"I sure do love it when YouTube videos have music that drowns out the sound of the Ferraris and Lamborghinis," said no one ever. And I do mean ever. I can't tell you how many videos we get on a daily basis that are ruined by horrible music.
Maybe I'm completely out of line here, but when I'm on YouTube and I'm watching some Italian exotic get whipped around a track, I want to be able to hear the engine. Same with a rally car eating some gravel for breakfast or an American muscle car having some backroad fun. I want to hear the exhaust note, the squealing tires, the shifting gears.
I want to hear the car.
Is that so much to ask?
Thanks to YouTube, cheap digital cameras and readily available editing software, there is a greater proliferation of car videos than ever before. That's a good thing. The problem is that there are far too many video editors who feel it's appropriate to add awful music that overshadows the sounds of the cars themselves.
There have been times where I have actually turned down running videos on Jalopnik for this exact reason. I have watched them and then said, "Fuck, I can't post this, there's just too much goddamn dubstep. The commenters will eat me alive." It's that bad.
Generally, music adds nothing to car videos. It does not make them better or more awesome. In fact, it detracts from what we're supposed to be experiencing. Show me one hoonage video that has been made better by the addition of music. I think you'll be hard pressed to do it.
So why do so many videographers insist on pumping dubstep at full blast on top of drifting footage?
My inspiration for writing this piece comes from that video of the 750-horsepower quad-rotor Mazda RX-7 going around a mountain from earlier today. It's a great video, and the car sounds amazing. And the video editors did a decent job of making sure the music doesn't overpower the sound of those four rotors being driven in anger. But how much better would the video be if there was no music in it at all?
Take this one, for example. You have a police Mustang in a "drift battle" against two motorcycles. That's badass. So why do you need some awful, generic, licensed crap playing over the top of it?
I don't want to sound like I'm not a fan of music. I love music! Sometimes I even like the tunes I hear in these videos, just not when they eclipse the sound of the cars. I like the Tron: Legacy soundtrack just fine without it blaring over an awesome engine noise, thank you very much.
I think Top Gear shoulders some of the blame here, at least partially. Their slick production, full of dramatic lighting and thundering music, has redefined how videos of cars are made. Whether people do it consciously or not, I think they're trying to emulate that style, and sometimes it goes too far. They have inspired a legion of inferior imitators who seem to think more filters, more quick cuts, more music, more EVERYTHING is always better. And it's not. All that does is draw the focus away from the cars we came to see.
I could rant about bad editing all day long, but at the moment, we're talking about music. And I think it actually speaks to a larger problem at work. I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's a war going on against engine noise.
There is. Seriously. Modern technologies like turbochargers and direct injection have really put a dent in the way engines sound. Put someone who isn't an enthusiast in a newer car, and he or she will invariably say "It's so quiet!" because to many people, that's a good thing. Most people don't want to hear their cars. It's gotten to the point where BMW has to pipe in engine sounds with a computer.
Basically, the way a car sounds just isn't a priority anymore. So can we really blame video editors for overloading their movies with bad music?
I still care about an automobile's aural qualities. I know you do, too. So from now on, let's just say no to awful music in car videos. That means that if you have a friend or an acquaintance who puts them together, convince them that adding a Nickelback song is a horrible idea.
Raph wrote up some good guidelines on how to make not-terrible car videos earlier this year. It's dead-on accurate. If you're going to put music in a car video, at least just do it in the beginning, and for the love of all that is holy, don't make it drown out the sound of the car itself.
Odds are we'll all be driving around in silent electric or hybrid cars in a few decades. We need to enjoy this stuff while we can.
If you have good examples of car videos ruined by bad music, feel free to share them in the comments below. The world needs to know how to get it right.
Photo credit p_c_w