The music video is an art form that can potentially express anything and everything, which is what I love about it. From straight performance clips, to surreal animation and everything in between, its possibilities are endless. I also like the fact that, because it usually is created to promote an artist’s latest potential hit song, the music’s pretty good too!
So, here’s a bunch of my favourite music videos with accompanying comments. The links are to the official clips on Youtube. The first section of songs is mostly from about the last fifteen years, but I’ve included an ‘oldies’ section below as well. I guess I always wanted to be a host on Rage (Australian music video show), so think of this as what I would program if I ever got the chance. What would your choices be?
Futari Saison, by Keyakizaka13
This J-pop girl group song has its origins in corporate Japan, being an ‘inspiring’ theme song to help flog a company’s product. It spawned other such inspirational tunes (usually written by the same team) sometimes featuring female employees as group members. It all sounds a bit too tacky and manipulative, doesn’t it? But watch this video and listen to this song, which is basically a bunch of ‘schoolgirls’ poncing about in a square, and you might feel inspired too. It’s so beautiful. Definitely a case of art transcending commerce. The title translates as ‘we are a season’, by the way.
Summer Rain, by Simone and Girlfunkle
Imagine an all-girl group rehearsing a song in their front lounge room. It’s a very catchy song, with some nice vocals, but it’s also, for want of a better word, a very ‘girly’ song, with sighs and even an oboe (or is it a clarinet?) floating through it – ie, not very rock n roll. Imagine also that some rough-looking rock n roll guys are watching the performance from outside the window and sniggering over what they see and hear. When the song ends, the guys make their presence known and blow some raspberries and laugh at the girls, who are upset by this. Now reverse that scenario, this time having the guys singing and performing the same song, and you have this music video. Very cute, and an adorable song. The only criticism to be made might be that there’s not enough of the actual band Simone and Girlfunkle here. Directed by Ben Young.
Fall Underneath, by Snakadaktal
This mesmerising video features looped visuals shot through a filter that makes the whole thing look Seventies retro. A group of crazy Californians play out various scenarios, including two women who gesture emphatically at each other over and over in a loop. Just what it all means is anyone’s guess, but the effect is completely arresting, as is the song.
Protect, by Beni with Antony and Cleopatra
This simple clip features a woman in a kimono and traditional Japanese head wear, ‘performing’ this techno/dance song at her mix table. An insert window gives close-ups of the action as the woman cues various tapes and effects and gently boogies to her creation. There are also two cats playing with the wires beneath the woman. I think I could watch this all day. Directed by Harry Hunter.
Curious side note: Not knowing anything about Beni, I had always assumed ‘she’ was the pretty lady in the video. Having done some research, I now know the lady is 3JJJ’s Linda Marigliano, and Beni is actually a male Australian music producer. Pity. I so much wanted to believe the pretty lady was the musician…I guess that was the intention. This is not the first video to present a pseudo artist (was that REM’s Crush With Eyeliner?), but this is so clever and artful.
And go here for some behind the scenes pics from the video shoot. http://youonlyliveonce.com.au/exclusive-behind-scenes-pictures-beni-protect-video/
1,2,3,4, by Feist
You’ve probably seen this clip. The artist walks into a warehouse space, stands still in front of us; the music begins, and suddenly there’s a group of dancers lined up directly behind her. Then what follows is some phantasmagoric choreography wherein the artist is passed around by the entire troupe of dancers, all while she sings the song. Joyous and clever and brilliantly done. It ends as it began. Hey, where did those dancers go?
Wearing My Rolex, by Wiley
“What would we do?” This ridiculously catchy song and clip features girls as wily foxes. They roam the streets in their sexy fox outfits. One panics as she gets caught in a street basketball game. Another scores some discarded takeaway chicken from a dumpster and munches dreamily. During the group dance, the girls swirl their tails in slomo, and I swoon….
Clair de Lune, by Flight Facilities
There are two stories here, two timelines, intertwined. In one, a girl who’s chilling at home one night gets a call from her bff, who invites her out for a night of cruising. This girl accepts the invitation and, after an aimless night of light shoplifting and smashing apples with a baseball bat, it all goes horribly wrong. In the other scenario, the same girl doesn’t get the call and just spends a quiet night at home and then goes down the local all night store for munchies. On the way home, due to some weird fusion of timelines, her other alternative timeline self, with her bff, who are doing a Thelma and Louise speeding down a hill with no headlights on, are about to crash into her. The clip ends there. It’s the difference between spilt milk and spilt blood. The music is repetitive and hypnotic. A dark night has never looked so beguiling.
