7 great songs with terrible music videos

There are some excellent music videos out there (and by out there, I mean on YouTube). They’re a form of art. When everything goes right, they become classics. Sometimes an awful track can be made listenable by a compelling video which has obviously been crafted to take your attention off the actual song. When the opposite happens, it’s worse. A wonderful song is accompanied by a cringeworthy video which doesn’t do the music any justice.

Here I present to you another of my crazy blog post ideas – 7 songs I really like but which have videos that are embarrassingly horrible. There’s nothing later than the early 2000s on my list (partly because music video production has improved a lot since then, partly because I’m not as familiar with later popular music). For your viewing pleasure I include the YouTube links, correct at the time of this post’s publication. Feel free to check these videos out and let me know if you agree on how dreadful they are.

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (1983). This super-successful power ballad has a dark, epic tone and makes wonderful use of Tyler’s strong husky voice. The video, while it has its stylish dramatic moments, includes flying choirboys with glowing eyes. I can’t forgive that. And then there are scantily clad boys dancing around her. By the end of the video, it seems that she’s a teacher fantasising about her students. There’s a dodgy feel to it. A ridiculous video which would be better without the frolicking boys. Or even just take out the glowing eyes, which look like such a cheap effect. There are also a lot of open doors and flapping drapery too – as one person wittily said on YouTube, ‘Scientific fact: There was far more wind in the 80s then there is today.’

Plug-In Baby by Muse (2001). A signature track which has a great riff, a bouncing pace and the wide vocal range characteristic of Muse. But dear oh me, the video is nasty. The shots of the band rocking out in some kind of bachelor pad are OK (and of course Matt’s guitar – the ‘plug-in baby’ itself). However, there are women’s heads, limbs and torsos scattered about, which are sprouting writhing grey tentacles. I suppose in a special effects sense it’s quite good. However, unless you’re into that kind of thing… it just seems gross and even misogynistic. The women lying around, looking seductively at the camera while their tentacles writhe, passive and yet disgusting. Probably it was supposed to be tongue in cheek but it’s still my least favourite Muse video ever.

Leave in Silence by Depeche Mode (1982). Many of DM’s videos are now classics of style and direction, but the band weren’t so lucky in their early career. This understated track has catchy layers of synths and vocals, with lyrics darker than the tune. In this video, which does not match the song’s content at all, the band are tapping and breaking various household items, vegetables and water balloons on a conveyor belt. Weird, but whatever. And then we get to the chorus. Each member of the band has been painted a different bright colour – Dave is Smurf blue, Martin is tomato red, Fletch is banana yellow and Alan is Hulk green. They are bouncing some balls, too, and riding space hoppers. It’s all rather embarrassing and funny, but not as funny as the supremely awkward German TV clip in which they had to mime while holding chickens in a barn while an amorous couple rolled in the hay.

There’s No Other Way by Blur (1991). One of the band’s early hits, I never get tired of this song’s energetic pace, fun guitars and deadpan vocals. The video is notable for the band’s dodgy hairstyles, but apart from this, whether you like it depends on your stomach. A perfect middle class family have invited Blur over for a three course dinner and we basically have to watch everyone eat it. I’m sure it’s a clever idea for a setting when contrasted with the lyrics and Damon’s grumpy expression, but I really don’t want to see the food. The only exciting bit is at the end when the perfect housewife brings out a giant wobbly trifle and the lighting goes crazy. Damon is finally grinning instead of glowering. Really I would skip the whole video just to watch the ending.

Modern Love by Peter Gabriel (1977). It was still the early days of music videos and only the second single from Peter’s debut solo album, but I think that’s no excuse for the cringeworthy nature of this one. This rocky track is a good listen and has amusing lyrics. However, somehow that translated to Peter wearing a fencing mask, dressed in a motocross outfit (I think?), flailing about like an insect stuck in a spider’s web, on an escalator in a ‘new’ shopping mall while some unhappy-looking ladies who resemble mannequins are conveyed towards him. It looks like he’s having a lot of fun, which I suppose counts for something. Luckily he has some fantastic videos later on in his career to make up for this embarrassing venture.

Instinct by Crowded House (1996). This is a really intimate and skin-tingling kind of song, with Neil’s voice cracking a little on the lyrics and a quietly sexy rhythm. Unfortunately the video is weird and not characteristic of the band. It hasn’t aged well, either. The shots of the band playing are OK, but there are also people who are apparently aliens but look more like tall skinny models with sharp bone structures. They seem to have pointy ears and dreadful costumes. They slope around looking dazed and occasionally kissing people. It’s not exactly the worst video of all time but it’s a real let-down for such a special song. The video wasn’t liked by the band, either.

If You’re Not the One by Daniel Bedingfield (2002). It’s probably not cool to like this singer but I think this ballad is heartfelt and lovely. It’s quite minimalistic, featuring his quavering voice, a beat and a little atmospheric sound. Such a pity that the video is laughably bad. All kinds of basic video clichés. I feel it would have been better to make some kind of storyline, perhaps in black and white, rather than to have Mr Bedingfield’s face and sturdy body duplicated over and over, sometimes three of him in the same shot. The song is more powerful on its own. The video should at least compliment the song and ideally bring extra meaning to it.

Any songs you love which have been let down by dodgy videos? Let me know!

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