The music video is one an artists greatest tools, accompanied with a good track and it could see them into the world of elite music industry with just one song. Through time we’ve seen vintage powerhouses like Bowie, Queen and The Stones adopt a, should we say, ostentatious outlook on music video choices, and yet it only made them more popular and more complete. What can be said about our newfound use of technology in film making is that the true essence of creativity has been maintained. In our list we’ve compiled what we believe to be the best music videos to exist, with our choices reflecting both artistic and contextual outlooks, but there’s always room for discussion…
Queen – I Want To Break Free
Released in 1984, ‘I Want To Break Free‘ showed off all of the charm and bravado that turned Freddy Mercury and Queen into worldwide superstars. Costing around £100,000, the video was heavily stylised by the popular British TV series Coronation Street, with Mercury playing the matriarch and May, Taylor and Deacon as his houseguests. Though cross-dressing was still a relatively taboo subject at the time in the UK, the 80’s gave birth to a new liberal generation with the likes of Bowie and Boy George emerging onto the scene. Queen’s legacy will live on forever, from We Will Rock You to Bohemian Rhapsody, their anthems are recognised universally, but I feel the radical nature to this song makes it their most influential.
Foo Fighters – Learn To Fly
The Seattle rockers are not one to shy away from the limelight, most notably in their early years. Their 1999 release Learn to fly has become a cult classic due to its no-strings approach, featuring a whole load of cameos, including Kyle Gas and Jack Black from Tenacious D, drummer Taylor Hawkins as a raunchy air hostess and Dave Grohl in a fat-suit. The song itself is a homage to good old 90’s rock, but the video pushed its notoriety into legendary status.
Tenacious D – Tribute
On the topic of Jack black, the list wouldn’t be complete without including a taste of Tenacious D’s fantastical role-play and onset humour. Comprised of the man himself and fellow actor/best friend Kyle Gass, the D’s first and most famous release Tribute, plunged them straight into the rock and roll spotlight, with a major Hollywood movie and studio album following. The video itself plays on the duos dogged naivety, recording what they believe to be a sonic masterpiece in a shopping centre sing-along booth, featuring a cameo from Dave Grohl as the devil and a hallmark topless scene from Black. The infectiously captivating melody in the chorus and their signature imaginative storytelling, twinned with an amazingly visionary visual idea was the catalyst for their ardent cult following which continues to thrive.
Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime
Directed by the esteemed Mat Whitecross and recorded at the Imaginarium,(a digital motion capture studio set up by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish) the adventure of a lifetime music video broke boundaries in what a band could visually achieve with a music video, to this day racking up 1 billion views on YouTube. The single itself was Coldplay’s attempt at a dace floor banger, a brief that they completely smashed, but the video enhanced the music into a complete immersive experience. Though some argue the video was just a publicity stunt to advertise the release of the Beats Pill, I look at the bigger picture in what is a triumph in modern music video making and something I’m sure will be replicated by future bands.
Stonesour – Through The Glass
Fronted by Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Stonestour have been a mainstay in the metal scene for a number of years, producing a number of commercially successful albums along the way. their breakthrough single ‘through the glass’ is a perfect example of when a great song meets an equally compelling video, featuring some extremely nifty video editing. The concept is simple, playing on the meaning on the song itself, which is the feeling of standing still and becoming unrecognisable amongst the pressure. Set in a lavish Hollywood party, as the song plays out, the guests start to freeze and turn into cardboard cut outs, only to be picked up and carried away a mystery figure. The synergy between the music and its visual accompaniment is what makes this song so compelling and such an important release in the bands history.
Sum 41 – In Too Deep
Originally formed as a NOFX cover band called Kaspir in 1996, punk rockers Sum 41 truly hit the scene in 2001 with their debut album All Killer No Filler, which is to this day still a relic in punk rock folklore. From Fat Lip to Summer, every song hit with a ferocious attitude, no more so than the lead single ‘In Too Deep’ which features one of the most memorable music videos of all time. Set at an outdoor leisure centre, the story plays out as a humorous diving competition between the Canadian rockers and a professional diving squad, chiselled and shaved like ken dolls. When the band eventually win the competition, guitarist Dave Baksh rises from the pool to play out the chaotic solo that we’ve all played air guitar to at some point: 10 points for one of catchiest choruses ever made.
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Featuring claymation, pixilation, and stop motion from the esteemed Aardman Animations, the video for Peter Gabriel’s 1986 smash hit took inspiration from a Talking Head’s 1985 single “Road to Nowhere. The process of stop motion is a long one, with Gabriel having to lie under a sheet of glass for up to 16 hours while they filmed one frame at a time. The result however is a brilliant achievement in filmmaking, incorporating live action and sculpted elements in a unique visionary experience. The accompanying song only enhances the energy in the on-screen antics; especially the bit with the animated dead headless chicken.
Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill
Directed by Jamie Hewlett, animated superstars Gorillaz third studio album “Plastic Beach” drew mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Though much of the record attracted criticism, On Melancholy Hill was a definite stand-out track. The combination of dreamy harmonies and exotic samples, twinned with Damon Albarn’s enchanting vocals created a world-wide hit. Originally written by Albarn during the production of The Good, the Bad & the Queen’s self titled album, the video accompaniment is suitably as compellingly melancholic as the song. I mean, it isn’t everyday you see a video featuring a swarm of “super fast jelly fish”, a reclining manatee and a cyborg with a pump action shotgun.
The Game – Martians vs Goblins
The most recent video on our list, Martians vs Goblins is west cost rapper The Game’s answer to Eminems famous 3am video. Shot at the now-closed Fred Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in LA, the video finds a straitjacketed Game, entrapped in a mental asylum and surrounded by disturbed patients. With features from Lil Wayne and Tyler The Creator, the cinematography is ballsy and fantastically twisted, playing on the dark, gore-obsessed world of Odd Future. As one of the standout tracks on the album, this may be one to slip many peoples minds, but there is no denying that it is as thought provoking as it is creepy.
Guns & Roses – November Rain
Now some may argue that this is a generic choice but this list just wouldn’t be complete without November Rain. With a budget totalling around $1 million, the music promo ranks among the most expensive ever made, but a 9 minute Guns & Roses song deserves no less. The band based the video on the short story “Without You” by Del James about a rock star, grieving over the death of his girlfriend who had committed suicide. Set at a ostentatiously formal wedding, the ballad plays out harmoniously with the accompaniment of an orchestra, until a sonic change at 7 minutes signals the dramatic discovery of the dead bride, leading to slash’s infamously energetic solo to finish off what is among one of their famous songs to date.