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The Muse & Music Videos

by Jillian Spiridon 7 months ago in list

Inspiration wells up from a dance of hard-hitting lyrics and carefully crafted scenes.

The Muse & Music Videos
Photo by Sandra Kaas on Unsplash

When I'm stuck in writer's block purgatory, I turn to music—and, of course, music videos by extension. I love the way scenes and lyrics mesh in such a way in my brain that new story ideas float to the surface for me to peruse.

Below are just some of the music videos that have made my muse happy over the last few years. I hope something resonates with you too if you are stuck in some way with a story you're working on. (Who knows, you may get a good flash fiction—or more!—out of the deal.)

"Give Me Love" - Ed Sheeran

I love the story that plays out in this music video. A 21st-century Cupid wrecks havoc around a cityscape, using her arrows to cultivate crimes of passion everywhere she can reach. But, through it all, she never once smiles or shows joy through her target practice of bringing lovers together. You almost get the sense that she is punishing the world because of something she lacks—namely, companionship and the love that comes with it.

By the end, you see that she has harmed herself with one of her arrows, nearly a killing blow—but her story's not done yet. She opens her eyes to the bleary sight of a police officer arriving on the scene. What awaits her after her near brush with death?

Whenever I need a jolt of inspiration, I turn to this video because it has so much I love in it: speculative elements, a mixture of heartbreak and real love, and passionate displays that may not end so well in time. There's a universal story being told here through a span of less than five minutes—and the music is great too.

"Wide Awake" - Katy Perry

A would-be Wonderland unfolds through this music video as we watch a young woman go through a labyrinth of her own making. Monsters, psych wards, and deceptive princes all play their parts in the story of this music video. You wonder what is reality and what is fantasy conjecture as you go along for the ride.

I like that the music and the video blend together into this amalgam of pieces that I can pick out for my own storied renditions. It's also interesting that the undertone theme is that you can look to the past and the strength you had back when you were young to face what ails you in the present moment.

What really strikes me again and again about this video is the way the little girl tries to protect her future self by facing off with evil orderlies, and only then is her grown-up self able to break out of her mental prison. It's the perfect blend of symbolism to bring out the true meaning of the music in the first place.

There are beautiful things to discover about the world—but also about yourself too.

"Wildest Dreams" - Taylor Swift

Ah, the stormy weather of an affair between two co-stars on a Hollywood movie set—or so goes the story of this music video, all the way to a final scene where the starlet runs away during the red-carpet premiere of the film starring its ill-fated lovers.

The story of this music video inspires me because everything from the cinematography to the choices of color all add to the finished product. It's beautiful to watch unfold, even though you know that most Hollywood "it" couples don't have happy endings. Still, I come back to this music video because it is just so lush on a storytelling level. I love the passion conveyed—in both the positive and negative lights.

In a four-minute long music video, there's a romance that makes you feel every triumph and each heartbreak. Sure, you've seen this story play out ad nauseum in our world, but that doesn't make it any less engrossing here.

"If I Die Young" - The Band Perry

I know some of the commentary of "If I Die Young" says it treads close to the line of romanticizing a young life gone far too soon. But when I watch the video, I think of that girl spending a summer's day in a boat, floating outward, as she holds close a book of poetry.

I wonder about that girl. I wonder if she too writes poetry. Does she complain about her brothers? Does she write about all her romantic wishes? What spurs her on to think about her life being gone too soon?

Even though Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" is an obvious reference in the video, I feel like the "die young" part has much more in common with Shakespeare's Juliet and the idea of a matching Romeo to die over. And from there my mind goes forward, wondering, "What about this girl makes her contemplate death so much?"

Circa 2010 (when this song first came out), I had all these fanciful story ideas of girls who never wanted to age, of young women who threw themselves into fits of passion, of the would-be Wendy's who craved Neverland long after the pixie dust had faded away.

Even now, when I watch this music video over ten years later, I still have many of those same musings.

"Cups" - Anna Kendrick

I think it's easy to empathize with the narrative in this music video: a down-on-her-luck waitress looks at all the postcards from places she's never been, and her mundane existence is disturbed by a rhythm breaking through the monotony.

While it's fun to watch the "cup magic" play out, what really drives home the video is the lyrics Kendrick sings as she goes through the small diner. There's a wistfulness there, much like longing, that just tugs at the heartstrings.

That kind of emotion is hard to capture in writing, but this music video never fails to bring forth almost a reimagining of a fairy tale for a modern-day audience. Maybe Cinderella's stuck in some backwater diner making batches of biscuits while she's pining for a different kind of life.

We may be trapped by our circumstances sometimes, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't let some levity seep into the cycle.

