scene that eschews the commercial grind. Consider the repeat of an episode of Australian Story last night: Karise Eden explained why she chose to live a life away from the glare and unreality of celebrity. It would indeed be a very bumpy ride for those who do not have a stable background to help keep them centred.

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