Hello again, folks!
So, what are you guys and gals doing when you're not shooting alien warlords in the head, saving some galaxy or kingdom, throwing a few rather furious birds at squatting pigs or defending yourself and a girl vigorously against ferocious fungal mutant-zombies? I enjoy reading books, watching movies, taking long walks on the beach and -- *pause writing for several years* -- procrastinating like hell. Also, I really love watching music videos. In my humble opinion music videos are quite an overlooked and underappreciated art form (very much like videogames, ha!). Rarely do you really watch music videos. Proper music television -- if it still exists somewhere -- is often tuned in for background sonication only. And even if you really watched music television the average popular music video usually is (and always was) pretty crappy and by-the-numbers boring.
Which is a shame really. I love the idea of complementing a song with an appealing narrative or visually interesting shenanigans (or a narrative with a song). It’s a bit like listening to soundtracks of games I’ve played or movies I’ve watched: The visuals, story, atmosphere and my own impressions are connected to the songs of the soundtrack enriching them in the process. As I said, real shame that often music videos are pretty bland with just some people dancing uninteresting choreographies or sitting/standing around singing to the camera (those videos must have their fans, I guess, but seriously what is this clusterfuck? It has almost 200 million views!).
And this is where this blog comes in. There are some real gems in the world of music videos. Gems that really shine brightly beneath all the dreg. And I'll show them to you because that's the nice kinda fella I am.
Here are my Top 15 Favourite Music Videos. Enjoy.
But first a few runner-ups:
Let’s get a big one out of the way first. There’s no OK Go in my Top 15. Why the hell not, you may ask? Well, as much as I enjoy watching their videos I don’t really see them as music videos. For me they’re more akin to inventive and visually stunning performance art.
Seriously, all of…
…their videos are…
(Those video shoots must be a nightmare, jeez.)
Next runner-up is Flobot’s Handlebars:
A depressingly good video about different paths in life and where they might lead you. My reasons for not ranking this are the visual style which honestly looks shoddy, and the video’s point being a bit too on-the-nose. Still, good stuff.
Up next we got Deathgrips with I've Seen. It was -- unfortunately it’s no longer accessible in that form -- a pretty well-made interactive music video. As you can see in the regular version of the clip there’s a turbulent pool party going on with 50 people doing different shit. Nothing that special. Well, in the interactive version of this it was actually possible to switch to a person’s perspective with a simple mouse click. This made for a pretty fun experience trying to find secrets and creating an entire narrative in the video for/by yourself.
I generally find interactive music videos quite the nice idea. Back in 2008 German rap crew K.I.Z. -- the name has multiple, ever-changing meanings like Kannibalen in Zivil or Künstler im Zuchthaus -- released a small interactive video for their single Neuruppin, a track in which they’re acting as backwater serial killers. In the video you could rather rudimentarily explore an isolated house and swamp, finding the crew and others gorying up the place and being generally creepy. Not especially interactive but it really added to the song. Also, you could put your own picture in it and send it to folks as a surprise.
As final runner-up I present to you, Tenacious D with Rize of the Fenix. We haven’t really started the list but I’ve already shown you some pretty good music videos -- in my opinion at least -- and maybe you’ve wondered how some of those got made. If only there were a music video playing with the idea of entertainingly showing how it looks behind the scenes…
Now time to get serious, let’s start the list!
#15 The Brothers Bright - “Blood on my Name” (2011)
We got a long one and a semi-cheat entry, I guess, because Blood on my Name is a pretty frugal short movie/music video combo. It takes place in a dark western setting and a lot of world/story bits are only implied as we’re thrown right in medias res but I still -- or especially for that reason -- like it a lot. Two people escaping from someone or something is a great start and the music and story bits are interlaced very well in this music video. I actually would’ve loved to see some movie or series expand on the lore established in that music video, especially with more music conveying the same or a similar style and atmosphere.
