How does it feel…to have your entire television taken over by Bob Dylan?
That’s the question the remarkable new music video for “Like a Rolling Stone,” released today on bobdylan.com, seeks to answer. I hesitate to say “Bob Dylan’s” remarkable new video, because I seriously doubt Mr. Zimmerman had all that much to do with it.
Instead the credit belongs to Vania Heymann, a 27-year-old Israeli viral video whiz who has created commercials for Pepsi and American Express, among others. Almost everything Heymann has released online has racked up hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of hits.
I’m betting Heymann’s interactive “Like a Rolling Stone” clip, timed to coincide with the release of The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1, a massive new Dylan box, will follow suit. The concept is simple. As you watch television, the characters on screen begin to mouth the lyrics to Dylan’s 1965 classic. You change to one of the 15 other channels. New characters appear. No matter when you flip to them, they’re still singing Dylan’s song.
Many of the channels and characters are parodies created specifically for the video: Bachelor’s Roses, a Bachelor-style reality show on “TTC”; Love is Love, a fake romantic comedy on “Moviez”; some Ken Burns-style documentary on “History Network.” Others, however, are real. Drew Carey shouts out Dylan’s lyrics on the set of The Price Is Right. Steve Levy sings along on SportsCenter. Marc Maron and his guest spend an entire podcast conversing solely through “Like a Rolling Stone.” The Pawn Stars, the Property Brothers, and rapper Danny Brown also cameo.
The video is brilliant for three reasons.
The first is that it’s just plain fun to watch. You’re basically editing together your own video with each change of the channel, and the combinations are often hilarious (and sort of poignant). I hit the Property Brothers right when Dylan sings “Do you want to make a deal?” They smiled their cheesy smiles as they lip-synced the line, then proceeded to survey the kitchen for the whole “how does it feel?” part.
Which brings us to the second reason: this is a really addictive format. You can watch Heymann’s video over and over and never get bored. (The soundtrack doesn’t hurt.) And because of the proprietary, interactive, embeddable technology, each click is going to bobdylan.com as opposed to, say, YouTube. I’m going to bet that other artists will soon be following in Dylan’s footsteps (yet again).
The final reason Heymann’s “Like a Rolling Stone” video is so great is that it actually honors Dylan’s song. Dylan is our premiere pop magpie, satirizing and stealing from the rest of the culture to create his art, much as Heymann does here. And don’t forget: “Like a Rolling Stone” is a kaleidoscopic song about having to fend for yourself in a hostile, unfamiliar world. There’s something about the bourgeois TV kaleidoscope of the video that resonates with Dylan’s original lyric.
Not many artists take 48 years to release a music video for their biggest single. This one was worth the wait.