For me, it was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I was VERY young at the time of its release as a music video, but I knew from the first second I saw it, it was something else. This was not a ‘commercial' for the artist or song (which is what music videos were invented to be). This was a mini-movie. This was a story that just happened to have a killer soundtrack to help emphasize its awesome. That was when I knew music videos were so much more than just that. They were opportunities for artists to collaborate with others artists (from a more visual medium) and propel their music to insane new heights if it had the right visual accompaniment. After Thriller, I remember Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer. A video that implemented stop motion and actual animation and surreal imagery to fully prove, music videos can be art, and art as unforgettable as any other medium (a subject I obviously have quite an obsession with). That being said, here are eight music videos that truly stretch the medium of music videos and in the process, transcend such labels.
By the way, list is presented in no particular order because all of these are awesome and artistic in their own, singular ways.
Street Spirit by Radiohead (as Directed by Jonathan Glazer)
Truth is, I could put any Radiohead video on here and it would fit. Knives Out, Paranoid Android, Just, Fake Plastic Trees, and especially House of Cards, which I am linking so you can see how right I am.
But Street Spirit wins for the stunning pacing and juxtaposition of the quiet, breathy song from the slowed down visuals and the starched black and white feel of the whole thing.There is just something so entrancing about how well the visuals mesh the song here, to start the list with anything else would have felt wrong.
Plus, it’s Radiohead. All music lists should start with Radiohead, regardless of what that list may be about.
Every Single Music Video by O.K Go (as Often Directed by O.K. Go)
Here We Go Again is a perfect example of a video where the band seemed like they put more work into the video than the song itself. But the truth is, O.K. GO have taken the music video in the last ten years and redefined what artists can do with it.
From a video where a car plays the whole song to the video above (which was somehow done all in one take with no mistakes) as an even better example, even if you don’t like the band’s music, missing out on O.K. Go videos is essentially missing out on a moving, audible piece of modern art.
Drop by the Pharcyde (as Directed by the Brilliant Spike Jonze)
There are no words for how I felt first time I ever saw the video for Drop by 90’s jazz influenced hip hop Gods, The Pharcyde.
My mind could not comprehend if they were going backwards with video moving forwards or vica versa, but either way, I could tell it took a great deal of work to put together and the end result is mesmerizing.
Speaking of a video that runs backwards….
The Scientist by Coldplay (as Directed by Jamie Thraves)
I will be honest, this video tells an unforgettable and heartbreaking story, but it does the reverse thing, which Pharcyde (seen above) had used before. But one thing we never saw in those reverse videos was an actual compelling story that told itself back to front.
The problem is, outside of this song and about six others, Coldplay suck, but that doesn’t mean they cannot make music videos that are art.
Let it also be known, Coldplay have also made the WORST music video of all time. Now that is living in extremes.
Evil by Interpol (as Directed by Charlie White)
What can you say about this video? No, really? How do I even explain this (I am asking myself now). The video begins with the results of a nasty nighttime car crash. There are bleeding humans and flames and cops, and then there is the dancing muppet.
His look and presence is so jarring I have had people ask me to turn the video off as the puppet muppet mutant makes them too uneasy, missing the simple fact that is kinda the whole point of the video.
An unyielding sense of WTF ery is abound, but you are also entranced by the weird, living eyes of the lifeless puppet with no strings attached whilst dancing on a hospital bed.
No one ever said art wasn't supposed to sometimes make people uncomfortable, because it is. Don’t make me bring up Francis Bacon again.
Plastic Beach by Gorillaz (as Directed by Jamie Hewlett, I Assume)
Again, another band that shows (natch) PROVES that music videos can be art, LITERALLY. And when it came to picking just one from the Gorillaz catalog, it was tough. I decided to go with Plastic Beach for a very simple reason. It gives us the nost time with the actual (fake, cartoon) band and then does a whole underwater and space thing that just tends to drop jaws even PAST floors.
And the Gorillaz themselves, being cartoons and actual art, are a perfect example of how the music video medium is, indeed and literally in this case, art.
Also, Jamie Hewlett (who came up with idea for band with Blur frontman Damon Albarn) is an absolute force of nature as an artist, with a VERY unique style all his own that the band represents so well.
Let Forever Be by The Chemical Brothers (as Directed by the Awesomely Enigmatic Michel Gondry)
To try to even explain this video to people can prove to be very difficult. Most of you know Michel Gondry from his amazing directorial work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and that same exact eye for angles and shots and fades and transitions is here, but years before that film was even a thought. The shots in this video that you think are special effects are often practical and done using only transitions.
If you do not know directing that may as well have been French to you.
To put it in simpler terms, had any of us tried to make the above video, we would have died from a hemorrhage as our brains tried desperately to figure it all out. For Gondry who has done quite a few trippy, surreal videos (even some on this list) it all seems effortless.
Every Single Music Video Ever by Bjork (as Directed by All The Best Directors Alive)
Much like O.K. Go, Bjork doesn’t approach her music videos like music videos and she never has. She looks at the music video as a way to spread her colorful message throughout the world. Sometimes funny, sometimes creepy, yet always trippy, Bjork’s collection of artistic videos would take hours to watch and even longer to try to write about. To say she deserves a list of her owh about this subject would be an understatement.
But when it came time to figure out which of Bjork’s videos to pick to share here, it was one of the toughest (superficial) decicisons ever. Do I go with Human Behavior because it is the first time I saw her unbridled artistic madness?
Do I go with Pagan Poetry because of its art-house porn feel:
Or do I choose I Miss You, directed (illustrated) by Ren n’ Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi because it is just so damn charming (and insane):
Oh wait, looks like I just picked all three. Well, Army of Me it is.
Okay, so clearly Bjork wins at the “music videos as art” debate, hands down.
Every Aphex Twin video. Example (and pure nightmare fuel):
All Videos by South African duo, Die Antwoord
Kanye West Runaway (just a shame he is so fucking pretentious)
Y Control by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Lazerus by the Late, Great David Bowie. A powerful rumination on a man facing his own death, by a man, facing his own literal and impending death. Powerful, to say the least. R.I.P Jareth.