Music Video Relapse: "Closing Time" (1998) by Semisonic

Posted by Adam Fairholm on January 27, 2014 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post


Want a fun game to play with music videos? Sure you do. One of our favorite music video games is "guess the year" just by looking at a few seconds of the video. It's easier than you might think.

Music videos can sometimes be like visual sponges - they seem to embody whatever the visual style is at the time. That's why it's especially easy to pick out music videos from 1998 - for some reason, a huge chunk of videos from this year are tinted green and blue. Not all of them, of course, but enough to notice.

So today on Music Video Relapse, we're watching one of our favorite videos of the late 90s, "Closing Time" by Semisonic, directed by Chris Applebaum.

Of course, the fact that it is tinted green and blue isn't the most well known thing about this video. The video for "Closing Time" is probably most remembered as the split screen video with two story lines that play out together simultaneously.

The storyline is that Semisonic lead singer Dan Wilson and his girlfriend (Denise Franco) are in opposite screens. Wilson is in the Semisonic rehearsal space, and his girlfriend is just closing up some sort of store. She calls him and he answers too late, and then they go to each other's location to try to find each other but they aren't there. Then they go to a party and miss each other again.

Watching this in 2014 it's hard to remember that this sort of "just missed someone" thing actually could have happened in 1998. In 2014 times, Wilson could just get to the party and text "hey im here where r u" and they'd find each other pretty quick. Obviously nobody has a cell phone in this video because when Wilson comes out of the party at the end it feels like these two will literally never meet again, especially since the other camera doesn't settle on her on the end - we really have no clue where she is either.

I also want to know what Dan Wilson says to the bouncer at the party to get in. His facial expression kind of looks like "hey, come on you know me," and in my mind he is saying "come on, I'm the guy from Semisonic, you don't want to mess with me." Is he getting out of paying a cover? Drinks seem to be free at this party so I'm assuming there was a cover.

But back to the 1998 style - this video has it in spades. Chris Applebaum didn't just color in post, the set is designed specifically to be in a blue and green palette, down to the walls and the furniture. Part of the memorability of this video is how far they went in the direction of their chosen colors. 

I think it's pretty interesting that out of all the music videos from the late 1990s, I have always remembered this video and always known it as the "split screen video". This is also Semisonic's most popular video (by many millions of views), so it obviously worked out for them too. It's a testament to how a strong visual concept can make a video interesting, even if there isn't that much else going on.

Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.

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