#14 North Shore Pony Club -- “Quickdraw” (2012)
A gif video, huh? There’s millions online, right? Yeah, that’s probably true but I do really like this one. I love gifs (with a hard g) and back in the day I watched a lot of gif compilations online (found some great bands that way, too!). What I like about the video and gifs in general are the little stories that can be found in them or made up by yourself. Depending on what you personally associate with certain pictures, scenes or impressions a gif video can actually be very different when you watch it a second, third or fourth time later on. There’s also another good one done for Animal Collective but I like Pony Club’s more. At this point I should probably mention that a lot of these videos are not exactly safe for work environments (excluding all you porn actors, tattoo artists, biker bar personnel, professional hitmen and drug dealers here on Dtoid).
#13 Slayer -- “Eyes of the insane” (2006)
Basically Spec Ops: The Line: the music video this video uses a pretty creative approach to show a soldier suffering from PTSD. What’s not to like?
#12 Dumbfoundead -- “SAFE” (2016)
Sick and tired of white people stealing all the jobs? Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi is a disgrace? Boy, have I got the thing for you. A nifty little song by Dumbfoundead with an even better video commenting on some persistent problems with whitewashing in the movie industry. The idea may be simple but it’s used very well and doesn’t fail to deliver the message.
#11 Woodkid -- “Run Boy Run” (2012)
Now this is a bit of a weird one for me as I don’t really know why I love this video so much. Every single time I’ve watched it I got goose bumps, so that has to count for something.
The video features a classic approach to the hero’s journey with the boy venturing forth, stumbling, gathering swamp monster allies and weaponry, a pirate ship, and laying siege on a pristine city. The video ends right before the pillaging and burning of people’s homesteads begins and monsters and tree giants start eating newborn babies. Can’t have everything, folks.
The video -- directed by Woodkid himself -- was actually nominated for a Grammy award in 2013 (best short form music video) but who won instead? A bunch of boring fraggles fucking and taking drugs, of course.
Still, goose bumps, every single time. Maybe it’s the church bells and drums really delivering some urgency and the fast-pace of the boy’s ‘journey’. The greyscale gives the video a very timeless look, so all in all a neat package.
Also, you may know the song from the Dying Light reveal trailer back in 2014 and Woodkid’s prior single Iron was featured in the Assassin's Creed Revelations trailer (boom, another video game connection established!).
#10 Primus -- “Mr. Krinkle” (1993)
Here we got an industrious one-shot/static camera video from Primus. There’s so much awesome shit going on in the video that every time I watch it I find some new little detail. The general vibe is positively creepy, employing some intriguing circus or carnival imagery. There’s so much going on in every frame, it’s so densely packed with acrobatics and other shenanigans that have a huge potential for error -- rope skipping, burning people, mono cycles, juggling -- that you just gotta love it. It’s like a moving painting.
And if you’re wondering how the shoot must’ve been, here’s a short making-of video.
#09 Justice -- “Stress” (2008)
Time to fuck some shit up. This video shows a gang from a Parisian banlieue discharge their pent up rage and criminal energy seemingly celebrated by themselves on camera. It plain oozes desolation and aggression like the song itself, a match made in heaven.
It’s not just a simple violence spree, though, as the end of the video reveals a nice twist. At the end of the video you can suddenly see an… audio recordist? And after he (meaningfully) catches fire on the gang’s last act of destruction for the day, the gang turns on us, uh, I mean, the camera man and beats him to a pulp. Huh?
This basically takes a Natural Born Killers (or Hotline Miami kinda) turn, implicating the camera crew (and society?) in criminal activities. The crew gets theirs for pushing past morals wanting to film repulsive acts of violence, apathetic to the actual happenings and in extension to the gang’s own suburban life and problems.
#08 Beastie Boys -- “Make Some Noise/Fight for your Right (Revisited)” (2011)
Too much dark videos? Want something a bit more light-hearted? I got the thing for you! A long -- this actually approaches movie length -- video by the Beastie Boys! It’s a weird video with surprising cameos, time travel, dance battles, awesome rapping, mild vandalism (milder than Justice’s entry for sure) and it’s a fun callback/sequel to their early video of (You gotta) Fight for your RIght (to Party). As you can see with Blood on my Name and this one, the combination of music video and short movie can be fantastic. You have more time to dive into sound, visuals and narrative and thus have a different kind of enjoyment of the videos.
There are other great long music videos to check out if you like them: Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller comes to mind, as does Romain Gavras’s video for the M.I.A. song Born Free (Gavras also did the above Stress).
