Typography, calligraphy and lettering

Brief History of Lyric Videos in Music: Type in Motion

Learn about the origin of music videos where typography is the protagonist

The lyric videos are the music videos in which instead of seeing stories or the musicians performing the song, the main element is the typography. Since the advent of music videos, they have been a creative resource used by bands of all genres.

For about a decade now, bands have often released a song with a lyric video before releasing the official one. For independent musicians, this type of video is attractive as it can be made with fewer resources than traditional productions, while fans can learn the lyrics of the songs. They have become so popular that in 2014, MTV included a lyric video category in their annual Music Video Awards.

Here are some exceptional examples that truly bring the use of typography to the spirit of each song.

Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)

This piece is considered one of the forerunners of modern music videos. Dylan conceived the concept, and the posters were hand-painted by Bob Dylan himself, as well as musicians Donovan and Bob Neuwirth, and the poet Allen Ginsberg.

Prince, Sign O 'The Times (1987)

It is a Flora Films production. Special effects specialist Bill Konersman, who was chosen because of his experience as a graphic designer, directed the video. This production is considered one of the first cases of lyric videos as we know them today, and it was the official video for the song.

Justice, D.A.N.C.E. (2007)

Without being properly a lyric video, it certainly made way for the ones that would come later. It is also considered one of the best music videos in history, absolutely relevant for its use of animations, typography, and many references to pop culture. It is a production by the duo Jonas & François, with animation by French designer and art director So Me (Bertrand Lagros de Langero).

Kanye West, Good Life (2007)

Only a few words are highlighted in this video, while other elements are animated with illustrations and rotoscopes. It is also the work of Jonas & François and So Me. At the beginning of the video, Kanye begins writing the words with a marker, and in the rest of the video, the letters are artistically set in motion.

CeeLo Green, F*ck You (2010)

For many critics, this is the first modern lyric video, and one of the most influential in the genre. In this moving typeface video, we see the same font in white against solid backgrounds. In this case, the intention was for the viewer to concentrate on the lyrics of the song. As an experiment, CeeLo released the same video with versions in Spanish and German.

Katy Perry, Birthday (2013)

Katy Perry has released lyrics videos of practically all of her singles as teaser promos. However, with this video, she tried a much more elaborate tactic: incorporating handmade typography in pastels and other objects alluding to the video theme, without any type of digital animation. It is a Mandy Sellick production, directed by Aya Tanimura.

The Rolling Stones, Paint It, Black (Lyric Video) (2015)

After the success of the lyric videos, many major bands started releasing this type of music videos for songs from the past. The Rolling Stones began using this resource that proved successful on their YouTube channel, with songs from decades ago.

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