It all starts, as it often does, riding around, listening to the radio. And then that song comes on, the one that causes everyone to instantly stop talking, listen in for moment and then tentatively start singing along. The next thing you know, everyone’s making a joyful noise (like that scene in “Wayne’s World” when they break into a rousing version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”). When the song’s over, the conversation might go something like this:
I love that song.
Me, too. Great video. One of my favorites.
Mine, too! I remember the first time I saw it on MTV.
You haven’t had that conversation? It’s probably because you don’t remember when MTV really did stand for Music Television! (A moment of silence for the golden days of MTV.)
For those of us old enough to recall what we were up to when MTV debuted “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles in August 1981, music videos were a mind-blowing new medium. Not only could we hear our favorite songs, but we could SEE them.
Never mind that music videos were really just 3-5 minute ads for some band’s latest album. (You don’t remember albums either, do you? Sigh.) They were personal statements from the members of the band, enhancing whatever story they were telling through their songs, letting us know more about them and What It All Meant. We awaited the release of a new music video from our favorite groups the way we anticipated their latest album, and we talked endlessly about whether their vision for the song matched our own.
Now YouTube is the new MTV, and musicians don’t have to wait to have some gatekeeper decide if their video is “good enough” to be on TV. They can just upload their videos directly to the listening – and hopefully buying – public. Regardless of the channel, music videos continue to be created for two reasons: artistic outlet and commercial enterprise.
But back to that conversation in the car…
On one such occasion, some song came on that sparked a discussion about our FAVORITE music videos and what our Top 10 video list would look like.
I said that Lionel Richie’s video for his 1984 hit “Hello” was probably my all-time favorite. (You remember Lionel, Nicole’s dad?) How can you not love the storyline that goes with those gut-wrenching lyrics?
Another favorite? Men Without Hats, a Canadian group, released in 1982 a quirky little tune called “Safety Dance” and an even quirkier video. You might have seen the cast of “Glee” do a version of the song.
One that’s on my list was the first video I ever watched on “American Bandstand.” If I recall correctly, Dick Clark announced that day in September 1981 that it would be the first video they’d ever shown on that show. The Jacksons combined a bit of psychedelia with their well-known pop sound to create a stunningly beautiful video for “The Triumph (Can you feel it).”
Once I thought about MY favorites, I decided to poll a few people to find out what THEIR favorite music videos are, and I got a wiiiiide variety of opinions from friends far and near, with their choices ranging from tiny tot Willow Smith (“Whip my hair”) to Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros (“Glósóli”) and everything in between.
And the music video with the most votes? It was a three-way tie.
Madonna (no surprise there) was voted in for “Express yourself,” her very stylized video with striking sets and the requisite backup dancers. I would’ve thought the much more commercial and controversial “Like a prayer” would’ve won.
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was also no surprise. Stefani Germanotta’s stage persona has elevated her to the stratospheric heights that Madonna herself once occupied. The Lady does know how to work a room (via video).
Like Madonna, Gaga got the royal treatment on an episode of “Glee.” And according to a Nielsen SoundScan statistic on Billboard.com, “The Fame” sold 31,000 copies after the Gaga episode on “Glee,” 11% more than the previous week’s sales.
Last but not least in the tie was OK Go’s video for “Here it goes again,” which features the band in 1960s-style clothing doing an intricately choreographed routine on treadmills.
I’ll admit that I’d never heard of this group – or seen this video – until I conducted this totally random, completely unscientific poll. And while I have great admiration for the performance – I mean, really; who could remember (much less execute) those steps? – I find the video to be better than the song itself.
Now, I know that as soon as I hit “enter” and post this blog entry, I’ll hear from upwards of seven people who’ll contest the results, screaming “Unfair!” because their favorite isn’t in the Top Three. So bring it on! Post your choice for Best Music Video Ever. I’ll let you know if I think it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it!