By the end, we're wondering if the waitress finally took her chance to step out into the wider world—or is she just taking a five-minute break before going back to her job? That's the wonder of the story at hand because it really could go either way.

"Human" - Christina Perri

Who is the girl, and who is the machine? I have always been enchanted by this music video because I change my mind every time I watch it.

The girl longs to be taken seriously as a vulnerable being. She can do what is asked of her, but that doesn't mean she wants to do so. She has free will—at least up to a point, depending on what her lover dictates to her. Her humanity is both a weakness and a strength.

Or is this a machine who has convinced itself that it is a human woman? Given the way AI technology is heralded in all kinds of media, it's not hard to imagine this kind of story unfolding. (Who else cried during the movies Bicentennial Man and A.I. Artificial Intelligence?) Machines may just eventually be programmed to believe they're more human than what is actually left of humanity.

As someone who loves to pick apart even the stray music video, I like how the story here is one you can interpret whichever way you choose.

"Easy" - Rascal Flatts ft. Natasha Bedingfield

Whether I like it or not, I am fascinated by fame and the idea of celebrity. And—perhaps even more so—I do enjoy the one-that-got-away romance. Break-up songs about the lost loves that abound really get to me, even to the point that sometimes I write from the perspective of someone who has been jilted by a long-time love. It's a universal story, am I right?

The interesting thing about this duet for the music video is that it shows both sides of the story. It's not "easy" for either party as they each try to avoid finding each other in the crowd—no matter how they keep sneaking glances in the crowded room. This is the kind of stuff that makes certain stories awaken with a racing heartbeat.

Then there's the Cinderella ending: the shoe getting left behind. This story isn't over yet. But does the guy want to track down his lost lady love? Or will he just throw the shoe in the nearest trash can?

And so opens up an entirely new story to follow.

"Magnets" - Disclosure ft. Lorde

Crimes of passion take an entirely new tilt with this music video. The imagery is seductive and frenzied, almost mirroring the way the "other woman" (the main character) acts toward this man who is pitting her and his live-in girlfriend against each other in a competition for his affections and attention. (Another universal story here, huh?)

But even if you just pay attention to the apparent lust of a whirlwind affair, the story is skeleton enough to add your own flesh of meaning to what you are seeing. We know the guy's a jerk, but the ambiguous ending leads an interesting direction as to where the main character's true intentions lay.

One might even say she could have been an undercover hitwoman trying to bring down a nasty high-on-the-horse man with way too much time and money on his hands. But that's just my take on the story playing out here.

I just love music videos where I take something new away each time I view it, to the point that multiple parallel universes of story threads exist for me to play with in my own writing attempts.

"1-800-273-8255" - Logic ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid

I just adore this music video because it makes me feel so much in such a short span of time, and there's so much inspiration to draw from the scenes therein.

As someone who has had suicidal thoughts in the past, the video is just so raw and honest in its portrayal of how a spiral into suicidal ideation can occur. It's not only one moment that does it—but a myriad of them stacking up and stacking up until you can't see the sun over the wall in your mind anymore. Honestly, I have not read anything in my lifetime that perfectly captures that kind of internal strife, yet this music video does it all in less than seven minutes.

If anything, what I wish is that I can write something with as much emotional candor as this video exhibits. It's hard to watch, yes, but it is so, so worth it to get an idea about how emotion can run like veins through what you're trying to accomplish in the story you're writing.

"Same Old Love" - Selena Gomez

I like the story method of having your viewpoint character observing micro-scenes occurring between other people. It's such a good way to reflect on how your character may be feeling on a personal level (especially if they're in a place of privilege where they may not realize how the "normies" feel and live).

There's also an undercurrent to this music video that you should never believe you exist in a vacuum. Other people are struggling through their own problems too. No matter if you're riding sky high or sitting with your head to the pavement, there are stories out there that you'll never even realize.

Every existence connects in some way to another's. Don't have main character syndrome where you just focus on your own issues. That's for short stories, novels, TV shows, and movies—not for real life.

But feel free to write your next main character as someone who has trouble relating to those around him/her. It might be an interesting exercise in rooting out a character who doesn't feel just like an Everyman/Everywoman.

Keep listening to music, watching music videos, and reclaiming your right to inspiration from the universe. Good luck!!


If you enjoyed this set of songs, feel free to click on the links below for more playlists I've compiled for all sorts of reasons. You may find a new favorite somewhere in the bunch!


Jillian Spiridon

just another writer with too many cats

twitter: @jillianspiridon

email: [email protected]

Read next: My Top 10 Favourite Songs Of All Time.

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