My Top 5 Music Videos of All Time… OF ALL TIME.

Posted: 15/10/2012 in Uncategorized

Featured as part of ‘State’s Top 50… Music Videos’

Recently, State asked all of its writers & photographers to submit five favourite music videos for a ‘Top 50′ feature. Much soul-searching and head-scratching followed, but finally, I was able to narrow it down to five (Guns n’ Roses ‘November Rain’ JUST missed out, sorry Slash!) – and below are my choices in full. These are not neccessarily absolute all-time favourite songs of mine, but ALL are what I consider to be seminal music videos, which captured my heart at various points in my life. Interestingly, 4 of the 5 are from the pre-YouTube era in the good ol’ days when MTV did as its title suggested!

Michael Jackson – ‘Beat It’

What’s a countdown of music videos without a Michael Jackson offering? ‘Thriller’ is the obvious choice for many, and with good reason – but for me, ‘Beat It’ is superior. It’s nothing to do with crippling childhood fear of ‘Thriller’ at all, I swear. With ‘Beat It’, Jackson took the bold step of addressing the issue of gang violence by pitting real-life members of LA street gangs Bloods and Crips against eachother on Skid Row – not fighting with knives, but instead working out their differences through the medium of dance. Sadly, Eddie Van Halen’s record label forbid him from appearing in the music video to put a face to the famous guitar solo – but between the young Jackson’s impassioned performance, the stunning mass-choreography, and THAT red leather jacket, there’s enough to make it a bona-fide classic regardless.

Aerosmith – ‘Crazy’

This is one video that I remember being on constant rotation on MTV, day and night – but particularly at night, when we were allowed stay up late to watch television on the week-nights of school summer holidays. Given that I was 9 when the video was released I was hardly a die-hard Aerosmith fan, but the video was so prevalent at the time that it was hard not to love the song, even though I hadn’t a rashers what was going on in the video. Two girls – one the lead singer’s daughter, the other who went on to be ‘yer wan from Clueless’ – running away from school and taking off in a super-slick convertible blue Mustang, charming service station attendants to get away with taking what they wanted, winning pole-dancing competitions, and hanging out with hot shirtless farmers. What’s not to like?! Looking back with the wisdom of age, there are obviously undertones a’ plenty – but that just makes me appreciate it even more.

Weezer – ‘Buddy Holly’

The procurement of a home PC changed was a pivotal moment for me as a music fan – even before the advent of digital music and widespread broadband. Why? Because on the Windows 95 CD there was a folder titled ‘Fun Stuff’, and within that folder lay a movie file of the Spike Jonze directed video for Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’. We didn’t have the internet or any games on our PC at the time – so it was a choice between playing (but not understanding) ‘Minesweeper’, drawing poor quality pictures on MS Paint, or watching ‘Buddy Holly’ on loop courtesy of that CD-ROM. The latter proved the most entertaining of the three, particularly for the ‘Happy Days’ fan within. A body-double and some clever editing even allowed Fonzie to dance out the video. Magic.

No Doubt – ‘Don’t Speak’

‘Spiderwebs’ and the subsequent ‘Just A Girl’ paved the way, but it was ‘Don’t Speak’ in 1996 that made No Doubt a household name, with a music video – the first of the bands’ to be directed by now long-time collaborator Sophie Muller – that was on constant rotation on TV. The beauty of both the song and video is that they do dual duty in telling timely tales of the little-known band with the HUGE hit. Lyrically, ‘Don’t Speak’ frankly details the break-up of leading lady Gwen Stefani and bassist Tony Kanal, childhood sweethearts who found fame together before it all went horribly wrong in 1994; visually, the tensions within the band are portrayed as Stefani becomes the star with her cohorts fading into the background of the cast off by her spotlight. The common thread of the video is performance shots within a garage – a nod to their humble beginnings, with live footage of high-octane live performances from happier times woven in between. What sells the story is the emotive performance of Stefani versus the deadpan expressions of her bandmates – the past/present identical cuts of Stefani serenading Kanal particularly effective. A brilliant video which sparked a long-time love for Anaheim’s finest.

Beyonce – ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’

When Kanye West gate-crashed Taylor Swift’s celebratory speech at the 2009 VMAs to inform her that he was happy for her to take home the gong for ‘Best Female Video’ but that Beyoncé deserved it more for making “one of the best videos of all time… OF ALL TIME!”, he all of a sudden became public enemy #1. Truth be told, it may not have been the most tactful thing to do – but he was spot on. Every time is like the first time when watching the video for ‘Single Ladies’ – it’s just fantastic. What makes it great is the simplicity of it – the black & white video contains minimal camera shots and cuts, and no changes to hairstyles or costumes or sets; just Beyoncé and two dancers clad in black, executing a mesmerising choreographed dance routine against a plain white backdrop. Although it wasn’t shot that way, the video gives the impression of being a one-take-wonder – in reality, it took 12 hours to get it just right. We don’t mind, though – perfection takes time. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it has been parodied far and wide – but to see ‘Single Ladies’ being REALLY appreciated, just watch the dancefloor when it comes on next time you frequent a night-club…

  1. Mark McKenna says:

    Some Classic!! I think I would’ve went with Smooth Criminal though.

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