Amazing Music Videos : Sabotage by Beastie Boys

Sabotage was the first single of the eclectic 1994 release Ill Communication. If I remember correctly, the hilarious video directed by Spike Jones is what propelled that strange hip hop/rock song to the top.

This parody of 1970s style cop shows was nominated for four MTV music video awards, but didn’t win any in the end. That doesn’t matter. It definitely deserves a spot on my amazing music videos list. Sure, the story makes no sense, but it serves its purpose well: providing the opportunity for 70s style dramatic cop & robber chasing, busting stuff open, jumping and sliding over car hoods… Utterly useless moves, but they are quite intense! Can you hear the squeeking tires from here? Are you nauseous from the over-the-shoulder camera action and all the zoom-in/zoom-out shots?

But the characters really are the icing on the cake. A nice little touch. Too bad that just when you’re done reading one’s pointlessly detailed info, he’s already exploded. And the secondary characters with their elaborate costumes and styles are super intriguing, but they get thrown over a bridge even faster.

Now, are our downtown streets well guarded by the intriguing Cochese and his boots, the chief and his axe, Bobby the rookie and his debatable choice of interrogation style, and the low-key Bunny?… Yes, I saw you Bunny, and I am grateful for your 2 second presence, since you seem to be the only not ultra violent fake cop around in this video.

If one of the Beastie Boys’ uncle had an old 1970s blue car that he didn’t mind seeing roughed up, then this video must have cost a ridiculously low amount of money, given that there are always garbage bins and cardboxes laying around. Well, you’d have to pay for the hotel room, a few props, and that guy’s salary for holding up trafic all day. And the person doing the editing of dozens of 3 second shots! But seriously, it always amazes me that so many memorable videos aren’t all about spending lots of money on cool visual effects. It’s all about the concept. The visual effects, or rather stunts, here, are old school to say the least, and it works perfectly well. That’s basically the concept.

So, thanks Beastie Boys, I laughed again, twenty years later, watching your video. And here’s a hint that your video marked a generation : for many years, people came to Halloween partys dressed up as your intricately defined characters. How’s that for an unofficial award!

Highlights : too many, so enjoy the whole thing. 😉

Amazing Music Videos : Around the World by Daft Punk

A great music video usually builds on the strenght(s) of the song – powerful lyrics, intense vocal/musical performance, overall atmosphere, … –  to enhance it and convey emotions. That may be why so many successful music video directors are also movie directors. It’s the same idea in film, where directors enhance a script by creatively building on its strenghts.

But one might wonder how a music video director can succeed in enhancing, say, something like “club” music?…  I usually listen to singer/songwriters, so to me, getting inspired by beats and a few repetitive lyrics, however catchy they are, poses somewhat of a challenge… Yet, this Amazing Music Videos list already featured two success stories: Weapon of Choice and Praise you by Fatboy Slim, both directed by Spike Jonze. The video for “Around the World”, by French electronic band Daft Punk, is another great example.

The creative mind of French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, several wonderful Bjork videos) came up with a world where squeletons, mommies, synchronized swimmers, robots, and giant though small-headed athletes dance around together on a vinyl record in a disco-style setting. The idea is quite simple: each group of dancers represent a specific sound/rythm. It’s a visual representation of the song itself. Clever indeed.

With the artistic direction Gondry and his team had taken, the thing they absolutely couldn’t afford to miss was the dancing. And they didn’t, it is very well-executed. The jerky moves fit really well with both the song and the characters portrayed (athough the mommies’ smooth moves at 1:28 is a memorable part of the choreography).

The overall result is a completely hypnotic video, which will make you “see” the song in a new light, so to speak.

 

Amazing Music Videos: November rain by Guns N Roses

This 9-minute long epic video of a classic song by American hard rock band Guns N Roses tells the story of a couple getting married surrounded by family and friends, in what seems like a beautiful dream, only to see it all come to a brutal halt when death tears the couple apart and drives the man insane (through raging insomnia). A bit dark and depressing you say? But is it, in fact, reality or a nightmare?

