You’ve seen it on hundreds of blogs — a list of 100 great books or 100 great movies, with the blogger commenting on the ones he or she has or has not seen or read.
I don’t have that kind of attention span, so I’m going to do the same thing with Stylus’ list of 100 music videos. And with the exception of Fake Plastic Trees, I’m not going to watch the ones I haven’t seen yet — at least, not now. Sorry, but there’s only so much procrastinating I can do here.
Besides, this’ll be a good comment on the videos of my generation and slightly beyond. Remember — I’m old.
98. Cure, Lovesong — It’s OK, but I don’t see anything that special about it.
96. Robert Palmer, Addicted to Love — Memorable image, but that doesn’t make it good. I’m sorry, but I don’t find pasty-faced expressionless women attractive. And then Palmer kept repeating it in other videos.
95. Billy Joel, Pressure — Great song, despite Stylus’ protests, but the video is kind of silly.
94. David Bowie and Bing Crosby, Little Drummer Boy — Yes, I’d love to know the backstory on this. It actually sounds pretty good, but the awkward video just makes you scream “WTF?”
88. Nine Inch Nails, Closer — Yawn. Brings back memories of all the kids on Prodigy’s message boards saying this was a great make-out song because he says “I wanna f— you like an animal.” Our generation really needed a Barry White.
87. Duran Duran, Hungry Like the Wolf — I actually kind of preferred Rio, but this one is unforgettable.
83. Peter Gabriel, Shock the Monkey — One of the first videos I ever saw. At least, one of the first videos I *remember* seeing, just before I got MTV. I’ve always interpreted it as a man whose moral dilemma spirals into a fantasy fueled by paranoia and incomplete notions of spirituality. No?
81. Radiohead, Fake Plastic Trees — Addressed here, and for all the great Radiohead videos on this list, they forgot High and Dry. The image of the woman in the diner with a resigned look on her face singing along to “screaming out” is one of those wonderful multilayered expressions artists often claim to be doing and are not.
77. Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit — Made you watch long enough to realize how brilliant the song was. So started a brief but powerful career.
71. Lisa Loeb, Stay (I Missed You) — We get it. Lisa Loeb wears glasses, but that makes her cool. It didn’t work for me in high school, and I don’t buy the double-standard.
62. Duran Duran, Girls on Film — This video wouldn’t load for me, which is too bad — you rarely see the uncensored version. It’s the sort of voyeurism that so strange and creepy that kids can’t help but look, even if it means they’re turned off from actual sex for another couple of years. So perhaps this video should be seen as some sort of public service in the fight against teen pregnancy and STDs.
61. Michael Jackson, Billie Jean — I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but you don’t see this kind of storytelling in videos any more.
59. Judas Priest, Breaking the Law — Considering how over-the-top metal videos would get later in the decade, this one is kind of refreshing.
57. Bjork, Human Behavior — This one’s brilliant, both in concept and in all the details. Bjork turns in one of the best acting performances you’ll ever see in a video, running through subtle facial expressions to convey empathy and frustration. She can be frustrating because her artistic ambitions can lead her down some bizarre paths. But when it works, it works. And you have to love a song that uses tympani for the bass line. (Yes, I played tympani in college. My senior recital tape is not yet available on eBay.)
56. Chris Isaak, Wicked Game — Yeah, yeah, Herb Ritts does black-and-white photography on the beach, and this is intense foreplay, blah blah blah. It’s all a little too affected for me.
55. Talking Heads, Wild Wild Life — Of this list of 100, this may be the best video I’d forgotten. John Goodman is indeed a trip, and it’s a wonderful idea to run a bunch of characters through the lead role. (Also seen in Jeff Beck’s video for Ambitious, in which a bunch of singers trade off the vocals.) The song itself isn’t bad, propelled by a typically inventive Tina Weymouth bass line.
53. Jamiroquai, Virtual Insanity — Agree wholeheartedly with the review. If the effect is that cool, just run with it.
49. Nada Surf, Popular — I have a couple of issues with the lyrics. I don’t get the joke about washing hair every two weeks. How many quarterbacks also write for the school paper? The video itself is a just a literal reading of the song. Maybe that’s nit-picking. It’s a good song that takes a distinctive approach that happens to work. Worth noting — Nada Surf has more than one good song.
