California Literary Review

The Great Music Videos Valentine’s Edition: “Days Go By” by Dirty Vegas

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February 14th, 2011 at 11:02 am

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Happy arbitrary and consumerist holiday from CLR and The Fourth Wall!

Dirty Vegas album cover

Richard Phillips’s album artwork is lovely.

Dirty Vegas were basically a few-dance-hits-wonder, but if your one massive hit comes with a video like “Days Go By,” you win at awesome. Ten years ago, “Days Go By” soared onto pop radio and MTV’s after-school hit TRL (back in the ancient years when it was still Total Request Live). The song itself is danceable, but monotonous and not terrifically exciting. The video, on the other hand, is heartbreaking, lovely, and artfully filmed.

In “Days Go By,” a gentleman dressed in suit and suspenders lays out a cardboard mat and a boombox in front of Chroni’s Famous Sandwich Shop in Los Angeles. And then, contrary to all physical evidence besides the Chucks on his feet, he bursts into a dance routine. His face betrays no emotion even as his body pops and locks. And it is seriously hard to watch Byron McIntyre dance and not want to join him. Passersby and shop patrons pause and look on with puzzlement while cars pass.

YouTube Preview Image

Dirty Vegas’s “Days Go By” video: perfect for chipping away at even the hardest of hearts.

The magic of really great narrative music videos is that they condense complex stories into under five minutes and present these vignettes to us with as little dialogue as possible. “Days Go By” is about a man who lost the love of his life. Yeah, many of us know that feeling. But this guy returns to the same place once a year and dances from dawn til dusk to mourn her–or perhaps to lure her back. The story, as told on title cards, became an urban legend; the truth doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that he still wears the Chuck Taylors she bought him when he was younger. What matters is that dancing, so often used to communicate glee, can also be poignant.

Dirty Vegas Days Go By young dancer

He couldn’t quit dancing, so she left.

Directors Rob Leggatt and Leigh Marling utilize a muted filter, almost sepia in tone, that makes the video feel old-school. Slow motion and dynamic camera add punch to the already amazing dance moves. Flawless editing takes us from the older, businessman version of the dancing man and his younger, jumpsuit-clad alter ego (Garland Spencer). Due to the unobtrusive change in costume, you assume this man conformed to the system and got a drone desk job after he lost the most important person in his life–and it’s bits like this that tell a story without shoving it in your face. The camera sometimes backs away so that traffic passes between the dancer and the audience, telling us that life goes on–cars drive on, people go about their business, and well, days go by–even as one man’s life changed forever.

When our dancer packs it in for another year without his love, one onlooker asks another, “Want to go out for coffee?” She smiles shyly and accepts. As one man mourns the loss of his love, things roll on and others find companionship.

What better day to enjoy something this romantic? I’m rather a cynic and Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. My sensibilities when it comes to romance aren’t the Hearts-on-Fire-Diamond-and-rotting-vegetation kind. But the video for “Days Go By” makes me feel all romance-y–it’s poignant, sad, sweet, and makes me want to learn to breakdance. Who could ask for a better treat on VD? ( Though if anyone wants to send me some Russell Stovers I and my cynicism would have nothing against that.)

  • Adam Robert Thomas

    You want a “better treat on VD”? How about . . . not to get “VD”?.

    Easy jokes aside- I feel your Valentine’s Day pain!

    *Pumps fist in solidarity*

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