Mediating Music: A Music Video Deconstruction Of Fleetwood Mac's 'Hold Me'
‘Hold Me’ by British-American rock band, Fleetwood Mac is a three minute and forty-eight second video, directed by Steve Barron, shot in the Mojave Desert. The video features all five of the group’s members, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie. ‘Hold Me’ was taken from Fleetwood Mac’s 13th studio album, ‘Mirage’, and was originally written by vocalist/keyboard player Christine McVie with Robbie Patton (Songfacts, 2016).
The track was said to be inspired by Christine’s relationship with the late Beach Boy’s drummer Dennis Wilson. However, their relationship was also at the time said to be incredibly destructive. “Dennis was both a great romantic and a drug abuser and alcoholic. Still, along with the romance and good times came bouts of drunken destruction, when Wilson would storm through the house breaking anything within reach. He cared about her, but his priority was having a good time.” (Goldberg, 1984)
Wilson can be represented through certain visuals in the video, as well as through the lyrics. Other representations of the video can be linked to the band’s harmful and explosive relationship with each other; “ ‘They [Fleetwood Mac] were not easy to work with. Four of them - I can’t recall which four - couldn’t be together in the same room for very long. They didn’t want to be there”, stated director Steve Barron. (Howe, 2015)
To define a music video, it is important to first consider the different genres, and according to Music Theorists Railton and Watson, they are “Psuedo-Documentary, Art Music Video, Narrative Video and Staged Performance” (Railton & Watson, 2011). ‘Hold Me’ equates firmly within the Art Music video genre through its strong artistic aesthetic and abstract qualities. “The art video claims legitimacy by appealing to notions of art and aesthetics. The video itself operates as a site of creative expression which variously works as an aesthetic complement to the song or vies with it for artistic consideration”. (Railton, 2011)
At 0:10 seconds, the shot reveals a desert during sunset (possibly to connote a new beginning or a sense of hope), with a non-identifiable man, with his back to the viewer, in the distance. For this moment, the viewer embodies the form of the person reaching out towards the man, as the scene is taken as if the viewer themselves are filming it; a point of view shot, (See Figure 1). The man can represent various identities; Dennis Wilson; Christine could be displaying her romantic need for her partner by physically reaching out towards him, or Rene Magritte, the Belgian surrealist artist in whom’s paintings the video’s aesthetic is based upon. Magritte was born in 1898 and focused broadly on surrealism, also working with erotically explicit images. The relevance of Magritte in this shot can be linked to his 1964 self portrait, “The Son of Man”, where he is seen dressed in black, wearing a bowler hat, similar to the figure in the video (www, 2009). The use of the black intensifies the mystery of the man’s identity, also being “a mysterious colour associated with fear and the unknown” (LLC, 1995)
The video uses many signs in which suggests the band are searching for something, most obviously at 0.32, in the large close-up shot of Christine looking through a telescope. At 0:13, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood are seen dressed as archeologists, digging through the desert, surrounded by various items such as a broken piano, (See Figure 2). The piano may connote that the duo are looking for new music, or that their musically skill is useless to them if the band are not working together in a way which is co-operative and non-ruinous. Further objects in the video can be used to symbolise Fleetwood Mac’s dysfunctional relationship, such as the broken mirrors, seen at 0:21. At this point, the music is relatively upbeat and melodic, perhaps recalling a notion of contentment, especially through the positive, romantically suggestive lyrics such as “So baby let me hand you my love / So slip your hand inside of my glove ” and the repetition of the phrase “Hold me”. The optimism of the lyrics and music is an ironic quality when compared to the negative symbolic visuals within the video.
A discontinuous format takes the main body of the film as it does not follow a particular narrative as it is mostly made up of numerous abstract, cross-cutting shots which are tied together in a non linear time steam; there is no indication of time. Similarly to most music videos, this film does not follow a Classic Hollywood Narrative structure. It is also continually engrossing (demands constant attention and gives little or no hints as to predicting what will happen next) and is thin on character (no real para-social relationship is formed with the characters on screen, (Belton, 2012). The significance of this could be to further connote the noncooperative manner of the band, but also Christine and Dennis’s deteriorated relationship. “If a video seems discontinuous, it is not because the image track consists of autonomous shots that do not relate to one another, it is because the video interlaces a number of such structures [repeat shot types, scenes and themes] in an unpredictable way. The sheer density of this interlace provides one of music video’s greatest pleasures”. (Vernallis, 2007)
When an object or a relationship breaks, the normality of togetherness is shattered and a sense of alienation is brought upon each counterpart. Alienation through separation is a common theme within the video, which is symbolised through the setting; an expansive empty terrain (the Mojave Desert), including through the presentation of the individuals; most band members are alone, located separately in different areas. This notion of alienation can also be linked to Magritte’s work.
