Ever since there have been music videos, there have been music videos worth talking about. Pop bands in the sixties would regularly film promotional clips to sell their songs when they could not perform on TV shows but for some reason, Queen get the credit for inventing the music video.
The promo for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was certainly memorable and sued great technology (for the time) but the art of the music video was only warming up. Music Television, or MTV as it was better known, was creating a real platform for bands to promote their songs and one of the most memorable early videos used one of the jingles for the station in its background.
I want my MTV!
It is hard to believe how huge Dire Straits were in the 80s but the advent of the CD and MTV saw this band sell a hell of a lot of units. ‘Money For Nothing’ featured new computer graphics and animation and with Sting crooning ‘I want my MTV’ in the background, the track went into heavy rotation on the new music channel.
Another British artist that embraced the new technology was Peter Gabriel and the animation work on his video’s was second to none. ‘Sledgehammer’ was shown repeatedly and cleaned up at the Music Video Awards thanks to its visual representation of the lyrics and fun feeling.
Jackson served up a few thrillers
Michael Jackson was also heavily involved in taking advantage of the music video format and on ‘Thriller’; he extended it into a mini-movie. The choreography on the Thriller video made it a classic and Jackson knew how to use his dance skills to captivate an audience. The King of Pop turned up trumps again a few years later with the ‘Bad’ video, where Jackson’s gang had a dance rumble against a team led by Wesley Snipes.
All of these were exciting and exhilarating videos but by the time Michael came to duet with his sister Janet on ‘Scream’, the emphasis of the video was placed on big budget effects as opposed to interesting storylines or dance routines.
A lot of bands were happy to splice live or studio footage of them with a small narrative or story but the best videos were the ones that stood out and were different from the norm. This was certainly the case when the Beastie Boys recorded a video for their single ‘Sabotage’.
Listen all of y’all, its a Sabotage!
The trio dressed up as old school cops and their antics in chasing bad guys and enjoying donuts helped catapult the band back into the big time after a few quiet years away from the commercial spotlight.
As special effects become more common, the videos that catch the eye are the ones that no longer rely on effects or wizardry. A great example of this was the Ok Go video for their song ‘Here It Goes Again’, which featured an elaborate dance routine using treadmills.
This video caught the eye and has already been lampooned and parodied on the internet and on TV commercials for branded products. You know you have made a great video when mainstream media steals your ideas for their own commercial needs. There have been some great music videos over the past few decades and there are sure to be many more in years to come.