Break Yo’ TV: Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” and Men at Work’s “Down Under”

Two wrongs don’t make a right, and as much as the ‘80s are undoubtedly the best ten-year span this world has seen, the first batch of music videos ushered in by the decade are, unfortunately, lackluster. The technology was new and prior to the advent of MTV the demand for such a medium was not immense, which can explain the horrible artistic quality of two popular videos from 1981. Dire Straits’ music video for the single “Romeo and Juliet” and Men at Work’s video for “Down Under” take infectious songs and belittle them more than any song deserves (yes, even a pop song from the 1980s), with awful music videos.

The ingenious outfit that brought the airwaves “Sultans of Swing”, “Money for Nothing”, and “Walk of Life” lost its artistic direction when it allowed the music video to “Romeo and Juliet” be produced. The video is completely literal. No, not literal in the popular way in which a parody of an official music video clip is paired with lyrics describing what is happening, replacing the actual words of the original song. It is literal in the way in which horrible ‘80s actors pantomime every lyric.

The video opens with the main character walking in a white, illuminated maze of sorts, offering the hope for something innovative. However, the images quickly turn into literal depictions of the lyrics. From silver chains falling as the lyric “well, you can fall for chains of silver” are heard and followed by “you can fall for chains of gold,” with gold chains falling against a completely white background, the video has no imagination and undermines a well-written and handsome sounding song.

The worst portion of the video, however, is a tie between the dreadful pyrotechnics of the exploding dice, which are paired with the lyrics “Juliet, the dice was loaded from the start/And I bet when you exploded into my heart,” and the horrendous dancing done by “Juliet” during the song’s fadeout. Her dancing is comparable to a slower, more awkward, and sexually driven version of Elaine Benes’ “little kicks” from Seinfeld, sans the charming quality of an intelligent and assertive female who can keep up with the boys.

In the same fashion, Men at Work’s chart topping single “Down Under” offers a completely literal video that does little to stimulate the brain or further the band’s art. When Colin Hay’s sings, “buying bread from a man in Brussels/He was six foot four and full of muscles” sure enough a tall, muscular man makes an appearance and proceeds to hand Hay a Vegemite sandwich as the lyrics go, “I said, ‘do you speak-a my language?’/He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

Oddly enough, there is a dancing scene that takes place shortly after the sandwich sharing that supplies more “little kicks,” and this time it looks like Benes has found her dance doppelganger in Hay. As for the dancing of the remaining members of the band, it’s boy band choreography at its worst, and it’s being performed by a gaggle of dance-challenged individuals.

It’s safe to say one should aim to enjoy music videos from the second half of the decade, like the video accompanying Michael Jackson’s hit single “Thriller”, which was aired a mere two years after the aforementioned atrocities and became the most successful music video to be shown on television.


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