How the music industry went wild for animated videos

·3-min read
The Weeknd and Ariana Grande turned to animation for the music video accompanying their latest collaboration, "Save Your Tears (Remix)."

They certainly aren't new, but animated music videos have become a particular trend since the pandemic hit, with a comeback driven by artists like The Weeknd, Juice WRLD, Billie Eilish and Foo Fighters. So what's the story?

After succumbing to the scalpel -- or facial prosthetics, at least -- in the official video for "Save Your Tears," The Weeknd is on a mission to build the perfect woman in the video accompanying the artist's remix of the track with Ariana Grande. In an animated visual from Jack Brown with a retro flavor, the artist builds a humanoid doll with more than a passing resemblance to the American singer who joins him on the track. And this vintage touch seems a hit with fans of both artists, since the official music video for "Save Your Tears (Remix)" has scored over 19 million views since its April 23 release.

The Weeknd is one of many musicians who have recently opted for an animated video rather than a live-action, real-world clip. Once favored for promotional lyric videos, animation is moving to the forefront, recently proving popular for official music videos with a growing number of artists, such as Katy Perry, Tove Lo and the late Juice WRLD.

Dua Lipa joined forces with the London animation studio, The Mill to treat fans to the cartoon-esque visuals of "Hallucinate," while Billie Eilish worked with Chop Studio on the video accompanying the melancholic "my future." While the two videos' visual worlds are completely different, both were a hit with fans. So much so that the British singer Dua Lipa unveiled a compilation of animated visuals for the release of her remix album "Club Future Nostalgia."

Practical and nostalgic

And it has to be said that animated music videos are especially practical at a time when bringing together the crew required to film and produce a live-action video can be logistically challenging. The American rapper Ashnikko faced such constraints when making a video for her latest track with Grimes, "Cry." The pandemic and the Canadian artist's pregnancy led Ashnikko to rethink her plans and turn to animation, with the help of video maker Mike Anderson. A choice that worked out well in the end, according to the artist.

"Well, I think because of the limitations of her being pregnant and also quarantine, we had to do it as an animated video, but I also just think animated video suits both of our music. We both have this kind of cartoon, graphic novel-style character that we've built up around our music, so I feel like it works," she told Paper Magazine. And if the viewing figures are anything to go by, she might just be right: the official music video for "Cry" has been watched over 7.5 million times on YouTube since it was released in June.

So are animated visuals just a temporary fix before the industry goes back to live-action productions worthy of the biggest blockbusters? Some music fans hope not. "One small silver lining to social distancing measures? We're getting some really fun, compelling, creative animated music videos -- which hopefully means animators are picking up more gigs of this nature. The nostalgia animation provides is also very comforting, in my opinion," wrote the American journalist Erica Russell on Twitter. And science might tend to agree, since various studies have shown that nostalgia can be a helpful and effective tool in coping with stress and anxiety. All in all, animated music videos don't look set to fall out of favor anytime soon.

Caroline Drzewinski