5 Moments of Greatness...Music Video Edition


Video killed the radio star (sorry Christopher Cross) and then MTV went and killed the video star. (Thanks a lot Real World and 16 & Pregnant) Music videos were great at one time, they told the story of a song so you didn’t even have to think when you were listening to Rick Springfield. They also taught me sentence structure in middle school. Seriously, in English class we watched music videos, the lyrics would scroll at the bottom of the screen with adjectives and verbs highlighted in different colors. Don Henley’s Boys of Summer taught me so much about both the English language and the importance of a good tan.Then music videos turned into green screen piles of excrement. Then MTV, perhaps realizing they were sitting on a giant pile of excrement went almost exclusively to original content. VH1 followed suit. Now instead of videos you can watch Flava Flav date the chick from Rock IV or see some teen mom live out a plethora of bad choices. Music videos were great while they lasted like unicorns and the space program. 

Here are my 5 moments of music video greatness.

5. November Rain – Guns-n-Roses

Things to bear in mind: this was basically the last shot out of the roman candle that was the greatest rock band of my youth and good gravy this is the way a rock band should make videos. Exhibit A: it’s a nine-minute music video. I’ve had entire relationships that lasted less time. Exhibit B: gratuitous super model cameo throughout the video, including speculation that Axl actually married Stephanie Seymour during filming. Exhibit C: guitar solo in a desert outside a church filmed from the vantage point of a helicopter. Exhibit D: orchestra backing. What says decade of decadence more that putting strings and an oboe behind a rock ballad? This video is why the rest of the world hated us. We had nine minute videos shot with helicopters and super models. Suck it Russia.

4. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

My brother, when he was in college, used to record MTV on VHS tapes and mail them to me because our local cable provider didn’t carry anything close to Music Television. (Actually our local cable provider as a set of rabbit ears on top of our single wide) This is how I watched Pauley Shore narrowly escape an ass kicking at a collegiate frat house, when I fell in love with VJ’s like Kennedy and Duff and thought Kurt Loder was the coolest man in the world. (Seriously if you don’t follow @kurt_loder on twitter you are missing his full frontal assault on the internet) “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was unlike anything my friends and I had ever seen. It ushered in what appeared to be the great grunge period. I started immediately wearing flannel and army boots. Grunge underperformed as a musical movement but “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, complete with anarchist cheerleaders and marble mouthed Kurt Cobain stands apart. Seriously, write down the second verse and compare it to the actual lyrics, no idea what Kurt is saying, still a great video.

 3. Take on Me – A-ha

Ever had your mind blown? Check the A-ha classic “Take on Me” note how the cartoons come to life and grab a seat, you don’t want to be standing when this thing wafts over you.  The synthesizer allowed anyone in the world to make music, A-ha had exactly one hit but they synthesized the hell out of it. The cartoon comes to life people, literally comes to life! Hey James Cameron, nice Avatar movie, to bad A-Ha totally nailed your concept back in 1985. They were Norwegian Jimbo, Norwegian!

2. Sabotage – Beastie Boys

Four words, “Fred Kelly as Bunny” I could be at my own funeral and if you break out a Fred Kelly as Bunny reference I will laugh. The Beasties take on a 1970’s cop show is chock full of everything a growing boy needs. Explosions, violence, fake mustaches, car slides, running, roof jumps and sansabelt slacks. The song is pretty freaking great as well. When Blade Runner is on TV I drop everything, wakeup my children and watch it. When Sabotage is on the radio I perform power slides, hood jumps, and attempt to blow stuff up.

1. Hurt – Johnny Cash

I know there’s been a fair amount of hilarity in this list, trust me I know, number 1 is here because it is haunting, poignant, and beautiful. Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails classic Hurt is timeless like the man himself. The flashbacks, June Carter's cameo, the setting, the voice, it is all a clinic in how a video can move a song into deeper depths. There are plenty of nights that I will google it just because. Cash wrote his own Eulogy in 3 minutes and 51 seconds. It is beautiful.

put out a list of its 30 best music videos of all time. Fat Boy Slim made the cut twice. Hacks.

Posted on April 4, 2012 .