What makes a brilliant music video? Maybe there’s a story to it, a fictional masterpiece within three or four minutes. Maybe the choreography and costumes are spectacular. Maybe the camerawork is stylish. Or maybe you find the singer mesmerising to watch.
Your favourite music videos are obviously down to personal taste. Those that you like the best are not necessarily your favourite songs of all time, either (although they might well be). They are works of art. Sometimes they are merely showing off the singer or band and don’t have much substance to them, which can be fine if the song is good. Sometimes the flashiest, big-budget video can compensate for a mediocre song. It’s all a matter of opinion. And on that note, here are my top five videos.
‘There There’ – Radiohead (2003). This charming yet sinister stop-motion style video has Thom Yorke creeping about an enchanted wood, spying on Victorian-costumed animals having tea parties and suchlike. Oh, and there are cats getting married. Unfortunately Thom is fatally tempted by a pair of golden boots which run by themselves in an echo of Andersen’s fairytale ‘The Red Shoes’. With a look of complete terror on his face, he is turned into a…. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t watched the video. The director was Chris Hopewell, whose other fantastic videos include Franz Ferdinand’s ‘The Dark of the Matinée’ and Scissor Sisters’ ‘Comfortably Numb’.
‘Steam’ – Peter Gabriel (1993). If you thought his smash-hit stop-motion sensation ‘Sledgehammer’ was wacky… then prepare yourself for the hilarious bombastic weirdness of this one, which has a lot of dodgy CGI. It begins with a purple-clad Peter stepping out of a ridiculously long limo through an adoring, distorted crowd. That’s the sanest part of the video. By the end, I’m shaking my head in disbelief and also smiling. It looks like everyone had fun making this video (especially those ladies in the sauna) which makes it even more fun to watch. The director, Stephen R. Johnson, was responsible for ‘Sledgehammer’ and ‘Big Time’.
‘The View from the Afternoon’ – Arctic Monkeys (2006). Shot in black and white, this video is set on a council estate at night, where a young man is drumming. He feels compelled to drum, even though he knows that the local thugs don’t like it. He just keeps going, sacrificing himself to the power of music. There are various interpretations of the video but I choose to see it as promoting freedom of expression. Whatever its meaning, the video is artfully put together, managing to have a tone that is both threatening and mystical. It was directed by Andrew ‘W.I.Z.’ Whiston, who has worked with Oasis, Ellie Goulding, Kasabian and many others.
‘Right Here Right Now’ – Fatboy Slim (1999). I think I first saw this video on CD:UK (remember that?) and I thought it was amazing. Basically it’s evolution from primordial blobs, to dinosaurs, to obese city-dwelling humans, all in three and a half minutes. It’s a fun video which at the same time gets me marvelling at the process by which I have come to be right here, right now, watching this video. No wonder the bloke at the end needs a sit down, he’s been through a lot over the past few billion years. The video was directed by the duo Hammer & Tongs, whose credits include Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’ and REM’s ‘Imitation of Life’.
‘Enjoy the Silence’ – Depeche Mode (1990). Inspired by The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this video mainly consists of singer Dave dressed as a king, carrying a deckchair from place to place, to sit and admire the view. Interspersed with this are images of the band staring at the camera in a contemplative manner. Is it about the constant search for a perfection that doesn’t exist? Is it a critique of colonisation or of global conflict? Is it literally about the search for silence? I don’t know, but what I do know is that this video is strangely compelling. The director was Anton Corbijn, who was responsible for many of Depeche Mode’s other videos.
Do you have any favourite music videos? Let me know and I’ll check them out.