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“Spectacle: The Music Video”

View of “Spectacle: The Music Video,” 2013, Museum of the Moving Image, New York. “Agent Provocateur” section. Photo: Eric Harvey Brown.

I WAS PRETTY SURPRISED to hear Meg Grey Wells, curator with Jonathan Wells of “Spectacle: The Music Video,” say that the most frequent question they heard while organizing the exhibition was, Is the music video dead? What kind of curmudgeon asks that? I’d already watched half a dozen music videos before arriving for the press preview at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York—and it was only 11 AM.

I’d started with the video for “Boss” (2012) by Tinashe, a young pop-R&B talent I’ve been hearing about. I watched her mouth lyrics to the angry-sexy slow jam, rip a rose off its stem with her teeth, and hang a teddy bear from a noose before finally decapitating it with some kind of sword. She directs her own videos, I learned, so of course I watched them all. Then I saw that Pitchfork was streaming the Knife’s new album, Shaking the Habitual, in advance of its highly anticipated

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