Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Top 10 Favorite Music Videos

(in order)

1. Johnny Cash - "Hurt" (2003)

This is the greatest video of all time. A true American legend, staring down his final days. The song itself was actually a Nine Inch Nails song from 1995. In 2002, producer Rick Rubin suggested that Cash cover the song while the two were preparing material for a new album and the rest is history. I can still recall the goosebumps that poured over my body the first time I saw the retrospective images of Cash's life. I actually have two favorite parts of the video: 1) the image of Cash driving the locomotive, and the smile that erupts from his face is obviously from a place in his heart that we will never know 2) When Cash returns to visit his abandoned childhood home in Arkansas. I've often thought of what that must have been like for him to return to. At the peak of his success, to look deep within and ask himself those questions that had no answers.

2. Fleetwood Mac - "Gypsy" (1982)

This was the very first "world premiere" video on MTV and the second biggest selling single off of the 1982 Fleetwood Mac album "Mirage"...but "Gypsy" is so much more to me (like the fact that it is my #2 all time favorite song). Stevie Nicks wrote the song in 1979 but held off releasing it until Fleetwood Mac recorded another album together. When Nicks' close friend Robin Anderson died of leukemia, the song became something a tribute. You can hear the pain and sorrow in Nick's voice as the video takes us from the intimate setting of her bedroom, to her previous life in the depression and finally to luxury of the late 1930's ballroom. Finally, Stevie ends up in the mystical world of her imagination as Buckingham's twelve string guitar breaks into an unforgettable onslaught of guitar mastery.

3. John Lennon - "Imagine"(1971)

From the silence of the dense fog, to the faded images of John and Yoko slowly appearing... the "Imagine" video is beyond words that attempt to describe its greatness. Lennon found himself in unfamiliar territory in 1971, he was a solo artist for the first time in his career. After the dissolution of The Beatles in 1970, John Lennon was an artist reborn. Believing that we were all one country, one world, one people...Lennon penned this classic in an attempt to have the world "imagine" that things could be different if we simply put down the rigid beliefs in which we so desperately cling to. As Yoko Ono opens the shades of the dark room and brings in the light, the analogy is then revealed: come out of the dark and into the light.

4. The Police - "Wrapped Around Your Finger"(1984)

Released in the summer of 1983, "Wrapped Around Your Finger" was just another hit released by the Police at the absolute peak of their success. I have very vivid memories of watching this video on MTV as a child and thinking of how enthralling it was. The video is quite simple: the three band members playing their instruments and a bunch of candles. The song itself is so profoundly great that I think if they had done anything else it would have simply drawn the attention away from it.

5. Joy Division - "Atmosphere"(1988)

The actual song "Atmosphere" was released only a short time after the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis in 1980. A video for the single was not created until 8 years later, when the song was re-released. The faceless characters wearing black hooded cloaks and white burial shrouds are a more than fitting tribute to late Curtis. The song is so dense and brooding, I can only guess that directory Anton Corbijn probably never even considered shooting it in color. The bleak images of bareness land matched with the haunting images of Curtis, is truly moving no matter how many times I watch it.

6. Beastie Boys - "Pass the Mic"(1992)

I first saw this video in the spring of 1992,and my life has never been the same since. The Beastie Boys had transformed themselves in the three years since releasing their acclaimed second album "Paul's Boutique". G-Son Studios in Atwater Village, CA were the breeding grounds for the sonic progression the Beastie Boys underwent. Blending elements of punk, rock, hip-hop and electronic...MCA, Mike D and Ad-rock hit a grand slam on "Pass the Mic". The newly introduced rough-edged style of the group was apparent in every frame of the video and the Beastie's were clearly not willing to conform to the limits of their previous work.

7. Talking Heads - "Once in a Lifetime"(1980)

This one is just classic MTV. What else would you expect from four art school graduates that formed a pop band and were living in New York City in 1980? With all the videos that have come out since 1980, it is easy to forget how important this video was and still is. Lead singer David Byrne broke all the rules of being a rock-star. He did not look like, dress like, act like or even sound like any other lead singer at that time. The music video itself was fresh and the Talking Heads were one of the very first to use it as an actual art form.

8. The Cars - "Drive"(1984)

In 1984, The Cars were at the top of their game. Releasing hits since 1978, The Cars never charted higher than they did with "Drive". Most of the hit singles were sung by Ric Ocasek but the vocals for "Drive" were provided by bassist Benjamin Orr, best known for his vocals on "Just What I Needed". The video took on a whole new meaning for me when Orr died of pancreatic cancer in October, 2000. A video tribute to Orr was shown while "Drive" was played and all it took was the image of Benjamin Orr sitting at that lone bar table for me to be affected for the rest of my life.

9. Metallica - "One"(1989)

"One" was the first Metallica song for which a music video was created. The video debuted on MTV on January 20, 1989 as I was most likely pleading for my mother to allow me to watch it on 'Head Bangers Ball'. The video is almost entirely in black-and-white, and features the band performing the song in a warehouse. It features dialogue and several scenes from the 1971 film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun. This video took me from being a kid wanting to be a metal head, into a complete and total metal head. It remains one of the best metal songs of all time, and was/is one of the eeriest videos in the history of MTV.

10. Don Henley - "Boys of Summer"(1985)

The video for "The Boys of Summer" is a French New Wave-influenced piece directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Shot completely in black-and-white, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life: as a young boy, a young adult and finally as a middle-aged man), in each case reminiscing about a past relationship. For me, this video is classic 1980's MTV, when artists were really using the music video as a medium for their art. The entire video maintains the feel of a recurring dream that the character cannot quite shake due to the overwhelming regrets of the past.

Honorable Mention:

Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Geto Boys - Mind Playing Tricks On Me
Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight
Guns N' Roses - November Rain
Radiohead - Idioteque
Michael Jackson - Thriller
The Replacements - Bastards of Young
Radiohead - No Surprises
Guns N' Roses - Patience
Radiohead - Karma Police

No comments: