Danny Brown is in the new Bob Dylan video
From Bob Dylan's 2013 "Like a Rolling Stone" video
Somehow, Bob Dylan has done it again. His 48-year-old song "Like a Rolling Stone" finally has a music video today, and it's by far one of the best music videos ever created.
With several different complete versions filmed, the viewer can create millions of different combinations by "changing channels" throughout their experience. On one network is comedian Mark Maron taping a podcast, on another it's The Price is Right with Drew Carey, and then there's Danny Brown looking completely at home with himself and some dancing cartoon bubbles. And there are sports options, reality TV options, you name it. (I guess there is no option to watch Kanye West and Kim Kardashian writhing on a motorcycle, but that's fine.) Of course there's the network of vintage '60s footage of Dylan himself. Everyone is singing "Like a Rolling Stone," and that's exactly the point.
The Danny Brown version is something to behold, though. Even with his chipped-tooth giddiness and some Aqua Teen Hunger Force-style imagery popping up around him, you still just get back to the fact that Brown looks like he's heard this song hundreds of times. He's a rapper, but he's also an artist, he don't look back.
And anyone making a mark will have crossed paths with Dylan's work at some point. Brown's "Judas" moment came earlier this year in Minneapolis, and it did nothing to slow him down.
Stills from "Like a Rolling Stone"
Sure, he's treating the song with reverence -- but with a slice of pizza in his hand or a burrito in his mouth. Now that every song has its price for licensing, every face can become a commodity, and the zipper between entertainment and advertising has been wide open for decades. Here's a guy who knows that the guy who wrote the song he's lip-synching along to knew it too. Perhaps he knew it first.
This is not to say that Danny Brown is the Bob Dylan of rappers. He's not. But both men represent a class of entertainers who will always be misrepresented, misunderstood, and will never fully let on where the person ends and the performer begins. It'll be used to their advantage and disadvantage forever. Who knows if Bob Dylan even has any idea who Danny Brown is?
The other thing that this video succeeds at is showing that the dialogue about MTV being dead is itself dead. The generation that remembers watching videos of Metallica, Madonna, Van Halen, and Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince is now old enough to have babies. The generation of Dylan fans who told us to turn off MTV is old enough to have grandchildren. In the rear view mirror, MTV as an actual music channel looks more and more like blip, and everything can be (and is) a music video now.
As the interactive "Like a Rolling Stone" video reminds us, people aren't content to let an experience be fully shared anymore. We want endless personal customization for our lives, and yet our choices still are quite predictable. It was likely said that music bloggers like myself would write about Danny Brown's appearance, and the corresponding sports, food, comedy, game show (!), and other correspondents would do the same. How does it feel? I'll have to get back to you on that.
Watch "Like a Rolling Stone" here.
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