Saturday, November 01, 2008

Music videos: the end

Whilst I'm sweeping out the cobwebs around here, I really should finish this off: the snappily-titled "countdown of the 100 best music videos as defined by Stylus Magazine with my comments". As an indication of how long I've let this drag on for, Stylus is no longer in existence... Just to get this done with, here are the final 14 with (generally) far less comment than before.

14 Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Great song, fun video. I know, it's Spike Jonze and the Beastie Boys in their pomp, but despite some high-octane editing it is, basically, just an 80s cop-show parody.

13 Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues
It seems basic, but bear in mind that this is one of the early videos. Simple, effective and hugely infliuential. How many times have you seen a riff on this? I'll bet many.

12 Pulp - Bad Cover Version
It's stuff like this that makes Pulp a true great. The idea of the single is clever, and the lyrics smart: this is the actual single that was released. I'll say it again: a major British band released this as a single. The video is funny stuff. Thanks, Pulp. And check out the B-side to the single on iTunes, where Nick Cave does Disco 2000.
(Embedding disabled, click here to watch. It's worth it)

11 Fiona Apple - Criminal

What the hell? Piss off.
(Embedding disabled, click here to watch. Not worth it)

10 Dr Dre - Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang
I'm not sure why this is a classic video. I really like Dre and Snoop, and it's surely a classic piece of gangsta rap, but is it in the best 10 videos ever? I don't think so. Laid back and fun, yes; all-time great, no.

9 Daft Punk - Around the World
One of those videos which is a great fusion of sound and vision. Michel Gondry is on great form here, and everybody has seen this video or a direct descendant of it. Remember when Daft Punk were good?

8 Jay-Z - 99 Problems
I was a latecomer to the whole Jay-Z thing, but I'm making up for that with current enthusiasm. 99 problems is thought of as one of the great hip-hop songs for good reasons: it straddles genres (Rick Rubin produced it), it has a great hook, and the lyrics are incendiary. Make sure that you really listen to it: you can't easily dismiss him as a violent misogynist, with the song actually being a pretty eloquent dissertation on the life and history of Jay-Z, as well as making some important points about race relations in the US. The video is perfectly suited to the song, capturing the mood of the song and adding colour (even though it is B&W) to it. Good stuff.

7 Bjork - All is Full of Love
Stunnong, stunning stuff. Chris Cunningham is one of the kings of music videos, and Bjork is one of the queens of music. The song, from Homogenic (which is easily, in my opinion, one of the best 10 albums ever made) is beautiful, the beats sublime, and the video enhances it all wonderfully. Lovely sci-fi visuals and creepy, Bjork-esque lesbian robots. What more could you want? A worthy entry to the top 10.

6 The Replacements - Bastard of Young
This is nice. Apparently an anti-MTV statement, this is basically the anti-video. Clever, and the contrast between musical content and visual lack of excitement is good stuff.

5 Radiohead - Just
It would have been a farce if this hadn't been very, very, high up. Thankfully it is, and what a gem: a great song, with a truly intriguing video. You could call it the Citizen Kane of music videos: the Rosebud moment comes with the inevitable conversation over what it is that the guy says. I've certainly had it, and have huddled round a TV with a group of people trying to lip-read it. In the end, like Kane, it's the getting there that's the fun bit, so does it really matter? I highly doubt that the band and director actually had something specific in mind: it's surely just a great MacGuffin?

4 A-Ha - Take on Me
There's not much that I need to say about this: an 80s video that is justifiably this high in an all-time chart is obviously quite something. There is no shame in admitting love for this great song and great video.

And while I'm at it, check out the awesome Take on Me literal video. I know it's been all over the internets, but if you've not seen it you will be blown away. Satirists the world over must be kicking themselves for missing this idea.

3 Joy Division - Atmosphere
You could probably (justifiably) accuse this of being a mawkish tribute to Ian Curtis, but something about the striking song and eerie visuals pull it above that. It's never number 3, though.

2 Johnny Cash - Hurt
Again, there's not much to say about this one that hasn't already been said: a great cover version, heartfelt delivery, a video shot just weeks before his wife's death and months before his, and poignant visuals that show a man approaching death with what looks like fear. This video raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and is enough to bring tears to nearly anyone's eyes. I would probably bump this one up a place. Simply stunning.

1 UNKLE - Rabbit in Your Headlights
Surely here simply because of its last minute, which is pretty jaw-dropping. I don't think that the number one spot is justified here, but it is still an incredible video. The combination of DJ Shadow, Thom Yorke, and those visuals make it an interesting video. And then it happens... Whoah.
(Embedding disabled, but you really have to click here and watch)

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