The Video Stars: High School Music Videos
Ok fine, this is probably my most debatable category in this series. Like in the world of High School movies many are duds but a few gems keep the genre alive, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough for a top 10 list. And oh look, here’s one now!
10. Whip My Hair – Willow, 2010. Directed by Ray Kay.
This one surprised me slightly, but in the end it made the cut, simply for being cute and kid-friendly without making my lip curl like say, Lil’ Mama did. Willow has the attitude and spark of her mother, and the charisma and ears of her daddy – how could you not love that? The colours and hair are fabulous in this vid, and quite simply, it makes me want to crump.
9. Make Em Say Uhh! – Master P, 1997. Directed by ???
Yeah, I can’t find the director. Maybe he’s not proud of his work, or maybe this video isn’t what most people online have ever talked about. But it’s actually great, if only because something entitled “Make em say Uhh” is set in a high school gymnasium, and is actually all about basketball… How refreshing! Is this just nostalgic for me? I apologize if that’s the case.
8. 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins, 1996. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
This video will make you nostalgic for 1979 regardless of whether you remember it, or had even been born by then. It may not be set in a high school, but it’s clearly portraying a typically ideal teen life that is both culturally specific and transcendent. And it helps that the song is so perfect for this.
7. Opposite of Adults – Chiddy Bang, 2010. Directed by Waverly.
The bobble head is such a simple idea, but I can’t take my eyes off this video in a similar way to when I watch the one with the dog heads.
6. Hot for Teacher – Van Halen, 1984. Directed by Pete Angelus and David Lee Roth.
What High School was like in the 80s, or at least how David Lee Roth would have liked it to be. I wonder what the world would have been like if John Hughes (director of all those brat pack movies) had directed music videos…
5. Popular – Nada Surf, 1996. Directed by Jesse Peretz.
The band playing in the football field has been done a lot, but I think this is the best example of it. I love how the song is being said/sung by Matthew from Nada Surf as a lesson about popularity, and I love how the band looks like greasy college students. This one-hit-wonder probably wouldn’t have even been that if it weren’t for this appropriate, well stylized and memorable video.
4. …Baby, One More Time – Britney Spears, 1998. Directed by Nigel Dick.
Whatever we may think of Britney or this song, we simply can’t deny the influence of this video. What it does, it does well, and most of us will forever picture the Britney of this video when we hear her name or voice. Videos will be trying to copy this for decades to come.
3. Gossip Folks – Missy Elliott featuring Ludacris and Ms. Jade, 2003. Directed by Dave Meyers.
I simply could not put this video below Britney. At times it looks like an Adidas commercial, but that’s Missy… and that’s High School too. The colours are fantastic and the choreography is even more so. Out of every school shown in this list, this is the one I would like to attend the most.
2. Jeremy – Pearl Jam, 1992. Directed by Mark Pellington.
A haunting video that boldly and tactfully wrestles with bullying and suicide. The video jumps between contrasting images whether moving or still, or light or dark, and is meant to feel a little like a collage on film. Stunning and creepy in the right way.
1. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana, 1991. Directed by Samuel Bayer.
Basically the opposite of the pep rally in Master P’s video, and the antithesis to Britney Spear’s Hit Me high school. It gave voice not only to the grunge movement, but to unhappy high school haters everywhere. This was a band that saw through the plastic of popularity, and was ready to make some noise. The video itself is raw and eerie, and is so mentally linked with the song that it’s hard to think of one without the other, which is pretty much the definition of the role of a good music video. For a band that couldn’t care less about conformity, they certaintly used the tools of the mainstream well.
I should briefly note why The Ramone’s Rock and Roll High School isn’t on this list. For one, it’s because the movie is a movie, not a music video. And secondly, the music video is mostly clips from the movie. A lot of videos do that, but I don’t think it makes for a good video as it relies more on the nostalgia of the film than it does on presenting a story or concept itself. So there’s my rationalization. Hope you have fun watching the rest of these!