“To Magritte, what is concealed is more important than what is open to view, this was true both in his own fears and in his manner of depicting the mysterious. If he wrapped a body in linen, if he spread curtains or wall hangings, if he concealed heads under hoods, then it was not so much to hide as to achieve an effect of alienation” (www, 2009).
Magritte’s method of achieving a sense of alienation can be witnessed in the video through the presentation of Stevie Nicks, (See Figure 3). At 0.52 Nicks is seen in an extra long shot, taken from a straight angle view, positioned away from the camera, lying on a lounge chair by herself. Both the iconography and salience are important aspects within this shot when depicting it’s possible connotations; she is posed in a stereotypically suggestive manner (arms through her hair lying on her side), with her face gazed slightly towards the camera. She is also dressed in a bright red dress, possibly to connote feelings of love/lust, but also perhaps a target.“Salience is where certain features in compositions are made to stand out, to draw our attention” (Machin, 2010). Within this frame she is illustrated as the object of desire, the “mirage”. According to the Cambridge dictionary, there are both denotative and connotative meanings of the word “mirage”. A mirage is both a “an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions, especially the appearance of a sheet of water in a desert” which is what Nicks in this shot could simply represent, or “an unrealistic hope or wish that cannot be achieved” (Walter, 2008). In the context of the video, it could suggest that gaining Nick’s love, or love in general (Christine gaining Dennis’s love) is an unachievable goal.
“Videos need to be ever so slightly beyond reach of total, immediate comprehension (Austerlitz, 2008). The video continues to cross-cut to different shots of abstract images. Continually throughout the film, various images are offered to the viewer, with no obvious, dominant reading. For instance, at 1.22 (See Figure 4) a clock is waved in the top left of the frame, as if being offered to the mysterious man/artist. The combination of these two images within the same frame produces a superimposition shot of low modality; a highly stylised image. The connotations behind this could be that Christine is offering Dennis her time, and that she offers her emotional support through his alcohol and drug issues. This is also emphasised through the lyrics at this moment; “Im just around the corner, if you’ve got a minute to spare”. If the viewer was not entirely aware of the context behind the video, i.e Christine’s relationship with Dennis, the interpretation might be entirely unreadable, similarly to many other images shown within the film.
“Hollywood film features a bundle of three media - sound, image and text- and each, in general, serves to promote clarity and a narrative end. With music video, however, we seem to be dealing with a much higher degree of uncertainty” (Vernallis, 2004) In a Classic Hollywood narrative, there is a start equilibrium and end, with disruption in between. As previously mentioned, although there isn’t an obvious narrative within this film, we can depict a degree of disruption, as well as a sense of the equilibrium coming to an end through the potential symbolic values. In between there are ‘smaller disturbances…followed by tentative restorations of order…the narrative moves ceaselessly to closure, completion, conclusion” (Belton, 2007). At 1.44 Lindsey is seen beginning to paint Stevie, or the “mirage”. (See Figure 5) Although this doesn’t make exact sense straight away, towards the conclusion of the video it is more obvious to what this event might mean. Lindsey then walks away, without painting. “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter” (Wilde, 2003). This quote is relevant towards the significance of Lindsey deciding not to paint Stevie, as it suggests the potential meaning is of Stevie no longer being a part of his life, he no longer has control over her, or feelings for her from their previous relationship. (One known fact within Fleetwood Mac is Lindsey and Stevie’s previous romance, driving much of the influence for numerous songs).
A sense of equilibrium is suggested when at 2.25, (See Figure 6) Stevie paints herself. By painting herself, it holds the potential meaning of her taking control over her own future and possibly her artistic career. “Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had all started solo projects, and getting the band to collaborate was a lesson in futility” (Songfacts, 2016). This frame links to the shot at 2.53, where Christine walks past the mystery man, holding a white horse. (See Figure 7). White horses typically represent heroism and purity. From this we can depict that Christine is possibly saving herself from her traumatic relationship with Dennis, similarly to how Stevie, by painting herself, is taking ownership of her own situation.
From analysis we have concluded that Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Hold Me’ holds a variety of potential meanings which can be further depicted from extra research and by learning from the film’s context. The band member’s separate and collective relationships massively comes into play within the theme of love, which is well suited when considering the common concepts of music video “The standard themes are evident – for example, the treatment of authority, love and sex, growing up and the loss of childhood innocence, political and social consciousness” (Shuker, 2007). The genre of Art Music Video is also well established within the film, from the basic inclusion of Rene Magritte’s aesthetic, and from the numerous artistic, abstract shots and actions which are played out by the members.