I used to regard interactive music videos with a distant sneer. MTV was never supposed to be navigable, it was supposed to bombard you with tiny narratives. There was no escape, unless you wanted to switch from 120 Minutes to The Wayans Bros between commercials.
But it's been a groundbreaking week for the medium: Bob Dylan solidified the timelessness of “Like A Rolling Stone” by transplanting it into the hearts and mouths of today's most potent cultural arbiters (reality tv, hip hop, the movies, etc.) via a DIY channel-surfing montage. Pharrell's “Happy” clip is 24 hours long and filled with celebrity cameos, and Queens of the Stone Age went and made their own horror movie for “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” It made me reconsider my position on what interactive music videos could accomplish, so I went out and found a bunch of creative and engaging ones. It was fun as hell. So grab your relatively high-end computer and enjoy the fruits of my “labour” below.
Chairlift “Met Before”
We loved this Chairlift video so much last year that we dubbed it one of the year's best. And it's still one of the most emotionally resonant interactive vids you'll play. Where will your choices take you? M SS NG P ECES and director Jordan Fisk allow us to indulge our insatiable appetite for “what-if"ing with a video I've yet to play the same twice.
Above is the non-interactive version of the video - experience the real thing here.
Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
Arcade Fire are known for their always innovative, occasionally problematic interactive videos. But only one encourages you out of your physical comfort zone rather than just a psychic one, and that's “Sprawl II.” Through your computer's camera, you can conduct the video with hands, and fingerdance (or click with your mouse) your way through The Suburbs and potentially out of a job, if you do this at work.
Light Light, “Kilo”
Say goodbye to the mouse cursor with a crowd-sourced tribute to the clicky thing, via Light Light and developer Monikor. The program records your mouse movement and adds it to the swarm of cursors already part of the video. Follow the directions, or don't. But once the human beings show up, resisting the temptation to be totally juvenile might prove too much to bear.
Yung Jake, “e.m-bed.de/d/”
Yung Jake loves the internet. A lot. Which means that he loves trolling. So don't be shocked that “e.m-bed.de/d/” refuses to take anything seriously, from memification of human experience to the simulacrum of the Top 40 hip-hop he raps over. But it's a hilarious and technically innovative skewering of online celebrity in all its forms: disable your pop-up blocker, and the video will open window after window concurrent with the websites he's visiting in his lines.
Beck & Chris Milk, “Sound & Vision”
Because no one buys albums anymore, artists are keenly aware of how important it is to keep their concerts interesting. Fortunately for artists of Beck's echelon, you can get someone like the Lincoln car company to throw money at your ideas. And for “Sound & Vision,” that involves over 170 musicians, rotating stages, and a Herculean sense of planning and patience. After 2 1/2 months in production, the performance was captured in a single take. Your face controls the video's first person perspective via your computer's camera, and what you hear is all relative to the video's angle to the performers. Watch it all here, or the edited, normal sounding version above.