The video features Axl Rose and his girlfriend of the time, model Stephanie Seymour, as well as all of the band members who are seen attending the wedding, and performing live in a theater with an orchestra.

Remember how incredibly frustrating it was when radio stations would only play the first few minutes of the song and stop right before the intense part, which everyone loved most? But that did encourage people to watch the video in order to enjoy the entire song and see the poor lovers’ fate when everything crashes and burns (or rather drowns). The “November rain” video won the “Best cinematography” award at the MTV VMAs. Incidentally, it reminds me of the 80’s decade when videos were often structured as movies, telling a complete story with the singer/frontman(woman) as the protagonist (Pat Benetar and Cindy Lauper videos come to mind instantly). The themes addressed here, however, and the really dark undertones, are very 90’s.

“November rain” appears on the twin release “Use your illusion I/II” which were great subsequent albums to the fierce (and awesome) “Appetite for destruction” which introduced the band to the world. I’ll post about that CD eventually.

Andrew Morahan who directed this video, also directed several other GnR’s videos, as well as videos from many other artists including Simple Minds, Ozzy Osbourne, George Michael/Wham!, Pet Shop Boys, The Human League, and AC/DC. I have not seen all of his work, but, at first view, this video distinguishes itself as one of his most memorable ones. I believe it also introduced the band to a wide – really wide- audience; hearts softened as Axl played classical piano, smiled at the priest, and suffered after a lost love, and Slash acted like a cute goofy ring bearer… this after Guns N Roses completely tore the place apart with Appetite for destruction. But it’s ok, this is no easy power-ballad, “November rain” is a great song.

Ultimate highlight of this video for me: Slash going out of the chapel to play his solo in the middle of the desert. 😉

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: March of the pigs by Nine Inch Nails

Sometimes, less is more. Directed by Peter Christospherson, this video features an intense live performance by industrial alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails, filmed apparently in one take, in a bare room with white walls. Quite simple, in fact, but in such a minimalist setting, you absolutely can not fake your way through. You HAVE to be that good and to give it your all. And what can I say, it turned out great. It’s genuine. It’s noisy. It’s raw. It’s perfect.

Again, clearly you don’t necessarily need bling bling or oversized budgets to make a great video. What you need is a good idea, and to remain authentic.

Trent Reznor is slamming all over the place, into fellow musicians, throwing his mic around… and crew members keep coming in at just the right time so that everything can go smoothly. Great vid. Seeing it again makes me want to listen to their 90’s classic album “The downward spiral”. I bet, contrary to what some may have thought back then, that it has aged very well. Trent Reznor is a great songwriter and deserves to be recognized as such. I encourage you to listen closely to the lyrics and see for yourself!

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: Hurt by Johnny Cash

Let me apologize for waiting this long to post about this incredible work of art! A strong candidate for the number one spot in my Amazing Music Video series.

The adventure began with yet another incredible idea to come out of the brain of famous bearded genius Rick Rubin, a prolific and very influential producer who is responsible for several of the most important albums of the last few decades. Johnny Cash, now in his 60’s-70’s, had been working with Rubin on the American Recordings series: the AR albums comprise new versions of famous songs by american songwriters. On the fourth american recordings record, intitled “The Man Comes Around”, Johnny Cash performs a stunning and unforgettable version of alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails’s iconic song “Hurt”. Using the same strong lyrics (aside from the removal of one little word), he made the song his own and took it in a different direction, as an old man emotionally looking back on his life. While many I’m sure dismissed the raw alternative NIN song right off the bat were then surprised and blown away by it, once they let Johnny Cash do the storytelling (which, incidentally, is also relatively common with Rick Rubin’s albums – he breaks the frontiers of genres and brings out a performance that can be understood by a wide audience).

