Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Greatest Music Video Ever Made

On May 22, 2011, the city of Grand Rapids shut down a large part of their downtown to create a video that would indelibly change the world's perceptions of their fine Midwestern city. 

The video was a direct response to the "America's Dying Cities" online article published by Newsweek  earlier this year. In this article, Grand Rapids was selected as #10 on the auspicious list of dying U.S. cities due to population declines in recent years.

This unedited 9 minute, 49 second one-shot video was heralded by American film critic and screenwriter, Roger Ebert, as "The Greatest Music Video Ever Made."

The video features more than 3,000 of the city's residents. Set to a live recording of Don McLean's "American Pie," the video is chock full of dancing and guitar strumming Grand Rapidians, pom pon swinging cheerleaders, backhand springing gymnasts, pillow fighting teens, champagne drinking newlyweds, swing dancing couples, and much much more.  The video's crescendo is an aerial view of a place that Newsweek may have called "a bridge over troubled water" filled with those that are proud to call Grand Rapids home.

The video is carefully set to the words of Don McLean's famous song, showing football players passing a football to the words, "The players tried for a forward pass," a couple swinging their legs from the back of a pick-up truck to the words, "I was a lonely teenage bronking buck with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck" and the high school band marching down the streets to the lyrics, "the marching band refused to yield."

This expertly choreographed video simultaneously delivers the spirit of the residents of Grand Rapids, its attractive downtown and lakefront areas, its cultural diversity, and its unbelievably positive response to Newsweek's negative portrayal of their home.

After viewing the video, even Newsweek felt compelled to send a message to Grand Rapids, posting the following message on their Facebook page:

To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We're big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you're responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called -- not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal) -- and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn't endorse and wouldn't have employed. It certainly doesn't reflect our view of Grand Rapids.

Nice save Newsweek.

I have been to Grand Rapids many times, as a former client of mine (BISSELL) calls Grand Rapids home. On each of my visits, I found the city to be delightful, full of friendly, hard-working and caring individuals. I am amazingly gratified to see a city pull together in the midst of negativity, to produce an uplifting and inspiring work of art, when it would have been all too easy to lash back in a negative way.

This video should be a lesson to all of us...when faced with negative publicity, we have two choices: 1) Echo the negative response or 2) Find a positive way to turn the negativity into something positive.

KUDOS to Grand Rapids for not mudslinging. Maybe our nation's politicians should take note.

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