This is a bit late, I know. Not my fault this time.
Hunter Hayes has had a pretty good year. His second single off his self-titled debut album on a major record label, ‘Wanted’, has so far garnered sales of nearly 2 million, he won a CMA for Best New Artist, and he’s just been nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist also. So maybe his record label thought it would be a good idea to release the video for his new single, ‘Somebody’s Heartbreak’ as a live video. Oh dear.
Live videos have always been a feature of music videos in all genres, as they’re cheap, easy and show the act’s live prowess, often a ‘test’ of true artist authenticity, depending on the genre of course. Generally within modern country music they feature as the video for the last single from an album, for successful acts that’s usually fourth or fifth, as with Taylor Swift, etc.
However, this is only Hunter’s third single from this album, and with ‘Wanted’ being such a big hit, it almost feels like his second. Certainly I think this was far too early in the album cycle and his career to consider a live video. He is a big artist and therefore will no doubt have about five singles, so this feels a little weird in his cinematic progress. Live videos are meant to say “I had all these songs out, they did really well, now look at my amazing tour and how good I am doing it all live, people are lapping this stuff up”. Perhaps I’m a little cynical. But I feel like I want more new visual material from someone like Hunter before I get him trying to prove his prowess in the live field. Perhaps his record company are trying to promote him as a live act, perhaps they are selling less tickets than expected. However, I find that hard to believe, as he is supporting Carrie Underwood, who is kind of a little bit popular.
Either way, to spice it up, the video itself cuts between more studio-like shots (which involve backstage and meeting the fans etc), live, the crowd, using slow motion, playing with levels of focus and zooming in and out. The crowd depicted in the video consists largely of young girls probably aged 13-22, clearly trying to show his marketability as a teenage heartthrob. The industry-standard shots of sped-up building Hunter’s set and the crowd filling up are also present here, and generally it’s a fairly typical video, building on the success of the likes of Taylor Swift. They are clearly trying to construct an image for Hunter, the tight clothes drawing attention to his body, the girls in the crowd who were filmed trying to indicate his target audience, and his subject matter for me points to a guitar-playing, country Justin Bieber or One Direction. There may be a few protestors on this matter but I think the evidence is there. There is not a huge effort to make him particularly ‘country’ as it is generally understood, he adheres quite happily to the pop model, perhaps with more ‘grit’ than the aforementioned.
However, there is something that sets him apart here. There are several shots towards the end of the video than show him from the shoulders down, playing the guitar solo and I can draw definitive parallels between Hunter and Brad Paisley here. He certainly knows how to play although I can’t say at this point that he even compares to Brad’s ability (although Brad’s had a lot more time to refine it), but the imagery isn’t an accident and he seems to be caught in a tension between wanting to be a young pop heartthrob like that of One Direction and a more credible country rockstar like Brad.
So a video that seems to be lazy on some accounts can actually produce a subliminal narrative that tries to change, reinforce and solidify Hunter’s image. Overall the video taken out of context is alright, it’s not bad for a live video by any means, but I just find the whole circumstances a little bit problematic and a little like a platform for creating a certain image for Hunter.
As I said though, maybe I’m just too cynical.
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