With now at least two generations having grown up with the art of music videos, I feel like looking back a little and raving a bit about those videos that I feel are wonderful yet sometimes overlooked. I am not including undeniable classics like the storytelling masterpieces of Michael Jackson (beat it, Bad, Thriller, Billie Jean), the clouds, the hairdo and Helena Christensen in Chris Isaac´s Wicked Games, the unerring walk in the ultimate one shot video for Massive Attack´s “Unfinished Sympathy”, the overflowing creativity in any Ok Go video ever, the Smashing Pumpkins flying to the moon or the handsome aggression of Nirvana´s “Smells like teen spirit”. Everyone knows those. And they should. But beyond these and other classics and aside from a lot, a lot, a lot of trite, tacky or simply crappy stuff, these are my Top Videos I feel I want everyone to see. Again and again.
This is part of the ongoing #Musicweek at Becauseiwriteso. Feel free to also check out: Course of recognition (Original song), When Bruce Willis sang for me (in my dream) and Our first Performance – of naked audiences and shaky knees
“Young Blood” / The Naked and the Famous (2010, directed by Joel Kefali and Campbell Hooper of Special Problems)
From the very opening chords, the sizzling synthesizers and the all-optimism drum, this indie electro winner is building up to be a full-blown hooray for being young power-popper. Kiwi sensation “The Naked and Famous” make this sound like a long anticipated first day of summer. It´s uplifting, driving and it radiates lust for life. The video, meanwhile, springs from the screen as a warm, lively celebration of youth and all its wonders. And it sure is. It very well is. But it is much more than that.
This becomes apparent as early as with the first line, more complicated and layered than the intro made believe: “We are young and naïve still.” From here on, Khefali and Hooper’s direction is a perfect translation of a song that clads itself into the gear of the yolo generation but also is aware of its own problematic ennui. It is indeed, as the lyrics promise “hard to control when it begins” – and it rushes over you like a wave of enthusiasm, one that knows that every wave is bound to break. I am yet to see a more poetic expression of this generation´s zeitgeist, both in sound and in vision. It is effortless, organic and very very honest.
Of course “Young Blood” is beautifully shot as such. Its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. So is the editing, done with taste and verve. It all seems, thankfully so, as if everything just happened – but magically fit. And thus is the true optical translation of the song´s mood, at any moment, in every image, for every twist and mood swing the song takes. BUT! That would only make it a great music video. I say it is more than that. Because see, people of the future, the imagery, oh, the imagery. Your guidebook to what the Western middle class youth looked like back then.
Abundant adolescent energy that has to translate into something. Into a run that leads nowhere aside from anywhere else but here. Into a climb into a tree that has its predefined highest point (and then?). Into a dive into the ocean. Which looks a lot like sinking. The kite, the dream that you can let fly into the great wide open, a dream you will still most probably hold at a string and at some point pull down again or find damaged in a tree top. I love love love the juvenile acts of meaningless and unanswered aggression, in particular against immobile objects – or rather objects that used to be mobile, shells of their own former free and fiery selfs when they were fresh, fast and maybe furious (dare I say parents?). An unclear divide between day and night. Not just the song but also the video, luckily, does not “fight the in-betweens”, phases of melancholy, almost total doldrums – and they come without warning, in nonetheless perfect flow with the rest of the song – moments of sudden sobriety, that moment at the end of a long party when the emotions take over and drag you down, with the help of the wrong drink and the wrong pill and the wrong boy or the wrong girl, all this juxtaposed with bursts of light, speed and exhilaration. A great song. A great video. In less than 4 minutes it makes me want to laugh without reason, dance as if no one was watching, call people I love and tell them so, run, jump, cry and then create something. This is one of the ultimate pop songs.
I am set to look back at this decades from now and think: A masterpiece, my dear, an absolute masterpiece.
“Got til it´s gone” / Janet Jackson (1997, directed by Mark Romanek)
Of course, Ms Jackson (if you´re nasty) has had a lengthy catalogue of top videos that have had MTV on heavy rotation, amongst them some truly great choreography clips (and boy, was That´s the way love goes hot), but this one beats them all – and is not one of her biggest hits. It´s silent, mellow, mature and beautiful. Jimmy Jam’s unimpressed hip hop beat is incredibly danceable, the way Joni Mitchel´s voice is sampled in here, coupled with Janet´s own wonderful vulnerable organ, the way the music breaks down for the amazing Q-Tip, the minimalistic but well-timed organs. The song in itself is brilliance, bridging rap, jazz and folk. But the mood of this clip is one that just makes you want to be there. Even if you could not. Because, just like me, you are white. Which in return, would be exactly what the video is about. A slow and still defiant reminder of how terrible Apartheid was, is and always be. Europeans only? This one was a “black is beautiful” answer way before Beyonce picked it up. And the posing on the toilet. The club feel. I love this one.
“Push it” / Garbage (1998, directed by Andrea Giacobbe)
There are a bunch of video clips that can give you the creeps – this is one of them. Easily in the Top 3 with Skunk Anansie’s “Charlie Big Potato” and Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy”. But this one is not only one of Garbage´s best songs but also arguably their most superior video and surely one secret classic of music video: pure impressionistic mayhem. Shirley Manson called it „the schizophrenia that exists when you try to reconcile your desires and demons with the need to fit in”. This one encompasses a quasi Beach Boys sample, a quasi Beatles orchestra swell and a lot of not so quasi noise to go with it. It´s poignant and stupefying. It´s sexy, discomforting and it´s perfect.
“Schism” / Tool (2001, directed by Adam Jones)
Tool is many things. Mathematics. Movie craftsmanship. Occult. Intellectual. Beautiful. And maybe never better than here. Schism is hypnotic, claustrophobic, ethereal, out of this world, powerful, tiny, gigantic and absolutely stunning. The video is as always directed by guitarist Adam Jones – one of the few major bands that hold their own image fully in their own hands.
“Yellow” / Coldplay (2000, directed by James Frost & Alex of The Artists Company)
Remember Coldplay when their music was not played in and not written for the world´s biggest stadiums? When they had funny hair, funny teeth and made a simplicity like “You know I love you so” sound like a primal discovery that could rock the world out of bounce? That was when Chris Martin walked over a beach, in the rain, in slow motion, entirely self-aware, almost messing up everything, then almost laughing, and everything coming to an end with you thinking: That was unbelievably touching.
Is it overlooked? No, not according to the view numbers. But would people call it their most spectacular video? I would.