The Beastie Boys’ Full Court Media Press
Rather than predictably fade away, the music video’s migration from TV to the internet has actually created an even stronger form of media, ushering in a renaissance of works where music artists have embraced virality and consolidated their power as producers and directors of these short works. The Beastie Boys’ new short film “Fight for Your Right Revisited” is one of three recent entries of this trend, capping off a season that included Kanye West’s “Runaway” and Arcade Fire’s upcoming “Scenes from the Suburbs.”
Because the Beastie Boys – Adam Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) – have been at it longer than anyone (except maybe Weird Al) their new short film “Fight For Your Right Revisited” encapsulates all of these issues; pointing back to the Beasties’ own significant contributions to the medium, while simultaneously embodying the new convergent logic of viral videos and contemporary advertising.
The announcement of the video made its way across the official and unofficial channels of viral advertising where facebook links to this preview clip managed to garner 2.5 million views in the two weeks since it was released on youtube alone. As of this Saturday (4/23/2011), the film and an album preview were simultaneously released, reflecting a ‘full-court digital media press’ from the band, appropriately debuting their album “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” with a live stream of a boom box at centre court of Madison Square Garden.
An oral history of the band in New York Magazine only reinforced a marketing campaign reliant on ubiquity and virality. The film simultaneously debuted on hulu.com and the Palladia Channel, the latter an HD outlet for concert videos and the site where the 30-minute length of these films actually makes a lot of sense. These short films are even more appropriate to the needs of cable TV, where they can be played as half-hour blocks of programming rather than being incorporated and subsumed into the larger flow of a VJ’s mix. Since Saturday, the band has also provided the entire album for free streaming online, as a reaction to, or against, the illegal downloading of it, stating,
…as a hostile and retaliatory measure with great hubris we are making the full explicit aka filthy dirty nasty version available for streaming on our site.
“Fight for Your Right Revisited” works slightly better in its “preview form,” promising many stars jammed into a video, as well as the shock at seeing Danny McBride, Elijah Wood, Seth Rogen as the “younger” version of the band as they face off against the “older” version played by Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Jack Black. It works well within the confines of the funnyordie.com genre or your average internet meme, piquing the viewer’s interest and prompting them to share with their friends accordingly.
The film, on the other hand, seems predisposed to reward insider knowledge of the band, so that their characteristic backwards tracking shots and slow-motion replays – not to mention wealth of pop-culture references that litter their videos and songs – creates a weave of familiar elements from dummies flying through the air to iconic imagery and visual style. Produced by MCA’s film company, Oscilloscope Productions, and directed by Ad-Rock, it is an example of how the Beasties’ operate as their own cultural producers, originating film and music content. All of this indicates the larger corporate structure of the band, and the convergent logic of which the video is only the tip of the iceberg.
The film is both insular and points outward. It is both a playful reflection on the band’s meaning and travels within the past 25 years, as well as a text that indicates the Beasties’ influence within a larger cultural net of references, fandoms, stars and other texts. The presence of the “Beastie Boys” in iconic garb from a long-lost era indicates the barest glimpse in this hall of mirrors, just as the presence of Will Ferrell playing the cowbell not only evokes the idea of his own famous “more cowbell” sketch as well as the Beasties’ own “Hey Ladies” video, complete with Mariarchi cowbell player.
Each of these images, stars and texts act as palimpsests throughout the piece, making the lines between original, extratextual, paratextual and hypertextual difficult to discern. In fact, the film is the sum total of all of these references as well as a hub which points outward to many more.
At the same time, it is almost impossible to view the film without watching the original video, suggesting that the film, video and its use of the many, many stars is a much larger affair than it originally appears. It not only embodies the logic of a new tendency within music and video, moving beyond the confines of the TV network, but a larger strategy which elevates the group to the role of director and producer. The music video’s transformation into film and migration to the internet is actually a stronger vehicle for artistic autonomy writ large, where the former network restrictions regarding content have eroded, and the agency of the spectator can actually engage with the material at their leisure, rather than waiting for the network to air it.
All of which is to say that the link between consumer and producer (the artists) is even more robust and that the video, or film, is very much alive and well 25 years later. The Beastie Boys continue to fight, but instead of their “rights to party,” they fight for new products controlled and distributed by them, and for new ways that we can consume them.