Friday, 29 August 2014

29/08/14 - The 20 Best Music Videos (er, maybe...)

‘Video killed the radio star…’ sang the misguided Buggles back in 1979. They needn’t have worried – content and broadcasting has evolved way beyond MTV’s traditional passive format, and numerous radio stations still exist. Everything’s fine.
Anyway, the music video as a format is something to be celebrated, not feared. Imagine if those cretinous Buggles had had their way, we’d never have had Michael Jackson’s Thriller vid, or that Cardigans one where her fake tattoo smears itself across the car seat through the course of the song. Yeah? Yeah. So, it’s time to celebrate all that’s great and good in the world of musical cinematography by looking at The Non-Exhaustive JuicyPips Top 20 Music Videos Of All Time In No Particular Order (With Countless Probable Glaring Omissions)

The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up
We’re going in hard, starting the list off with this one. Not for the faint-hearted.
The video is filmed in first-person perspective, showing a typical night out in London – drink-driving, lots of vomiting, cocaine, strippers, heroin, a hit and run; y’know, the usual. There’s a twist at the end, but I won’t give it away in case you haven’t seen it before.

The Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up from SVEn Alone on Vimeo.

Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution
A brilliant song with a really beautifully animated video. A snapshot history of the world (and the various atrocities therein) in four minutes.

Beastie Boys – Sabotage
One of MTV’s most-played videos, this Spike Jonze-directed hit may well be very familiar to you. Think eighties cops, big moustaches and Aviators.

Mansun – Taxloss
Simple concept for this one: the record label gave them £25,000 to make the video. They withdrew the twenty-five grand in fivers, then scattered them over surprised rush-hour commuters at Liverpool Street station, filming the ensuing chaos. This was back in 1997 – a viral before viral was even a thing.

Mansun - Taxloss (Radio Edit) on MUZU.TV.

Weezer – Buddy Holly
Another Spike Jonze classic here, showing Weezer playing Buddy Holly at Arnold’s Diner in Happy Days. Which is impossible, obviously – clever editing, innit?
(Fun fact: when Microsoft released Windows 95, the disc contained a folder of ‘fun stuff’, which included this video.)

Tenacious D – Tribute
It’s got Dave Grohl dressed up as the devil. What more do you want?

Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
This is basically the original music video. It often appears in pointless music video listicles like this one, although back in 1965 there was no such thing as a promotional music video – the sequence was actually the intro to a documentary about Dylan’s ’65 UK tour. Nevertheless, the brilliant simplicity of the video has truly transcended the ages (or whatever pretentious claptrap you want to apply to it). It’s basically just Dylan standing in an alley, holding up cue cards with a selection of the lyrics on. But it’s really good.

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues - HQ from Noisefield on Vimeo.

The Shamen – Ebeneezer Goode
Features Jerry Sadowitz running around in a cape, in a weird precursor to The Hitcher in The Mighty Boosh. Interestingly, a number of TV channels didn’t want to show it because the flashing light/dark motifs might induce epileptic fits, but few seemed concerned about the rather unmissable ‘Es are good! Es are good!’ lyrics. Heigh ho.

Mick Jagger/David Bowie – Dancing in the Street
Heh. Only joking. This is probably the most embarrassing music video ever made.

Foo Fighters – Everlong
A darkly beautiful song with a very strange video. Directed by Michel Gondry, the band members keep jumping in and out of each other’s dreams in a creepy parody of The Evil Dead.

Radiohead – Just
A man lies down in the street. Passers-by ask him why he’s lying there. He’s reluctant to tell them. The situation heats up as the assembling crowds demand to know what he’s doing. He reluctantly tells them. The end is chilling.
Gorgeous song, too.

Blur – Coffee & TV
No cuter character has ever been created for a music vid than this little blue milk carton. If you’ve somehow missed this video, watch it now. It’ll make your heart smile.

OK Go – Here It Goes Again
You can’t really talk about music videos without mentioning OK Go. It’s an unarguable fact that the band would never have been as big if they weren’t so canny with regard to shareable content. Their videos get millions upon millions of hits on YouTube and spawn countless parodies. The songs almost don’t matter.
This is probably the most famous one. It’s the one with the treadmills.

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
This was on TV constantly when I was a teenager. Its popularity appears to have endured too, it’s had 92m views on YouTube.
The context of the concept is that it was a homage to Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy video (click here); it was later comprehensively lampooned by the Fat Les football chant parody Vindaloo (clicky). See, that’s the mark of an iconic piece of film – it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, and is ripe for parody as it’s so ubiquitous.

A – Monkey Kong
A rather less well-known one here, but a corker. A always seemed to have a lot of fun making videos, and this track is an absolute belter too.
(I also love that the singer, Jason Perry, is clearly really drunk throughout.)

Blink 182 – All The Small Things
This is a devastating parody of every cheesy boy band/pop video to come out of the late nineties. So many vintage clichés.

Guns N’ Roses – Don’t Cry
Never knowingly reserved, Axl’s vision for what a music video should be was basically this: make it as overblown as possible, then throw some more money at it. Take a look at Don’t Cry and just imagine what the budget was…
(See also November Rain & Estranged.)

Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now in the Fire
Filmed in front of the New York Stock Exchange, with interspersed scenes from a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, RATM caused the NYSE to have to close its doors while all this was going on. It was more than just a name.

The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
Another Michel Gondry effort, this video is all shot in stop-motion LEGO. It’s ace.
The White Stripes had approached LEGO to collaborate on the video, but LEGO refused so they had to buy all of the bricks themselves. Then they asked if LEGO wanted to work out a deal to package each copy of the single with little LEGO figures of Jack and Meg, and they again refused.
Once the video became a hit, however, LEGO contacted the band and said ‘actually, we want to be involved, let’s work something out’. Jack White told them to sod off.

Michael Jackson – Thriller
Yeah, had to finish on this, really. Often cited as the most influential music video ever made - and rightly so, it’s still astoundingly good, even thirty-one years on. And it’s nice to remember the times when the King of Pop was only pretending to be really creepy.

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