It’s not an particularly simple matter to pin down when music movies first emerged. In a way, the Beatles have been already making them again within the late sixties, however then, MTV, the place the music video as we all know it quickly took form, didn’t begin broadcasting till 1981. The very first video aired on the channel, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, had really been made nearly two years earlier, in 1979. However that didn’t cease it from doing deal to outline the shape that will, itself, outline the favored tradition of the eighties. Nor did it cease it from showing, 40-odd years later, on The AV Membership’s record of the 50 biggest music movies of all time. They’re viewable as a Youtube playlist right here, or you’ll be able to stream all of them above.
Not that it ranks particularly excessive. In actual fact, it is available in at quantity 50, main right into a number of movies from artists well-liked in a variety of subsequent intervals: Speaking Heads, George Michael, Nirvana, LL Cool J, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift. Because the creative ambitions of the music video grew, it mirrored not only a track’s cultural second, however put a number of such moments in play without delay.
In Sonic Youth’s “Teen Age Riot,” “a clip of Elvis Presley is adopted by space-jazz pioneer Solar Ra; a snatch of underground comedian guide auteur Harvey Pekar on Late Night time with David Letterman flits by.” For the “excessive water mark for kitschy Nineteen Nineties irony” that’s Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” “Spike Jonze units the video within the Fifties… however it’s the ’50s as seen on Joyful Days, a sitcom that painted a rosy image of the Eisenhower years.”
Jonze additionally attracts inspiration from seventies tv for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” a tribute to the cop reveals of that period that makes up for an obvious lack of funds with sheer humor and power (a reminder of the director’s origin in skateboarding movies). I bear in mind my millennial friends getting enthusiastic about that video within the 90s, as, within the 200s, they’d get enthusiastic about Michel Gondry’s all-LEGO animation of the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Woman.” This was roughly when Britney Spears was breaking by means of to superstardom, thanks not least to movies like “Child One Extra Time,” which mixes the slickness of minor pop with the chintz of minor life. “The concept for Britney’s iconic schoolgirl uniform and pigtails got here from the singer herself: director Nigel Dick adopted her lead, then had wardrobe purchase each sew of clothes within the video from Kmart.”
This was additionally earlier than Youtube, whose ascent made the music video extra viable than it had been in years. The AV Membership’s record does embody a number of movies from the previous decade and a half— Beyoncé’s “Single Girls,” Girl Gaga’s “Unhealthy Romance” — however on the entire, it underscores that there’s by no means been one other time just like the eighties. That decade that went from “Ashes to Ashes” to “Women Simply Need to Have Enjoyable,” “Chill out,” “Cash for Nothing,” “Stroll This Manner,” “Tackle Me,” and “Rhythm Nation” — to say nothing of establishments like Duran Duran, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, all of whom make the record greater than as soon as, however none of whom take its prime spot. That goes to Peter Gabriel, whose stop-motion fantasia “Sledgehammer” is MTV’s all-time most-played music video. “If anybody desires to attempt to copy this video, good luck to them,” Gabriel as soon as mentioned. He meant its painstaking manufacturing, however he may simply as simply have been speaking in regards to the place it attained in popular culture.
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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by means of Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.