Thursday, August 27, 2009

20 Best Promo Videos Ever (Part One)

I found a good list to post, but it requires lots of youtube links so I decided to break it into four parts, 5 videos at a time. "Keeping 'em wanting more" is good showmanship. I'm also a fan of "show, don't tell."

Just so anyone reading this can know for the future, you cannot fuck with this list. These are the best videos ever shown on MTV. Everything on this list was released between the 80's and 2005, which is when MTV actually would have been airing music.

Promo videos since 2005, including those which received the most praise, have pretty much all been shallow and cliched, with meaningless CGI effects, vapid celebrity cameos, tired computer animation, and every other imaginable cliche that's being used for the millionth fucking time. The small handful of exceptions from the past 5 years that I can recall would include the following:

"Rubber Johnny" (Aphex Twin) |Youtube|
"The Denial Twist" and "My Doorbell" (The White Stripes) |Youtube (Denial)| |Youtube (Doorbell)|
"Keine Lust" (Rammstein) |Youtube|
"Prime Time Of Your Life" (Daft Punk) |Youtube|
"Over And Over (Hot Chip) |Youtube|
"Sensual Seduction" (Snoop Dogg) |Youtube|
"Kids" (MGMT) |Youtube|

Besides these few, the best videos since 2005 are no longer those paid for by record label advances or funded by record sales. Youtube has allowed both bands and fans to launch a kind of DIY-era of promo clips. We personally enjoyed Radiohead's performance videos from around the release of In Rainbows such as their cover of New Order's "Ceremony", or Tobacco from Black Moth Super Rainbow who released an entire DVD of random VHS weirdness to accompany the Fucked Up Friends LP.

This list also unintentionally excludes videos released before the launch of MTV, for no other reason than simply they're not very interesting compared to what followed. Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and The Beatles "I Am The Walrus" were among the first that seemed to explore beyond mere musical performance or compiling images of bands lipsynching while strolling around various landscapes. Much later, David Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes" and Sex Pistols' "My Way" continued pushing forward, soon before MTV's official launch.

The videos that currently receive the most praise from MTV's first 5 years are "Thriller," "Sledgehammer" and of course A-ha's "Take On Me," which will probably end up in every major publication's "top 10 videos ever" for the rest of eternity. However, it won't be in this one because we no longer consider it exciting in compared to what followed. And honestly, it confused me as a 6-year-old MTV fan. It reminds me of confusion.

Enough malarkey. Let's get to this so I can sleep.

#20 Mr. Oizo "Flat Beat" (Quentin Dupieux, 1999)

This video stars Flat Eric. I don't know a lot about his history, but the clip suggests his professional life is quite successful and that he works very hard to keep his company strong. "Flat Beat" taught me the virtues of perseverance. This video may be the apex of meaningless non-Henson puppetry. In fact, puppetry and minimalism are so rarely used together, and they're such an effective combination.

#19 My Chemical Romance "I’m Not Okay (I Promise)" (Marc Webb, 2004)

This was an obvious fluke since it inspired a turd-pile of videos that followed in its path, all of which included one, some, or all of the elements from this video. The turd-pile I'm referring to includes every other MCR video and all the others from every band that got radio spins as a result of MCR's success. (i.e. "Dance Dance," "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," etc.)

This video was different, since it's the only case in which these elements congealed correctly. Yes, the song and video are both trying way too hard to be anthemic, but in this one specific case it made perfect sense.

"I'm Not Okay" is essentially the exact opposite of The Strokes' brilliantly simple "Last Night" video, which was also a "first of its kind" earlier in the decade. Both videos were thrown in heavy MTV rotation in hopes of creating a "new Nirvana" type of buzz, attempting to launch a new subgenre to take over alt-rock stations. And in a weird way, The Strokes did become the Nirvana of neo-garage in the same way My Chemical Romance became the Nirvana of "whiny post-post-emo with huge pop hooks."

The video was also a fluke for Marc Webb, who later went on to direct no more good videos and an overhyped recently released movie called (500) Days Of Summer, one of those fake-indie movies that's not actually distributed by an independent film company while catering to Garden State/Juno fans and probably has a soundtrack with 75% boring indie-rock and 25% new wave from the 80's (and wouldn't you know it - dead fucking right on target as usual. I swear I didn't look before that prediction.) Moving on.

Whatever, no apologies. Take it or leave it, this is what a great video looks like:

(Youtube did not allow the original edit of the video to be posted, but somehow it made it onto Spike TV's official website.

#18 Nirvana "Heart Shaped Box" (Anton Corbjin, 1993)

Wayne & Garth summed it up nicely:

#17 Yo La Tengo "Sugarcube" (Phil Morrison, 1997)

"Sugarcube" is a favorite among music nerds and Mr. Show fans, although its appeal is actually way more universal than that, since I knew nothing about Mr. Show when I was 17, and I was a fairly pathetic excuse for a "music nerd" in comparison to people I've met since then. And yet despite my ignorance, this was still one of my most cherished discoveries after I became addicted to 120 Minutes in that crazy summer of '97.

#16 Blur "Coffee + TV" (Hammer & Tongs, 1999)

Poor little Milky. This video is so cute, and yet so dark. Some really scary shit blocks Milk's path from reaching Graham Coxon. I'm still somewhat scared by the last 45 seconds, in which Hammer & Tongs decided to also create a visual of the 2 angel-milks flying to the sound of the interlude heard between "Coffee + TV" and "Swamp Song" on Blur's 13 LP. It still gives me some chills. but I mean, it's so cute. How could anyone with a soul dislike this video?

(P.S. According to the wikipedia entry on Blur's 13 the character is actually named "Milky." I was just guessing before. I had no idea!)

Part 2 coming soon!

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