This is a bit of a sidetrack, but this was a list of the ten best music videos I thought up the other day while I was bored.
10. "Hypnotize", Notorious B.I.G.
The quintessential rap video of the nineties: big-budget, shot in widescreen, and equipped with a strong, intriguing plot line (usually hacking off a famous action film). Though Tupac’s “California Love” was bigger in terms of style, concept, and popularity, it was B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” which perfected this style of video which is still common today. Involving a sing-a-long bouncing ball which allows to follow along with the lines of the song, our eyes are mostly focused on one of the best car chase scenes in music video history, which involves B.I.G.’s sidekick at the time, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, driving backwards. What it lacks in coherence it makes up in style with the white suits, and the surprisingly stunning cinematography.
9. "Freedom '90", George Michael
George Michael’s career has seemed to have an unfortunate devolution into numerous gay jokes, but he was at his peak in the year 1990, when he released the song “Freedom ‘90”, a huge hit that was supported by a wonderful music video. The video, which involves numerous famous super models of the time canoodling alone within a ragged building, while simultaneously lip-synching the lines of the song, was most notorious for the absence of Michael himself. Looking to do away with his Wham! past, Michael took himself virtually out of the video, instead being replaced by Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford. Nobody can forget the ceremonial explosion of his niche leather jacket and jukebox.
8. "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana
Nirvana's introduction to the music world came with a bang, leaving the phony prestige of 80's hair bands in their dust. Set in a murky school gym, it was a video that reached out displayed teen angst in its most bare form. With essentially every band member covered by long, unclean hair, the band performs with an audience of moshing schoolchildren, and high school is shown the way it feels for most of it's inhabitants: a grim hell, where the only escape is letting off steam listening to your favorite band with the volume all the way up. It was as revolutionary as it was innovative, setting the stage for incoming alternative rock throughout the 90's, and inadvertently placing lead singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain to the forefront of the movement. The song and the video still stand as a cornerstone for that entire decade.
7. "Need You Tonight/Mediate", INXS
This double video, containing to songs and videos with completely different styles in terms of tone and complexity, became a huge hit in the late 80's. A majority of "Need You Tonight" consists of a groundbreaking (for its time) multi-layering technique which allowed a black & white band to play in the background, while a color, and almost grainy Michael Hutchence sang in the foreground. The dark tone of the video's visuals coincide with the song's dark, immediate lyrics. And for a moment, for what seems like no reason other than to add a moment of strangeness, Hutchence walks in the foreground with a white mouse nestled on his shoulder. "Mediate", the second part is a nice homage to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", arguably the first official music video, which you can see here.
6. "Virtual Insanity", Jamariquai
A video that is brilliant mostly because of it's simplicity. Consisting mostly of lead singer Jay Kay trying to find his way around a room where the floors refuse to stop moving, throwing couches, chairs, and love seats in every which direction. There are cameos made by several large bugs and a bird, and when all is said and done, both couches are left bloodied by the abuse the room has put them through. Sporting a trademark hat, Kay performs moves some of the best gymnasts couldn't pull off, working his way around a room where lord only knows which way the walls will close in on you. On top of everything, the hyperactive room and the bleeding furniture is all allegorical for the meaning of the song, spouting the fear that technology can have over our simple minds.
5. "Coffee & TV", Blur
Another video pulled along by allegory. The video tells the story of a very optimistic carton of milk attempting to find the missing son of the family who purchased him. On his journey, he comes along the terrors of the real world, including angry hookers, dark alleyways, and watching the love of his life (a pink milk carton), getting smashed rather violently by a rather omnipresent foot. Despite it all, the little carton continues on his trek, determined to find the boy, and when he finally does, the boy pays him back by drinking his milk, and throwing him in the trash. Representing our own mistreatment of the little guy, the video's imagery is bettered by the most adorable milk carton anyone's ever seen. There is a happy ending, though: he meets up with his pink-carton love in milk heaven.
4. "Everlong", Foo Fighters
After the end of Nirvana, drummer Dave Grohl moved over to the Foo Fighters, and when they released their underrated masterpiece The Colour and the Shape, along with it came the video for one of the album's biggest hits, "Everlong". The video, a dream sequence mixed with an action film mixed with a romance, is as hard-rocking as it is nonsensical. In a quest to save his wife from a dream in which she's being attacked by two strange men with Elvis hairdos, lead singer must go to sleep himself, to enter her dream and kill the attackers. His weapon? A magically large hand that grows when he gets angry, so he can bitch-slap people to death. Of coarse, all of the characters are played by the members of the band, and the video ends as they rip off their costumes and conclude the song, instruments in hand.
3. "Weapon of Choice", Fatboy Slim
There's a famous rumor that actor Christopher Walken has never turned down a part in his life. Whether or not that's true, I don't know for sure, but one thing that I do know for sure, is that Walken did not turn down the part for the Spike Jonze-directed Fatboy Slim video, "Weapon of Choice". The video displays the wackiness we've come to love from Walken, as he shows off some surprisingly good dance moves throughout an empty hotel lobby. Defiling desks, magazines, and escalators, Walken glides from area to area with an exuberance of a man half his age. His youthful energy becomes so much, that it actually allows him to fly toward the end. Brilliant in its simplicity, the video is a collaboration of two masters of their craft: Walken and Jonze. Hopefully, it is not the last of the projects the two will have together.
2. "Loser", Beck
From depths of underground folk in 1994, came the long-haired, pasty-white Beck. "Loser", a song mixing alternative guitar strumming mixed with nonsensical rap lyrics ("Shave your face with some mace in the dark"), struck a chord with most music-lovers, in the first sign of great music to come after Kurt Cobain's suicide. The film that has a message that combines apathy with downright laziness seemed was supported with a groundbreaking video that matched the song's style exactly. Consisting mostly of homemade-looking videos scrapped hastily together, creating a feeling of havoc which only Beck could make so harmonious. With film negative shots of exercising cheerleaders, and another image of death cleaning someone's windshield in blood, the film's viral energy brought Beck into pop music where his strange innovation still reigns true.
1. "Sledgehammer", Peter Gabriel
This is easily music video equivalent to Citizen Kane. It's innovation and bold attempt to recreate the definition of what a music video was make it stand any other music video of its or any time. Using stop-motion animation combined with Gabriel's face, we're able to go on a pretty interesting adventure through the depths of somebody's subconscious. The video's constant shape-shifting ability makes it fascinating to watch even today. At one point, "Sledgehammer" was the most played video in MTV history, played so much that Gabriel himself called to ask the station to please stop. The film's near-cinematic quality and hypnotizing visuals culminate in a sequence involving two uncooked, dancing chickens. Of coarse, the video ends as Gabriel shifts shape one last time, into a man made out of stars.