Spectacle: The Music Video

From early Soundies and Scopitones to MTV, crowdsourcing, and cinematic masterpieces.

  1. Released in August 2012, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ hit song “Thrift Shop” peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and has since sold over seven million copies in the US alone. The rap lyrics oppose the flaunting of assets. Instead they stress dressing creatively (“I look incredible”) with thrift shop finds.

    Photo courtesy of EMP staff.


  2. Norwegian synthpop band A-ha was virtually unknown in the United States before their cutting-edge video, “Take On Me” became a mainstay on MTV. The video, which uses Pencil-sketch animation combined with live action, won six awards and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

    Photo courtesy of EMP staff.

  3. OK Go's video for "This Too Shall Pass," directed by James Frost, features a four-minute sequence of the song being played in time to the actions of an intricate Rube Goldberg machine, and a finale that documents the four jumpsuited members being shot at with paint guns.

    Photo courtesy of EMP staff.

  4. In 2014 the dynamic Seattle duo of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won four GRAMMY® awards including those for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album (The Heist), Best Rap Song ,and Best Rap Performance ("Thrift Shop"). See the range of their successes with a special Northwest section that includes props, costumes, and original footage.

    Photo courtesy of EMP staff.

The first museum exhibition to celebrate the art and history of the music video through sight and sound.

Discover the black and white musical Soundies of the 1940s featuring big band, jazz, and swing stars, and the French-made Scopitones of the 1960s. Relive MTV masterpieces and witness how megastars like Madonna, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson shaped—and re-shaped—their creative identities. Step into super-sized cinematic productions of today such as Steriogram’s Walkie Talkie Man directed by Michel Gondry, the crowdsourced Johnny Cash Project, and a special section dedicated to Seattle’s own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis—winners of four GRAMMY® awards including Best New Artist. With legendary props, interactive experiences, and more than 300 videos—and an in-depth examination of the special effects employed in their making—Spectacle: The Music Video traces the evolution of the genre and cements its place at the forefront of creative technology.

Spectacle: The Music Video is included with museum admission and is free for EMP Museum members.

Spectacle: The Music Video is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and FLUX and curated by Jonathan Wells and Meg Grey Wells of FLUX.

Bud LightOffice of Arts & Culture SeattleNinkasiRhapsodyGlazersSennheiserScreenplay