#07 Royal Blood -- “Out of the Black” (2015)
This one is just delightful. A pumping rock song and a short action-filled video interlaced with great animation. The frantic pace, the overt brutality, the silly bits. A fun romp I enjoy watching time and time again.
#06 Biting Elbows -- “Bad Motherfucker” (2013)
Well done, fast-paced action sequences shot from the first person perspective directed by one of the band members Ilya Naishuller. The choreography of the first-person action is inspiring and makes creative use of the underused perspective. The overwhelmingly positive response to the video (and its predecessor) and support from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov actually got Naishuller to make his first feature film Hardcore -- or Hardcore Henry depending on where you live --, refining what he already showed in the music videos for his band.
#05 Pearl Jam -- “Do the Evolution” (1998)
And back to dark, bitches! Humanity is fucked and this is its chronicle.
Directed by Kevin Altieri and Todd McFarlane of Batman: TAS and Spawn fame respectively, this video and song are just perfect together. Great, on-point animation, clear message (if a bit on the nose) and just damn great cinematography. One of my absolute favourites.
Also, it ends on an ever so slightly positive note implying a restart -- and thus a chance for improvement maybe -- of the whole shebang.
#04 Nekrogoblikon -- “No one survives” (2012)
I love how it begins like some stupid-ish fantasy story and then takes a turn to show us everyday normal goblin John Goblikon having a particularly shitty day at the office. I also love how he/it(?) doesn’t get “the girl” at the end but plain old revenge instead which is more valuable to a goblin in the end, I hope. Fuckin’ Brad, should’ve known better than to mess with a goblin.
Basically this is an underdog story, a common entertaining theme in metal/rock videos, for example in Korn’s Thoughtless (featuring a young Aaron Paul) and Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag. This and the overall costume, idea and pacing of song and video make for a damn fine music video in my book. Splatter, scream queen porn actress and Jon Lajoie cameo are just tasty cherries on top of the goblin cake. I also found the band through this song and have been listening to them ever since. They released some new stuff last year and this year they played a gig in my town which was awesome. At some point I’d love to play their stuff in Guitar Hero or something.
#03 Fatboy Slim -- “Right here, Right now” (1999)
Okay, I admit it! I love me some running from left to right and subverted-evolution themes in my videos. Something about it just speaks to me. This video was one of first videos that popped into my head when I started this list. A great -- kinda ethereal -- song that accompanies the depiction of such a vast natural process with a nice little jab at the end, that’s a perfect mixture right there, right then.
#02 Prodigy -- “Smack my bitch up” (1997)
Come on, you saw this coming.
This video actually sparked quite some controversy back in the day. Sexist, it was called among other things, by people who never saw the video, I guess. Well, it still ran on MTV but only after midnight. So, then not a lot of people saw it, nowadays it’s still held in high regard as one of the best music videos of all time. Creative in idea, merciless in presentation. Even Prodigy distanced themselves from the video for a short time while it was still being made because the fuzz was getting to them/their management. Fortunately for Prodigy Jonas Åkerlund, the director, pushed onwards without them, so that there even was a project they could come back to later on.
Before we’ll get to my #1 here are two great videos referencing Smack my bitch up and the video:
#01 Is Tropical -- “The Greeks” (2011)
So here we are, finally, at the top spot. My favourite music video. Go ahead, watch it, I’ll wait. Hopefully you’ll like it as much as I do.
Isn’t this fuckin’ great? The innocence of children playing juxtaposed with their imaginary violence. I LOVE this idea and how they present it. You could argue that the video is a bit one-note but in my opinion the repetition really brings it home. It’s also very similar to the make-believe world of video games where all of us are heroes, ninjas, soldiers or whatever else we want. <3
The music video won UK Music Video awards back in 2011 for best indie/rock video and best animation (some of the other videos I featured actually won UKMV Awards as well; Justice – Best international video in ’08, Woodkid – Best visuals in ’12 and Royal Blood – Best indie/rock video, best editing and best animation in ’15)
That’s it, folks! Hope you had fun with some (depressingly) great and (brutally) fun music videos. Thanks for reading, watching and listening!