The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) took place less than a week ago, but does anyone care anymore? Maybe in the 90s, yes. But now, MTV is all about the drama and reality shows, so the channel lost its credentials a long time ago. What’s the purpose of music videos, anyways? AC/DC never cared for them, which is why they were very straight-forward with their videos (mostly).
Then, we have artists like Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and Cardi B who spend big bucks on their music videos like it’s all or nothing. It shouldn’t be like that! Music should focus on the lyrics and message of the song, not the distracting scenario taking place in the video. While there are some music videos that tell a good story with the props given, there are also some over-the-top videos that stray away from the song’s message.
However, instead of ranting about the terrible music videos, I’m going to talk about the great music videos that stand out in the crowd. These videos are awesome because of their creativity, storytelling, and they give me nostalgia, of course. I chose one video per year and per artist to have variety on the list. With all that said, let’s get on with music!
10. “One” (1989) by Metallica
“One” was the first Metallica song to have a music video and it was not a bad way to start. The song’s lyrics depict a soldier losing all of his limbs during World War I. The concept was inspired by a movie called Johnny Got His Gun (1971), which is why the band included scenes from the movie in the “One” music video. The video has a horror movie vibe, which is cool because it keeps the audience at the edge of their seats.
9. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (1986) by AC/DC
“You Shook Me All Night Long” is originally from Back in Black (1980), but it was re-released on the band’s Who Made Who (1986) album. There are two videos for this song: one is very straight-forward with guys jamming to the track in a rehearsal space and the second video is more random. The latter involves Brian Johnson taking a bath in a tiny tub, Malcolm and Angus Young dressed as schoolboys, ladies riding exercise bicycles, and a mechanical bull. Strangely enough, the actress that played Johnson’s lover got injured on set and she married the roadie that helped her. The video is quite strange and I’m not really sure what it has to do with the song, but how often do you get to see Malcolm Young in a schoolboy uniform?
8. “You Belong with Me” (2009) by Taylor Swift
Remember Lucas Till from Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)? Well, he plays Taylor Swift’s love interest in this video and man, he was such a babe! In the video, Swift portrays a nerdy girl who’s in love with the boy next door. Unfortunately, he’s dating a popular girl (also portrayed by Swift) who doesn’t appreciate him and the nerdy girl tries to win him over. I love makeovers (hair and makeup), so I really enjoyed the last scene where Swift appears at the dance all dolled up with no glasses and gets together with the boy.
7. “Behind These Hazel Eyes” (2005) by Kelly Clarkson
As a kid, I thought this video was so sad because Kelly Clarkson was running in the rain and then, she fell in the mud. “Behind These Hazel Eyes” is about a failed relationship. So, the video shows Clarkson preparing for her wedding, but then she discovers that her fiancé is interested in someone else and chaos ensues. My favorite scene in the video is when Clarkson collapses and she’s comforted by her other self. She’s saying that despite the pain she went through, she will not allow her ex to see her cry.
6. “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne
Like “You Belong with Me,” Avril Lavigne portrays both the guy’s current girlfriend and the girl trying to win his affections. Basically, a nerdy girl is going out with this guy and the rebellious girl is like, “Hey, I think you need a new girlfriend!” I do feel bad for the nerdy girl because she gets hit in the head with a golf ball, pushed out of a photo booth, and knocked off course while racing go-karts. But, you gotta do whatever it takes to get the guy of your dreams (at least that’s what the video shows). Also, I am living for punk fashion from the 2000s!
5. “Mad” (2008) by Ne-Yo
Talk about a music video with great storytelling. First of all, the video was shot entirely in black and white. It starts with Ne-Yo arguing with his girlfriend and then he leaves upset. While saving a kid from getting hit by a car, Ne-Yo dies and the girlfriend feels guilty. However, the audience doesn’t find out that he’s dead until the end of the video. The lyrics fit the music video perfectly; it’s not worth it staying mad at one another because you never know what can happen.
4. “It’s Gonna Be Me” (2000) by NSYNC
I have no idea what plastic dolls have to do with the song, but hey, it was entertaining. The dolls were a bit creepy at first, but I got used to them. I’m more of a Backstreet Boys fan, but the “It’s Gonna Be Me” video was worth checking out! The NSYNC boys portrayed dolls and they had to wear prosthetic makeup for a 24-hour period; that’s dedication. I’ve never seen anything like it. Based on this and the “Bye Bye Bye” video, the boys must really have a thing for toys!
3. “Buddy Holly” (1994) by Weezer
I don’t listen to Weezer, but I love Happy Days (1974 – 1984)! I forgot how I came across the “Buddy Holly” music video, but I’m glad I did. For a video shot in the early 90s, it looked like it was shot in the 70s (for a show that was based in the 50s). They even had Al Molinaro, who portrayed Al Delvecchio on Happy Days, make a cameo by introducing the band at Arnold’s Drive-In. I kind of wish more of the show’s cast appeared in the video, but the creators did a good job with what they had.
2. “Lay with Me” (2018) by the Phantoms featuring Vanessa Hudgens
If you’re a High School Musical (2006) fan, this music video is a must! If you’re not a fan of the movie, just watch it anyway because the song is pretty catchy. This video is all about Vanessa Hudgens embracing her Disney past, but at the same time, moving forward with the present. My only complaint with this video is that I hate the black lace outfit Hudgens wears for her costume change. Like, lace pants, really?
1. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” (1997) by the Backstreet Boys
Backstreet’s back, alright! The boys wanted to go all out for their first single off their second international studio album and that’s what they did. There’s not a dull moment in this video and it’s got a fun Halloween vibe. The video’s plot is the band’s tour bus breaks down and the boys get stuck at a haunted house, where they are forced to spend the night. In a dream sequence, each member turns into a monster: Brian Littrell becomes a werewolf, Howie Dorough becomes Dracula, Nick Carter turns into a mummy, AJ McLean becomes Erik from The Phantom of the Opera, and Kevin Richardson turns into a two-faced state of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Throughout all that terror, the boys manage to get together for a fun dance routine (if you need a good workout, this is the song to dance to).
There you have it, everyone! Those are my top 10 music videos (or at least the ones that don’t irritate me). I didn’t even get to talk about Justin Bieber’s early music videos, but oh well!
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