I suppose I should have warned you that there would be a catch-all category. Music videos – because of primarily their length – can get away with doing something entirely conceptual, without clear plot or emotion, but still something freaking cool to look at. Some of these videos still draw us in using character or idea, but generally there was no other genre that they naturally fit into. Because of their un-film like way of using the music video medium, this category turns out some of the most memorable videos of all time. Let’s get to them.
10. Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill, 1998. Directed by Big TV!
If you’ve been following this Video Stars series, you may have noticed a theme of musicians making multiple appearances in their own video. Here we are again with Lauryn Hill showing us the best use of the split screen in music video history. The video is a perfect mirror of the song itself which marries doo-wop of the 50’s to hip hop of the 90’s. And to be honest, it becomes visual proof that the only thing better than one L-Boogie is two.
9. Hardest Button to Button – The White Stripes, 2003. Directed by Michel Gondry.
Although the concept itself is simple, I can only imagine the amount of labour would have been necessary to create this stop-motion classic; dragging numerous drum sets all over the place. To be exact: 32 Ludwig sets, 32 amps, and 16 mic stands, which when added together equal pure awesome-sauce.
8. Buddy Holly – Weezer, 1994. Directed by Spike Jonze.
Set within Arnold’s restaurant of Happy Days, Weezer – a 90’s band paying homage to a ’50’s rock legend – are cut seamlessly into an episode of a 1970’s show that pays homage to the decade from which Buddy Holly comes. Brilliant and believable, Spike Jonze makes yet another outstanding video.
7. Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi, 2009. Directed by Megaforce.
Megaforce is able to capture a surprising, gravity-defying world where Kid Cudi is either dreaming or stoned out of his mind. Or perhaps both. That could also be the reason he chose a terrible mainstream version as the official video instead of this masterpiece.
6. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley, 2006. Directed by Robert Hales.
What does it say about you if you keep seeing Cee-Lo Green in your inkblot tests? I think you’re crazy… actually it’s more likely that you are watching this video for Crazy that finds a visual concept that questions the viewer’s mental state. Bryan Louie gets the nod for all the inkblot art design that is best described as mesmerizing.
5. Islands – The XX, 2010. Directed by Saam Farahmand.
I am pretty late to The XX fanclub – I’ve only started listening to them after discovering Jamie’s awesome remixes of Adele and Florence + the Machine – but this video is absolutely worth your attention. At first you think it’s the biggest cop out ever, but then you notice details, and how brilliantly it expresses the singer’s need for freedom from convention and routine. And then you watch it again.
4. Cry – Godley & Creme, 1985. Directed by Godley & Creme.
We all thought MJ’s “Black or White” was brilliant for the seamless morphing of faces, but this one-hit-wonder did it first, and for 1985 it was pretty darn good. Although sometimes a bit creepy, the up close faces are able to elicit sympathy as they sing about tears.
3. Let Forever Be – Chemical Brothers, 1999. Directed by Michel Gondry.
One woman’s reaccuring nightmare becomes another’s entertaining music video, with this magical illusion that juxtaposes crisp kaleidoscopesque images with effect-less handheld film, and as Gondry loves to do, makes us feel like we are watching one continuous shot. When I’m not thinking “this would be so fun to shoot”, I’m thinking “how did he do that!?”
2. Drop – The Pharcyde, 1995. Directed by Spike Jonze.
An early and stunning use of backwards filming. Sure Chris Martin did it, but he wasn’t rapping! These guys pull off all of the best backwards tricks, including graffiti, dressing themselves, realistic swagger, and pouring water. Not necessarily in that order. And although many more have attempted to follow in The Pharcyde’s footprints, they will forever need to fight to be more than a mere reference to Spike Jonze’s mastery of the technique.
1. Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead, 1995. Directed by Jonathan Glazer.
At first glance this video didn’t quite register when I watched it out of the corner of my eye. But soon enough I was sucked into the beauty of these juxtaposed ideas that defy the laws of time. The song is almost meditative, and the video lends itself to that as the black and white film exaggerates the play of light and shadow across Thom’s face. I notice something new everytime I watch it, and would likely rank this with the best of the best music videos of all time.