Music Video Relapse: "Where It's At" (1996) by Beck

Posted by Adam Fairholm on January 23, 2014 in Music Video Relapse

Staff Post


One of the trends in music for 2014 so far is older, established acts releasing some good new music. For instance, everyone's favorite Judy Garland tribute artist Rufus Wainwright just released a new song, "Me And Liza", for his upcoming "best of" compilation album.

But my favorite so far has been Beck's new offering, a song called "Blue Moon." As someone who hasn't really seen a compelling reason to seek out Beck's work in the last 8 years or so, I was excited to see some strong material for someone who has been steadily releasing music for 20 years.

So today we're taking a look at a video that I would definitely put in the category of music video classics - Beck's "Where It's At" (1996), directed by Steve Hanft.

Throughout the 1990s, Beck was probably best known for being a musician who mixed all sorts of different audio elements into his songs from movie clips to just flat out noise. Along with collaborators like the Dust Brothers, Beck was a major part in defining what CD stores deemed "Alternative" music - back when your genre determined what physical aisle people found you on.

This sort of music made up of so many different elements seems pretty much made for music videos, case in point being "Where It's At." I'd try to define this video but you really can't - it's one of those things that you describe to other people with phrases starting with "the one where/with." Like, it's the one with the square dance at the end, or it's the one where Beck is on that weird stage in the parking lot with people break dancing behind him. That one.

The last one there - the one in the parking lot - is the image that I think is the most successful out of all the great segments in this video. Beck's personality seems to immediately lend itself to a sort of "lowest of the low" salesman character, hawking absolutely nothing in a barren parking lot. The signs around him inexplicably says "VALUE DAY$," a bizarrely philosophical slogan for whatever sale Beck is promoting. It's this kind of pointless spectacle that Beck is constantly parodying in his music and his videos, and when he takes on the role of the salesman putting on that spectacle, he fits into it perfectly.

(It's also worth noting that even though this is a video for a song about three physical items, we never actually see two turntables and a microphone show up anywhere. Just wanted to get that out there.)

If there's one thing that takes me out of this video a bit, it's the man that pops up out of nowhere towards the end of the video, during the square dancing. He has orange slices on his eyes, and he delivers the "work it out, baby" line. In a video that shows a remarkable amount of restraint when it comes to how much it stuffs into one video for the sake of novelty, it seems a little out of place. It also takes away from the awesome square dancing happening towards the end of the video.

But, with so much classic material in this video, we can forgive a few frames. This video (and song) holds up really well, even 18 years later. In a time where weird, eclectic music videos get released on a daily basis, it still seems fresh.

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

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