Can You Say Sam Tsui?

One of my favorite videos by Samuel is his rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium” featuring Sia. This cover was published more than three years ago on YouTube. Kurt Hugo Schneider both produced the music video and made the film to upload on YouTube. Sam Tsui is one of Kurt’s favorite lead singers. With Kurt working his background miracles, Samuel really is the poster child of their collaborated films. The four minute long song begins with Sam stepping up to the microphone stand. He wears a leather, hooded jacket and the back of his head is well lit. As the camera pans closer towards his face, the video begins scrolling rightwards on our screens. What was to ensue blew my mind during my sophomore year in college. I sat from my dorm room and witnessed a new YouTube phenomenon. Creativity sparked with music cover videos of this nature. My impression of Sam Tsui cover productions expanded with his multimodal use of filmmaking tools.

Before seeing a video of this kind, prior videos tended to focus on one angle on the singer and the instrument. One single position on a pair of singers was the status quo. What Kurt and Sam likely agreed upon here is the use of iMovie to jazz up the experience for viewers. A rectangular still on Tsui cued the many tiles to come soon afterwards. These subsequent widgets include quarter tiles, vertical pillars, and odd shaped frames overlapping one another. Multiple takes on Sam’s singing performance were captured in this four minute long, finished clip. Viewers can see Sam and Kurt on the podium, on the piano stand, and on their guitars. Each set of strings and keys are of a different model. Keyboards range in size and brand just as strings vary in hue and value. One can see how much Kurt contributes to the public reenactment of this song (he plays the instruments as Sam sings through the wire). In this performance by the dynamic duo, Tsui is the head singer while Schneider holds the vertebrae of all other things included.

The singing in this song is well tuned. Sam and Kurt have produced multiple dozens of songs already by this point. Their acoustic and video tweaking abilities have been honed. In the background, a pair of light beams are well focused on Kurt and Sam. Both spotlights hold a particular set of filters adding to the desired lighting effect within the studio. The use of recording space is deliberate. The light to the left gives a damp green feeling as the right light illuminates a spottier orange. From the lighting design, multiple cameras point upwards at their chin and downwards on their lips. None of these equipment are readily accessible in one’s home. Tsui and Hugo Schneider found a niche mass producing cover entertainment of mainstream pop music. For the most part, they do justice to the original songwriters. In my view, artists like these two elevate the popularity of these favorite tunes. They contribute to the multiple options in hearing these Billboard songs. Just to name a few, viewers can now watch the original music video in high definition, an alternative interpretation of the original music video, a homemade lyric music video, and last but not least, the licensed reproduction of these songs through the talents of Sam and Kurt. Their artworks are here to stay whether or not the music industry approves of them.


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