If video killed the radio star, does that mean that MTV killed the video?
When I was seven years old, I distinctly remember my 12 year-old sister and I sitting on butterfly-filled bellies, our eyes glued to the local Fox station waiting with intense anticipation for the world premiere presentation of Michael Jackson's Black or White video. It was an epic moment. A moment we actually planned our lives around. What could be more exciting to a seven year old than a music video starring Macauly Culkin, lovable Norm from Cheers, dancers from around the world, crotch grabbing and that awesome computer generated face morphing technology that was being used for the very first time to morph faces? I'll tell you what was better . . . nothing. It was huge, it was a music video on BROADCAST television for Christ's sake - well Fox anyway. But, at that moment everyone was watching Michael Jackson remind the world that he was the King of Video. From this moment, who could have predicted that music videos would later become so . . . obsolete?
I'll be honest here, I don't think I've seen a new music video in years, mostly because there is nowhere to watch them. I mean, I saw parodies of Beyonce's Single Ladies, before I saw the real thing (I gotta agree with Kanye, it was a cool video). But, I did watch the MTV VMAs this year (stop judging), and proceeded to see three artists win every damn award. BORING!
I think we're past the golden age of the music video, and most likely, for the music industry in general. But, damn, that golden age was awesome - filled with spectacular artistry launching unknown directors and photographers into stardom. Here's my list of my favorite music videos of all time. . .
1. Vogue - Madonna
David Fincher directed this video! What?! In fact, Fincher directed two videos on my list. Absolutely everything about Madonna is iconic, and absolutely every frame of this video could stand alone as a work of art. I don't know if y'all saw that Glee remake, but I was astounded at how much I remembered from the original video. It's a highly stylized video for a song about style. Brilliant, and unforgettable.
2. Closer - Nine Inch Nails
I was terrified by this video as a kid. I mean, I would turn the channel to make that spinning spooky mad scientist guy go away. But, as an adult, I love it. The song is gritty and layered and has to be edited anywhere it's broadcast. So, the video is equally as gritty and interesting to look with intentionally "censored" scenes.
3. Scream - Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
Two video gods. Brother and sister for the first time. Dancing the hell out of space. I cried when Janet danced alongside this video at last year's VMAs, and realized that this was my favorite Michael Jackson video. It was a personal and angry song, and a hot video.
4. Freedom 90 - George Michael
Again, from David Fincher. It turns out that perfect way for George Michael to rebel against what MTV wanted him to be was to not appear in his own video, and just let a bunch of supermodels take over. Like Fincher's film work, the video feels dark, minimalist and industrial, while still feeling lush. Every time I hear that song (which is a favorite), I see the video in my head. I also just like to dance around like Naomi Campbell.
5. Been Caught Stealing - Jane's Addiction
A predecessor of the silly cross dressing videos from those guys who fight Foo, Jane's Addiction's Been Caught Stealing hits this list as my favorite funny video. From the guy who stuffs carrots up his fake pregnant belly, to the Grease-style grocery store aisle dancing, I hands down LOVE this video. I know I said a lot about videos that are serious art, but there is nothing cooler than rock stars with a sense of humor.