Fading Like a Flower: What happens if you copy a VHS tape 23 times?

Sixth generation VHS copy of a 1991 Roxette music video

Does your smartphone have a scratched camera lens or a cracked screen? Has a year or two of constantly forgetting your charger at home ruined it’s battery life? Do you feel like this limits your creativity?

If you think a half-broken smartphone sucks, let’s have a quick glance back at one of the realities of consumer video equipment from way back. Namely VHS cassettes.

Rather than digital data, a VHS cassette carries a crummy analog video signal. Analog signals degrade rapidly with copying. This phenomenon is called generation loss and thanks to the internet we can admire the insane result of duplicating a VHS tape 23 times.

Thankfully, the beautifully crazy person behind did experiment didn’t pick a random boring toothpaste commercial from the archives. They chose 1991 a broadcast of the music video for “Fading Like a Flower”, a radio staple from Swedish power pop darlings Roxette.

In the back of my mind I’m disappointed that this exercise wasn’t performed with that famous scene from a certain Nipponese horror flick involving cursed VHS tapes. But then again, I doubt I’d be able to watch it.

At this point we could easily disappear into technicalities of analog video. Like, for starters, if you’re from the USA, the awful resolution and color of this European PAL format VHS recording may actually look better than the old NTSC tapes hidden in your dad’s Forbidden Closet of Mystery.

But we’re just going to assume that you’re born after 1995 and VHS tapes never mattered to you. And besides, by now you should be terrified. What if that Vine you just starred will face the 2030s with  less dignity than Roxette’s cheesy helicopter shots of Stockholm?

Seriously though: Roxette’s “…Like a Flower” was a global hit, and not necessarily a bad pop song.

Even though I may sound a lot like a quote from American Psycho, I will partially attest to the allure of Roxette’s music, paricularly their “Look Sharp” (1988) and “Joyride” (1991) albums. If you forgive the humorously over-crisp production values, Roxette has some nice pop songs that deserve to be, if nothing else, sampled.

And if you want even more aptly edited vintage video silliness, see Everything is Terrible. Addictive awkwardness is guaranteed.

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2 replies

  1. Well that’s 5 minutes of my life I won’t get back… But now I fully understand why those endless Roxette videos I got from friends in the 90’s were poor quality and almost unwatchable!

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