Some of the best music videos ever made encompass much more than just tributes to the music; they stand up as short films that tell their own stories while complementing or contradicting the song. In this case, Toby Gale’s debut music video, SHOWDOWN, seems to feed off of this contradiction – a kitchen-sink style narrative which sees a zealous, abusive father training a seemingly subservient, under-motivated son – and all to the sound of disco.
“All of this is filtered back through the social-realism to create the wondrous kitchen-sink disco that you see in the video.”
The music video was created by Crowns & Owls, a fledgling production company based in Leeds who have been waiting to try out a “pushy-parent based narrative.” If you have heard any of Toby Gale’s music then I think you’ll agree that narratives of a social-realist bent don’t immediately spring to mind. However, from the opening stabs of the pounding bass drum, the epic nature of the song is perfectly echoed through glorious landscape scenery from the English countryside. Sweeping tracking shots immediately establish our characters in something familiar to all of us – deserted fields and thick forestry. Despite the seeming audiovisual contradictions, the video works fabulously well. Indeed, SHOWDOWN was described by the artist as “Fizzy Disco Hop” – a far cry from Tyrannosaur or any Ken Loach film. Crowns & Owls seem to have had the same chain of thought:
The track is very much from a time and a place, and there are of course immediate connotations that establish themselves when you hear music of this style. We had sketched out a few ideas at first, one being a Miami Vice parody set in Blackpool featuring solely child actors.
The logistical problems of a three-man production company combining Miami Vice and Bugsy Malone soon became apparent. They quickly returned to the pushy-parent idea, firmly grounding their story in the 80s, achieved not just through the track’s reverberating snares and rainbow synths but through an attention to detail. Short shorts, big hair and a montage all serve to set the scene. Additionally, through combining stunning High definition video (of the kind we have all become accustomed to in recent years) with retro 80’s VHS, the film plays with our expectations of quality and the nature of reproduction. As the father manically records his son’s exploits, we are invited to scrutinize him in the same way as his father.
“Just like Toby Gale’s music, the video doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Through the combination of the training montage, seen in 80s classics like The Karate Kid, with the ultimate dance off (clearly appropriated from Footloose), the film feeds off of our expectations as an audience looking back at the 80’s – applying our knowledge of these classic scenes. All of this is filtered back through the social-realism to create the wondrous kitchen-sink disco that you see in the video.
The video also showcases some magnificent acting talent – principally the main character and his father: “we had to find a kid that could trick an audience into having confidence in the boxing theme but of course be able to dance like Jennifer Beals.” And find him they did. Rueben Crossland-Jones not only looks the part, but completely sells the idea of the character (a Billy Elliot type) to the audience.
Just like Toby Gale’s music, the video doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has fun with the narrative and the end result is a very humorous, enjoyable and memorable music video that will surely be very popular.