Music Video of the Day: People Are People by Depeche Mode (1984, dir. Clive Richardson)


Synthpop, industrial metal, and industrial rock are all the same music to me. The songs are made up of repetitious elements which are sung over. What makes them sound so different is the same reason one type of food tastes so different than that same food that is made a little differently. Take this song for instance compared to Rio by Duran Duran. That song uses the synthesizer as its’ ingredient. It gives it a very smooth and stylish sound that slips down the throat like cough syrup. In this music video, within the first second we see that Depeche Mode used other things like industrial sounds such as a cannon shooting off, hitting metal, and of course the synthesizer still. The repetition is as present as it was in Rio, but since the sources of that repetition have changed, the song comes across as something different when all that’s changed are the ingredients that satisfies the needs of the recipe. The lyrics of the song also take it from something that is pure fun to something that has meaning, but without much punch. It still goes down easy, but it’s a serious pill you are easily swallowing this time.

The video is a rather simple combination of war imagery with the group. The video alternates between fractured and un-fractured images in color and solid black and white. I’m not sure why they didn’t go for the obvious here. I would have had an arc in the video that moved from fractured images of the band in color to them in solid black and white that is paired with the stock footage. It would have helped to drive home that as the song is sung, the message goes from confusion to the issue being very simple, solid, and black and white. Still, it has that kind of effect anyways. In fact, you could argue that by never having such an arc, it makes sure that there isn’t a resolution to the problem despite lyrics like “people are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully.”

The song itself is one I pull out anytime something tragic has happened because of hate. It’s simple too: “I’m relying on your common decency. So far it hasn’t surfaced, but I’m sure it exists. It just takes awhile to travel from your head to your fist.” Sad but true.