The MTV I knew growing up is now just a fossil. I remember coming home from school and sitting on the phone with my friend discussing the perplexities of a musician’s video or secretly lusting after Izzy Stradlin. Let it be known I am not talking about Carson Daly and TRL. Instead, there was a spontaneity, a surprise, of what would come next. Missy Elliott in a trash bag, a little girl in a bee costume. Now, the nature of the music video game is shifting with the emergence of visual albums such as Animal Collective’s ODDSAC and Beyonce’s Lemonade. Either way, videos can capture an artist’s vision that wasn’t yet brought to life just by the music.
What I find most captivating about a music video is that it can make such a lasting impression. It can speak in a way that others may not understand. And discovering someone else’s favorite video can be like finding out they have an adopted sister. You just never saw it coming. In an effort to reminisce about the magic that exists in music videos and to possibly find a few surprises along the way, I posed a simple question on Facebook a while ago: “What’s your favorite music video?” I had some amazing responses. And it got me thinking about different aspects of what entails the idea of a great video. Is it visually appealing or does it take a stance on some social injustice? Is it fun and does the video truly elevate the music? I chose six of my favorite responses to share with our readers of what I thought were truly great music videos.
6. Lambchop “Is A Woman”
I had never heard of this Nashville band or seen the video. In essence, it’s a slow moving and very simple video. However, the video is like opening a moving children’s picture book. And there’s something beautiful about personifying a fallen leaf and watching his journey through the change of seasons. If a leaf falls in the forest do we hear him and where does he go to party? To no avail, I couldn’t find out more information on the video itself as to whether it was an official video or who made it. I don’t know how much the video has in relation to the song but maybe this will be something I learn in hindsight. Sometimes you just need a feel good video and I think “Is A Woman” encapsulates this well.
Thanks to Justin Smith for sharing.
5. Guns N’ Roses “November Rain”
I know what you’re thinking. This is so obvious for a favorite video. There aren’t many songs that I hear and actually picture the video in my head. Besides Stephanie Seymour’s high-low wedding dress, perfectly brown 90’s lipstick, and half-mirrored face in her post-wedding coffin, one can never forget Slash’s guitar solo outside that tiny white chapel. The video is full of outlandish scenes, Riki Rachtman (host of Headbangers Ball) pummeling through the wedding cake, a blood weeping crucified Jesus, and the all-in-out weirdness that Axl brings to most of his videos. Although it’s not officially stated by the band, the videos for “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged” (a badass song, but those dolphins!) contribute to a type of trilogy. The video was based on a short story by Del James who also contributed to some other GNR songs, like “Yesterdays.” An epic movie usually has all the elements of adventure, action, romance, and death. “November Rain” is an epic music video, and unfortunately they just don’t make videos like that anymore.
Thanks to Amy Marlowe for sharing.
4. The Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight, Tonight”
My true appreciation for this video comes from the tribute to Georges Méliès (note his last name on the ship at the end of the video). His 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, is widely acclaimed in the cinema community. And rightly so. The mixture of the imaginative plot and the surreal scenery, which was mechanically operated, is something of a fantastic daydream. And this is where “Tonight, Tonight” steps in. After many ideas of which direction the video should take, directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris took inspiration from the Pumpkins’ album cover for Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Although the band’s instruments in the video were just props, James Iha is seen holding what looks to be a gorgeous Gibson U Harp guitar. All in all it’s a fun, quirky, imaginative video. What’s truly interesting about “Tonight, Tonight” is it could stand alone as a visual work just like Méliès’ silent film. Hit mute and you’ll find it’s quite the contrary to anything sad or melancholy.
Thanks to Rachael Smith for sharing.
3. The Verve “Bitter Sweet Symphony”
This is actually one of my favorite videos and another video I picture in my head every time I hear the song. There’s not much to it, just Richard Ashcroft walking down the street not giving two flying middle phalanges. I believe everyone should have a moment in life where they feel invincible and this video encapsulates that moment in simplistic perfection. But we can’t forget the whole debacle of plagiarism. The Verve had previously negotiated a license to use parts of the orchestral version of The Rolling Stone’s “The Last Time” performed by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra. The dispute rose to a head when hard-nosed manager of the Stones, Allen Klein, claimed The Verve used too many elements in “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” As a result of the lawsuit, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were legally attributed as songwriters and The Verve’s biggest hit granted the band no royalties. It was truly a hot mess. But even when I hear the 1965 version, I still picture old Rich walking down a busy London street and I feel a rush of unyielding fortitude. And The Stones can’t take that away from me.
2. UNKLE “Rabbit in Your Headlights”
James Lavelle and DJ Shadow (seen as passengers in the car that stops to talk to the wandering man) worked together for UNKLE’s debut release with the album Psyence Fiction, which featured many highly acclaimed artists such as Mike D of the Beastie Boys and the singer for this video, Thom Yorke of Radiohead. After watching this video, I was speechless. It touches on the indecency of humanity and the overwhelming population of the homeless with psychological issues. Unfortunately, I see this type of human behavior all too much. We want to ignore anything that is uncomfortable and so many issues get brushed under the rug. This may just be my interpretation, but that’s the beauty of this video. The music almost takes a backseat and the viewer is forced with much anticipation to figure out what the hell is going on. The video is beautifully executed by director Jonathan Glazer and actually won MVPA’s 1999 Best International Video of the Year Award. Notably, the French actor Denis Lavant gives a compelling performance. I believe there is a lost art to video making as far as challenging our perceptions of life. Much of the music video world has been bombarded with thrusting dance scenes, multiple dramatic outfit changes, and some sort of unvoiced bet among directors of just how freakin cool they can make a musician look. However, “Rabbit in Your Headlights” makes you think without being flashy. And it doesn’t hurt when art actually makes you think.
Thanks to Shawn Williamson for sharing.
1. Kim Mitchell “Go for Soda”
Let me explain why I chose this video for number one. I am the girl that plays Apples to Apples and chooses the most outrageous, nonsensical card for the win. That’s just my personality and laughing is good for you. And this is the most outrageous, nonsensical video I have ever seen! My favorite part is when Canadian musician Kim Mitchell comes out of the tv and kicks the kid’s cigarette. The second runner up would be the scene where the kid tries over and over to hang up the phone. You would think with all the special effects in the video a reshoot of this scene wouldn’t have hurt the budget. I had so many questions about this video: Is that kid a young Meatloaf? Did Rod Stewart dye his hair brown and become a guitarist for Kim Mitchell? Can we only go for orange soda? Should I make that knee dance apart of my repertoire? Two of these questions were resolved by the end of the video when the credits, yes, credits, rolled across the screen. Overall, I hope the phrase “Go for soda” becomes a staple in your weekly vocabulary. For instance, if your friend tries to drunk text their ex or your senile uncle Jim tries to play with power tools, just say, “Go for soda.” Sometimes you just need a good laugh and a reminder not to take things too seriously. And with that, I’m headed to the fridge and goin for some soda.
Thanks to Jay Kirsch for sharing and making my life better.