Standing Next To Me, by Last Shadow Puppets
Alex and Miles look sixties cool in their Beatles suits and shades. They’re in a dark and moodily lit studio situation performing to camera. Alex is banging away on a tambourine and the other one a guitar, both looking very relaxed as they sing the song. Then, during the instrumental break, the very fluid camera tracks around to reveal eight girls who go into a very goofy dance that I just want to see again and again. I especially love the bit when they do ‘the fish’, then ‘the Egyptian’ and stalk off. The camera then whips around, past a camera monitor and cameraman to reveal Alex and Miles on a couple of podiums. As they finish the song the camera dollies back to reveal six of the dancing girls just standing there in formation. Beautiful, classic, stylish, cool, shagadelic!
I have to say, I prefer the Puppets in their first incarnation, as shown here in this clip, than the shaved haired version of recent times. I prefer the music, too. The Age of Understatement was a great retro album, and this was a great song. ‘Want her, have her…’
Caravan Girl, by Goldfrapp
There are so many great Goldfrapp videos I could choose (love the ‘frapp!), but I’m going with this one, coz I guess it’s my favourite. A young girl leaves her caravan and goes on a skateboarding cruise around what I assume is California (one shot has her heading along the bike path towards the Santa Monica pier). At one point she stops and loads up on a high carb meal at a diner, and then she’s on her way again across the countryside and eventually back to the sea. It’s an exhilarating ride. I especially love when she kneels done on her skateboard and brushes her hand along the gravel, as if bestowing a gentle benediction to the instrument of her freedom. I also like how the clip doesn’t sexualise the girl. It’s simply a song of freedom. The final shot is sublime. Is it CGI? Directed by The Malloys.
Awkward Orchid Orchard, by Boat People
The clip, by an Australian band, is like watching a game of Pictionary where the theme is well-known bands and the pictures are made out of animation cut-outs. It’s a pretty nice pop song as well. How many band names can you find?
Kim and Jessie, by M83
This is one of a series of roller skating theme videos I’ve enjoyed. A pair of twins play Kim and Jessie and we first see them doing a synchronized routine in a gym. It’s great to watch them do their thing in their pink outfits – they’re so graceful and it’s beautifully choreographed. Then, they crash into each other and a group of five other skating girls (I say this advisedly – check out the black ‘girl’!) in yellow outfits seem to threaten them. The clip then goes all Busby Berkely for a moment with a number of overhead shots of the action. Then we cut low as Kim and Jessie, for some reason, roll beneath their rivals’ outspread legs, looking up at their crotches as they go (check out the black ‘chick’ again – ahh!). It’s weird but kinda funny. Then the scene shifts to outdoors as K and J do some speed road skating on roller blades. They’re soon joined by some boys at a skate ramp, and the clip climaxes with our heroines pashing on with a couple of the boys above the ramp.
The clip’s just a beautiful mesh of bright electro pop sound and vision. It looks like a video the teen film director John Hughes might have made circa The Breakfast Club, which is a vibe that spills over into M83’s Saturday’s Youth album, which contains this song.
Deathcloud, by Cloud Control
I could have gone with the better-known (and equally brilliant) Dojo Rising video for this band, but I really love this earlier clip. It’s a simple performance video, with the band in what I assume is their practice room, complete with llama posters and what not. The camera framing and coverage is terrific, capturing all the nuances in the group’s performance of the song, which I can’t emphasize enough, is a GREAT song. Special kudos must go to the girl, who plays keyboard and sings some parts near the end. I love the way she moves, and the bit when she picks up a tambourine and gives it a shake. Pretty simple, but sometimes simple is all you need to get the message across.
Same Love, by Macklemore and Lewis
Wow, this is powerful! The song is fantastic, but the clip’s pro-gay rights message takes it to another level. Reflecting the song’s lyrics, it tells the moving story of the protagonist’s uncle’s trials and joys as a gay man, ending with marriage to his life-long partner and – poignantly – his death, with the partner sitting vigil by the bedside.
Good Thing It’s A Ghost Town Around Here, by Still Flyin’
This crazy, bizarre song and clip from this Canadian collective is kind of Monster Mash meets a Halloween dress-up. Set in a cemetery (where else?), there are vampires and zombies and even a slice of singing pizza in amongst the live action and animation. I’m not sure what it all means, but it looks like they’re having fun, in a Rocky Horror kind of way, and you will too.
Darling I Need Ya, by Kid Confucius
The idea for this clip is pretty simple: film a bunch of cute women dancing around in their bedrooms and lounge rooms and kitchens to the song. Their seemingly spontaneous enjoyment in the catchy, uptempo music is fun to watch, and I guess as an inveterate girl-watcher I have my favourites (probably the latina with the cat, for one, fyi). But so far, so voyeuristic. Then something happens to each of them around the three minute mark that makes the clip worth sticking around for. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s damn funny. I showed this to Swamp contributor Rui once, and he pretty much fell on the floor laughing.