Directed by Mark Romanek, this video has nothing to do with “blingbling” or what not. It’s not about escaping reality by daydreaming about obscene wealth and fame and nonstop lapdancing (sigh…). It is a naked portrait of a legendary figure in music, now in his 70’s and in fragile health, looking back on his life and career as the “hell-raiser man in black”.  It’s an incredibly moving video, which won best cinematography at the MTV awards; Romanek really should have taken home the best video awards but he lost to Missy Elliot… at least he didn’t lose to 50 cents’s In da club! That was the year of the famous Britney-Madonna kiss too… but let’s rejoice that somehow out of this could rise a wonderful work of art which will stand the test of time (unlike others who shall remain nameless).

I heard someone say once that this video is like a baroque painting. What do you think? Here goes:

PS. If you haven’t seen my “Hurt – original vs cover song battle” between Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash, I invite you to take a look and make your choice (if you can, it’s a heartbreaking choice!) : https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/hurt-vs-hurt-nin-vs-johnny-cash/

 

Amazing Music Videos: Just by Radiohead

Have you ever wondered what Bill Murray’s character says to Scarlett Johansson’s at the end of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”? No wait, that’s a bad example because a youtuber actually managed to digitally process the sound so we could understand what that whisper was all about… Who knows what would happen if that could be applied to the ending of this Radiohead video?… (although it can’t) Would we be blown away? Or would we regret it and end up laying down on the sidewalk forever in our work clothes?

“Just” is one of Radiohead’s famous singles, which is included on the wonderful “The Bends” album. The video is directed by British director Jamie Thraves and tells the story of a middle-aged man who walks down the street in his business suit and at one point, he just lays down on the ground. Another man then trips over him and asks what he is doing there. A crowd gathers as they all wonder if he has gone mad. The man on the ground refuses to tell them why he is laying down, saying it wouldn’t be right. But the people are so insistent that he finally tells them. Of course, at this exact moment, the subtitles disappear and the viewer can’t tell what is being said. As the members of Radiohead watch on from the window of a nearby building, we see (censored!!!). The end.

This video is all about impact – the impact of its enigmatic ending. We are left to wonder about the cause of this strange and somewhat eerie behaviour. It is clearly meant to remain unknown though, so don’t watch if you’re the kind to obsess over stuff like this! But that would be a shame though, because it’s a great video. I think the mid-90’s period is how I’ll always remember Radiohead, for some reason.

Amazing Music Videos: Coffee and TV by Blur

Alright, I’ll say this right off the bat: this isn’t the “grand piece of art” kind of video. Rather, it’s the odd little tale of the missing guitarist, and the milk carton that sets out on an dangerous journey to look for him. It sounds stupid, I know, and it is pretty stupid, but I think it works. And I like this nice little chill-out tune of Blur’s, based on smooth guitar rythms and vocal harmonies.

But this post is about the video. A video about a milk carton, who sees a family’s despair and decides to go out and save the guy’s who face is featured on its sides… Poor little pal, it’s not the milk carton’s job, leave that to the big guys! But he gets by pretty well, considering. I wonder if we’d have had this kind of video if there hadn’t been an 80’s classic called Honey I shrunk the kids… The reference to the 80’s is appropriate – 80’s videos often feature little stories like this. Well, not exactly like this.

Most of the video shows the milk carton’s stupid funny cartoonish reactions to different types of hazards: his traumatized face when he sees his strawberry milk carton girlfriend being squished, his scared face when he sees all the empty cans in the trash, … but it ends in a heartwarming reunion with Blur’s guitarist. And then there’s his very anticlimatic demise: (spoiler alert) apparently, there are people who’d just drink a milk carton laying around on the floor. But it’s OK, Milky, isn’t bitter, he’s the altruist type after all. The proof: his endless rise to heaven…

Am I making any sense?

Highlights: when the milk carton gets a ride with a biker; when he gets scared of the cougar woman; the bit with the band ; and the milk carton’s overall stupid smiley face and the cool way he’s walking/dancing to the rythm.

I don’t envy the poor guy playing the mascott all day long filming this video!