Narrative strategies and music in visual albums
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According to E. Ann Kaplan, Andrew Goodwin and Carol Vernallis, music videos usually do not have a narrative, at least not one like in classical Hollywood films. David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson state that such a narrative consists of events that are related by cause and effect and take place in a particular time and place. However, articles about music videos have not adequately addressed a new trend, namely the so called “visual album”. This medium is a combination of film and music video elements. Examples are Beyoncé’s much discussed visual album Lemonade from 2016 and Janelle Monáe’s “emotion picture” Dirty Computer from 2018. These visual albums are called ‘narrative films’ by sites such as The Guardian, Billboard and Vimeo, which raises questions about how narrative works in these media forms, because they include music videos which are usually non-narrative. It also poses the question how music functions with the narrative, as in most Hollywood films the music shifts to the background. By looking at the classical Hollywood narrative strategy and a more common strategy used in music videos, called a thread or motif strategy by Vernallis, I have analysed the two visual albums. After comparing them, it seems that both Lemonade and Dirty Computer make use of the motif strategy, but fail in achieving a fully wrought film narrative. Therefore, a different description to visual albums than ‘narrative film’, could be considered. In conclusion, this thesis sheds a light on the rarely acknowledged form of visual albums and how these musical media forms could be analyzed and examined, with theories about narrative in film and music video.