The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, by the Script
Boy, I identify with this tale of romantic folly, even though, when I think about it, the lyrics seem to trade in a certain amount of emotional blackmail. From the moment I saw this I loved the melody, loved the words, the song, and the clip. Have to admit, the dude singing it’s pretty comely too – it’s hard to imagine him having girl trouble. The clip mostly follows the lyrics to the letter, with the singer playing out the story of a man who picks his street corner (“where I first saw you”), stays there and waits for the girl he lost. The police eye him suspiciously telling him to move on, people give him money, thinking he’s a bum (“I’m not broke, I’m just a broken-hearted man”), crowds gather, and eventually TV news reporters, thrusting their microphones at him, do a story on him. Does the girl show up to give us a happy ending? You’ll have to see it to find out!
Here’s a bunch of other suggestions. Check them out, make them faves on your channel if you like them!
Mykonos, by Fleet Foxes
What’s A Girl To Do, by Bat For Lashes
Easy Love, by Mstrkrft
Forever Young, by Youth Group
Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken, by Camera Obscura
We Can Run, by Sarah Blasko
Smack My Bitch Up, by Prodigy
Rabbit In Your Headlights, by Unkle
Franco Unamerican, by NO FX
Shake Your Blood, by Probot
Laughing With, by Regina Spektor
Around the World, by Daft Punk
Song Sang Sung, by Air
She Came Along, by Sharam
Fireflies, by Owl City
Sugar Water, by Cibo Matto
Love Lost, by the Temper Trap
All These Things, by Darren Hanlon
The Shrine/An Argument, by Fleet Foxes
In Your Arms, by Kina Grannis
Blue Meanies, by Opossum
Marble Machine, by Wintergatan
Sweet Lovin’, by Sigala
Bad Day, by REM
Volcano Girls, by Veruca Salt
Gold Soundz, by Pavement
Fade To Grey, by Visage
Long Hot Summer, by Style Council
Change In Mood, by Kids in the Kitchen
Punk Rock Girl, by Dead Milkmen
Winter, by Tori Amos
Tonight, Tonight, by Smashing Pumpkins
Dirty Boots, by Sonic Youth
For Love, by Lush
Hot Burrito #1, by Flying Burrito Brothers
Just Like Starting Over, by John Lennon
Buddy X, by Neneh Cherry
Hey DJ, by World Famous Supreme Team
It’s A Hard Life, by Queen
Looks That Kill, by Motley Crue
Cry, by Godley and Crème
Life In a Northern Town, by the Dream Academy
Bonnie and Clyde, by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot
Cattle and Cain, by Go Betweens
Suspicious Minds, by Elvis Presley
Shooting Star, by Dollar
Rip Her To Shreds, by Blondie
Now They’ll Sleep, by Belly
Lady Picture Show, by Stone Temple Pilots
Head Full of Steam, by Go Betweens
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, by Bryan Ferry
Mr Krinkle, by Primus
She Riff, by Magic Dirt
Where Are You Baby, by Betty Boo
Manchild, by Neneh Cherry
Barracuda, by Heart
DC, by Died Pretty
Nights In White Satin, by the Moody Blues
Come Dancing, by the Kinks
Here’s Where the Story Ends, by the Sundays
Cybele’s Reverie, by Stereolab
Take On Me, by A Ha
True Faith, by New Order
Cloudbusting, by Kate Bush
Song For a Future Generation, by the B 52’s
Close To the Edit, by Art of Noise
This Note’s For You, by Neil Young
Babooshka, by Kate Bush
Transmission, by Joy Division
Save Me, by Queen
Play the Game, by Queen
Eagle Rock, by Daddy Cool
Don’t Stop the Dance, by Bryan Ferry
House of the Rising Sun, by the Animals
Reet Petite, by Jackie Wilson
Words, by Missing Persons
Wild Thing, by Jimi Hendrix
Fade Into You, by Mazzy Star
Romeo and Juliet, by Dire Straits
Cherry Bomb, by the Runaways
Sweet Home Alabama, by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Waiting In Vain, by Bob Marley
Virginia Plain, by Roxy Music
Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs, by the Cramps
Surfers of the Mind, by Def FX
Sober, by Tool
Talking To A Stranger, by Hunters and Collectors
Waiting On A Friend, by Rolling Stones
I Go To Rio, by Peter Allen
Cool For Cats, by UK Squeeze
Wood Beez, by Scritti Politti