48. Nirvava, Heart-Shaped Box — One of Cobain’s best songs. The video overreaches and is hard to decipher, but it’s worth checking out.
47. Fatboy Slim, Weapon of Choice — Bill Bryson has a good take on appreciating moments of inspiration, saying he could stand on a beach for eternity and it would never occur to him to turn the stuff on which he’s standing into glass. I know how he feels. I could brainstorm my whole life, and I would never think to ask Christopher Walken to dance and fly around an empty hotel lobby to escape from his character’s humdrum life. That’s why Spike Jonze gets the big bucks.
45. White Stripes, Fell in Love With a Girl — Perfect song to unleash the Legos. I don’t know why, either. It just works.
42. Radiohead, Karma Police — It’s difficult to do a video that matches a methodically paced song without boring viewers, but this one does the trick.
41. Guns n’ Roses, November Rain — And sometimes, artistic overreach does NOT work. Music critics who slag Rush and Yes for their nine-minute epics but drool uncontrollably over this piffle are hypocrites.
40. Smashing Pumpkins, Tonight Tonight — It’s different, sure, and it’s a good song. Wouldn’t make my top 10 list, but I wouldn’t turn it off.
31. Human League, Don’t You want Me — Have to give them credit for digging up this one. Several ’80s bands figured out that acting ability was just as essential as musical talent. Human League had both, to be honest. The storytelling in both song and video is impeccable.
29. Weezer, Buddy Holly — This to me was always the song on the album that makes you think, “Yeah, that’s OK.” And then you’re stunned to hear it played 3,987,284 times on the radio in the next month. As far as shout-outs to Happy Days go, Family Guy is doing it better.
27. Michael Jackson, Thriller — Lots of money, not many ideas.
24. Madonna, Like a Prayer — Nah. I don’t buy it.
22. Foo Fighters, Everlong — The song is one of my all-time favorites. You just don’t get many sentimental love songs that (A) have original expressions and (B) rock! Making a video for such a song is challenging, and this is a creative solution — make it funny, yet also sweet.
20. Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime — One of the early pace-setters for video creativity. Still one of the pace-setters. Makes me wish video directors would go low-budget every once in a while to come up with something novel rather than something expensive.
17. R.E.M., Losing My Religion — A little affected at times, but it generally works in matching — and enhancing — the song’s tone of frustration in difficult surroundings. The intro — Mills, Buck and Berry walking in various states of urgency — sets the stage for the ominous chords that follow. Even after Weird Al’s great commentary (“the roof is collapsing!”), it stands up.
15. Peter Gabriel, Sledgehammer — I can never get past the fact that the song is a blatant rip of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, one of the most important songs ever recorded.
14. Beastie Boys, Sabotage — Take a song with ’70s bass effects and set it underneath a ’70s cop show. Can’t beat that.
13. Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues — One of those ideas that doesn’t really make any sense but just sticks in your head until it becomes part of the pop culture canon.
11. Fiona Apple, Criminal — The review is right. It’s provocative, and you don’t really want it to be. I’m not sure what women think of this song, but the male reaction is “Ewwww, I don’t find her attractive. Do I?”
5. Radiohead, Just — Won’t argue with this placement at all. A classic study of people trying to comprehend one man’s bizarre behavior. And what IF all the crazy people are actually sane?
4. A-Ha, Take on Me — Can’t argue with this one, either. You may find the song a little flimsy — it is — but as the backdrop for a story of a fantasy coming to life, it’s terrific.
Off the top of my head, the most disappointing omissions are the entire Men at Work catalog (those funny Aussies) and Ice Cube’s It Was a Good Day. Seriously, they have tons of hip-hop videos in here, and they leave out the one that actually says something AND is entertaining to boot?
(By the way — is there a special insulting word yet for these asshats who take a video from MTV or Comedy Central and superimpose their own “corporate” logo on it? Oh yeah, what a great business plan — steal copyrighted material and slap “LaffRiotPromotion.com” on it as if WE are the only ones who had the brilliant idea in the first place. Well, I guess it worked for hip-hop.)