“Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green, et al.

Open “Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green

This video for Cee-Lo Green’s 2010 hit song “Fuck You” uses kinetic typography to deliver and emphasize its lyrics in perfect synchronization with the song.

Kinetic typography has a rich tradition in film and television, particularly title sequences (as discussed recently in this entry), as well as in electronic literature (there are currently 288 entries of works categorized as kinetic in I ♥ E-Poetry). Different digital technologies have allowed writers to animate language, going back as far as bp Nichol’s “First Screening” (1984) using Applesoft Basic. In addition to programming or creating animated GIFs, authoring programs like Macromedia (now Adobe) Director, Flash, and Adobe After Effects placed sophisticated animation tools for writers to make words dance during the 1990s until the present. Adobe After Effects has long been used for video compositing and kinetic typography, producing video output that was delivered primarily through television, cable, and film. These rise of streaming video services, such as YouTube and Vimeo in 2005 and their integration with social media (or development as social media) have brought this genre to the masses, who are now developing abundant works and communities, and catching the attention of mainstream media.

This video is a typical example of this emergent genre because it uses kinetic typography to deliver the lyrics emphatically. As it deploys its lyrics in time with Cee-Lo’s singing voice, the words fill the screen, push others offscreen, accumulate letters beyond the boundaries of conventional spelling, and its virtual camera moves to keep up with the flow of language. The video also employs and tactically subverts line break conventions, using visual formatting and placement of words as building blocks placed over time. See the official video (embedded below) for these and other effects, paying special attention to how the typography both underscores and defuses the use of culturally sensitive words and phrases.