OK Go: Gimmickry or Artistry?


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
13 Monday 13th February 2012

Last week power pop band OK Go released another insane music video to much YouTube clickery and general hype, and just a few days before unleashed a pseudo-tutorial for freakin' Sesame Street. Sesame Street. With increasing amounts of corporate sponsorship and ever-ambitious ideas, we take an in-depth look at whether their videos are all fanfare with little musical substance or simply fittingly boisterous backdrops for the band's talent.

Let's start with this most recent video, for 'Needing/Getting', already watched more than 13 million times. As you can see, it's sort of like one big and complicated advert for a car, with money poured in from Chevrolet and the car in question (the Chevy Sonic) almost constantly in shot. That's largely because it plays over 1000 instruments as the band drive it along a track, using some odd 'hands' to pound on pre-tuned pianos, guitars and more. Hell, as far as a concept goes, it's awesome.
But are any of us actually paying attention to the music? Though chances are we've all watched the band flap through a synchronised dance routine on treadmills in 'Here It Goes Again' (above), some would be hard pressed to remember the song's verse melody lines or even what it's about. I'll put my hands up and confess I once (legally) downloaded an OK Go record (2005's Oh No) and am yet to play it through once. Ever. I've just never been able to make it past two or three songs.
The Rube Goldberg-inspired video for 'This Too Shall Pass'
The kind of music OK Go make ping pongs back and forth indecisively between a slightly scuzzy alternative rock, playful pop rock and even synth-pop in certain moments of experimentation. Though their videos have served as short, moving adverts for each of their songs they seem to have failed to leave a lasting impression as far as musicianship is concerned.
Grammy-nominated 'All Is Not Lost', made with the Pilobolus dance company
The list of accolades and awards the band have rightfully earned to date have only come for the direction and production of their videos: a Best Short Form Music Video Grammy and YouTube Video Award each for 'Here It Goes Again' in 2007, as well as a 2006 MTV Europe Music Award nomination for 'A Million Ways' and Grammy nod for 'All Is Not Lost' at the 2012 ceremony last night.
Busting out a routine choreographed by the singer's sister, in 'A Million Ways'
On that list there's not a single piece of critical recognition for their songwriting and musical talent. Yes, I'll admit that the lead singer's got some good pipes and the kind of pretty face that could get him a walk-on role in Sex & The City circa 2002 but that doesn't seem to be enough for critics and an expanding fanbase yet. Loving them for pulling off dance routines in videos makes them more of a YouTube sensation than a truly respected band thus far, which perhaps isn't fair considering the effort they put into both their albums and videos.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.