Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tame Impala: Worlds within Worlds

Great songs deserve great music videos, but more often than not the video just doesn’t do it any justice­. It’s almost as if the music video too strictly defines what the song is about, which limits the listeners’ interpretation.

I was recently introduced to a band called Tame Impala that changed my outlook on the way songs and their music videos can interact. Rather than limiting the creative possibilities, Tame Impala uses the imagery along with the music to make it into something bigger. Isolated, the music is still creative, but when coupled with the animation, it transforms into an entirely different artistic dynamic.

Tame Impala is considered a psychedelic rock band, and if you’ve ever seen their music videos you’ll know why. This song, called ‘Cause I’m a Man, is a great example of the ultra-creative (and trippy) auditory and visual experience they achieve.

The music video is placed in an animated world, with a stick figure man as the protagonist. His head transforms throughout each scene to reflect what he is feeling at the time, which is an incredibly creative way to show how emotion can take over everything and lead you into some questionable decisions.

In this picture, the man’s head turns into pulsing spikes as the lyrics say “I’m just pathetic, that’s the reason why.” In other parts, his head becomes a bouquet of flowers, a ball of electricity, and many other emotion-provoking objects. Tame Impala also uses colors to relate to emotions; the environment often turns from dark angry colors to lighter colors to signify mood changes, which conveys how emotion can taint perspective.

Tame Impala is the brainchild of Kevin Parker, someone who I would deem a Pro-C creative (Kaufman & Beghetto) as he has been synthesizing and creating music since he was only 11 or 12 years old. His creativity also shines in his songwriting process: he comes up with different sounds through experimentation and using the instruments in a creative fashion. Parker considers Tame Impala to be a kind of solo-project which shows just how crucial his creative process is to the band’s overall look and sound.

One theory that aligns with Parker’s creative process is the psychodynamic approach, which hypothesizes that “creativity arises from the tension between conscious reality and unconscious drives.” So, through music and animation, Parker is expressing his emotions and “unconscious desires in a publicly acceptable fashion” (Sternberg, et al).

Parker also considers making music therapeutic.

In my opinion, Tame Impala conveys the notion of worlds within worlds with hypnotizing accuracy.


  1. First off, Tame Impala make amazing music!! I'm really intrigued by your statement that Parker's creative process is psychodynamic. I think the tensions between the conscious and unconscious really shine through in the music (and music videos). This form of the creative process seems to fit well with Parker's own description of music as an escape.

  2. I love Tame Impala! I thought this post was going to be purely about the creativity of their music, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you integrated their musicality with their visual concepts. It is very interesting how they physically represent different emotions using the stick-figure man's head. The use of color is also intriguing as a device. There is a lot of correlation between color and mood, and I think it was a good way to subtly convey emotion in the music video. Lastly, I enjoy how you liken Parker's creative process to a psychodynamic approach. The tension between the conscious and unconscious comes through in the music, especially when paired with the video.

  3. Like the other commenters, I also love Tame Impala. I rarely think about my favorite bands in a more scholastic sense, so it is really neat that you looked at them from this lens. It seems that Parker is comparable to Picasso in the sense that he exemplified the characteristics of a prodigy at a young age. Their processes involve experimentation to create sounds and works that have never been done before.

  4. Tame Impala is what caught my eye about this post, but the idea of the link between music and videos is what caused me to choose to comment. I have a great appreciation for good music videos, and after seeing what you said about his, I thought I would share a few more.

    Alt J has consistently creative videos that link well with his songs. In Tesselate, the triangle motif comes up repeatedly in multiple places (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg6BwvDcANg).

    OK GO's music videos are what made them famous, with the treadmill video being possibly the best known. Their most recent music video has also gone viral and is a slowed down version of 4.2 seconds of motion matched up with their song The One Moment. My favorite, however, is one of their lesser known songs called Last Leaf, and the music video for this is entirely animated on pieces of toast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkYfB1C0Zgc).

    Arctic Monkeys did an animated video for Do I Wanna Know that plays off their cover art design (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOSxM0rNPM). Definitely worth checking these out if you like cool music videos!


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