Song of the Moment

J. Cole - Lost Ones

Friday, October 15, 2010

Heidi Presents, "Friday Gut Check - I Want My MTV"

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.


  1. You know, I am absolutely thrilled that you spoke on music videos. I don't know if you did this per my request necessarily but regardless of the reasoning, I'm glad ya did.

    I have a similar story of my own.
    I remember sitting in the living room with my cousins, I was only about 5 or 6 at the time. 'Thriller' was coming on and being very naive at the time I was easily convinced to watch it, (clears throat) what I sat through anyway. Nearly the whole globe knows that short film frame by frame. The car scene, walking on the dirt road. He stops her and says I quote, "...I have somethin I wanna tell ya...I'm not like other guys...I mean I'm different." Pause. Now mind you, by now my nerves are shot, and my anticipation of the next scene is growing second by second. I think I'm Ms. Big-shot and I can take whats going to happen next. When he looks up at her, making the gurgling noise and the fangs showing and whatnot, I ran upstairs and told my grandma they scared me. It scared me to death, but I liked it anyway, and still do.

    THANK YOU for listing Scream. To me that is definitely one of the best music videos to date. I've heard and read that its THE most expensive video ever made for quite some time, think I believe it now. I can remember the first time I saw that video. I'm thinking how did they get up there and how can I join em'? I love the strong contrast between black and white. Janet and Michael letting out all the frustration. Then the section where the both of them are stretching and its slow-mo for a few seconds, and they proceed to "cut a rug" like no one else. Love it no doubt.

  2. I'm so glad you liked it! I mean, you can't talk about music videos without talking about Michael Jackson. I remember being seriously scared of the Thriller video - the end . . . where they tear into that run down house? TERRIFYING!

    Scream was a huge deal for me . . . I'm a huge Janet Jackson fan, like cried hysterically when I saw her in concert huge fan. I liked that it not only rocked, but could be a reaction to what the media (and to be fair, Michael) made Michael out to be. Great, great moment.

  3. i think that most michael jackson or janet jackson videos are pretty solid. 'scream' is probably my favorite video of all time, and it is the only part of the VMAs that i cared enough to fast forward to and watch twice when my mom (MY MOM!) dvr'd it last year.

    favorite videos that you should watch on youtube if you haven't already:
    -"tonight tonight" - smashing pumpkins. it's awesome.
    -"ghost of stephen foster" - squirrel nut zippers. animated by the same crew that does the simpsons.
    -any foo fighters video, particularly "learn to fly" as dave grohl is fricken hilarious and taylor makes a hot chick.
    -"stupid girls" by pink. she should host SNL. dude seriously.
    -"white and nerdy" weird al. best part: donny osmond.
    -"together again" - janet jackson. love the dance.
    -"single ladies" - i'm sorry but this video is probably the best video in the last 5 years. bob fosse inspired, no repeated choreography, this video must've taken an insane amount of dedication and prep.
    -"my love" justin timberlake.
    -"touch the sky" - kanye, because i love that he uses a curtis mayfield song as the base for this track and uses the original during the 'intermission,' and who doesn't love the girl that's not nia long screaming "WHAT ABOUT THE ASS?" i say that all the time.
    -"hips don't lie" or really anything with shakira, that girl can move some stuff.
    -"got the life" from korn.
    -and any rob zombie video.

    a really good video has to have something iconic. i think most of the videos above and in the main post have that. even videos from the 80s - robert palmer's chicks, the video for 'sledgehammer,' 'take on me' - people still remember those because they had 'something' that made them stand out. probably the reason that britney spears' stuff is (semi?) memorable is because her videos were pretty good. not even gonna lie, 'toxic' is a pretty bad ass video.

  4. Great list. I'll let Heidi know you commented too!

    My two cents: videos are nice. I think the ones you listed are also good vids. I never identified much with the Jackson family stuff - but hey, that's just me. I can look back and really respect Thriller for what it was back in the day.

    Take on Me was very before its time.