When I was a kid, music videos were one of the best things that ever happened to TV. I remember my “I want my MTV” T-shirt, which I wore until it basically fell apart. Watching music videos changed TV and created a generation who didn’t want to just hear their music, but see it as well.
And then somewhere along the way it all took a wrong turn. Vee-jays were talking more and playing less videos, and things like “The Real World” captured the nation’s attention. Pretty soon, reality TV took over my favorite channel, and I entered what seemed like a never-ending period of mourning.
And then a miracle happened. As a grown-up professional, I found myself flipping on the television while I got ready for work in the morning. But neither “Good Morning America” nor “Today” really did it for me so I started flipping channels. I saw something called “Music Feed,” and the channel was – wait for it – MTV. I cautiously stayed on the channel and, to my great delight there it was, a bona fide music video playing on MTV.
It was like accidentally stumbling over the Holy Grail.
Not one to keep a treasure like music videos to myself, I am here to spread the word. Here are the five coolest videos from MTV’s heyday and the five coolest videos you’ve probably never seen by current artists that you certainly need to.
5 Coolest Videos – Then
1. “Addicted to Love” – Robert Palmer (1986)
It didn’t take cutting-edge technology or experimental filming techniques to make Robert Palmer one of the coolest cats of the ‘80s. All he needed was a band of smoking hot, red-lipped babes in tight black dresses and heels. It’s nearly three decades later and this video is still the epitome of cool.
2. “Take On Me” – a-ha (1985)
Who doesn’t remember when that animated hand reached out of a graphic novel to unite the hero and heroine in a-ha’s iconic video? This video has it all – keyboards, leather jackets, fancy technology, and a heartthrob main singer.
3. “Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel (1986)
If you were ever skeptical about music videos being considered an art form, this video will change your mind. At the time, the stop-motion animation, Claymation, and frame-by-frame pixilation and editing were like nothing we’d ever seen before. “Sledgehammer” is the perfect example of the excitement, experimentation, and fun the world of videos brought to the music scene.
4. “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson (1983)
While it’s hard to choose just one Michael Jackson video to swoon over, this was one of his first and created the original, iconic image of the man who became the King of Pop. Featuring nearly all of his signature dance moves, those sparkling white socks, and that unforgettable light-up sidewalk, this video is one of the reasons we all fell in love with (and miss) the magic of Michael Jackson.
5. “Rapture” – Blondie (1981)
Being considered the first rap video ever aired on MTV is just one of the things that makes this one of the coolest videos ever. Centered on the sultry, stylish, beyond-cool Debbie Harry, this video has just enough random weirdness to keep you intrigued. But even without the random man dancing in a white tux and top hat or the other bizarre caricatures of everyday people on the streets of New York, Debbie herself is more than cool enough to put this video on our list.
5 Coolest Videos – Now
1. “Chandelier” – Sia (2014)
Sia’s haunting voice is brought to life by the unforgettable dancing of an 11-year-old from reality show “Dance Moms.” She is adorned with a Sia wig and her body, face, and eyes communicate emotions that are far beyond her years. This is a mesmerizing, evocative, and beautiful marriage of movement and music that has stayed with me since first glimpse.
2. “Pretty Hurts” – Beyoncé (2014)
I’ve been suffering a bit of Beyoncé fatigue, but this video got me back on the bandwagon. All seven minutes of this video are totally worth it. Queen B is back to what she does best – showing her vulnerable side to do more than just entertain. There is a feminist message under all the glitter, hairspray, and tiaras in this engaging video. And the cameo by Harvey Keitel doesn’t hurt, either.
Taylor Swift pokes fun at her own tabloid reputation as a man-eater in this fun video. The 25-year-old singer goes from dream girl to crazy as she systematically destroys not just the unfortunate man who fell for her, but all of his (very nice) possessions. It’s worth watching if only for the crazed image of Swift with rivulets of smeared mascara running down her face.
4. “Not the Only One” – Sam Smith
Dianna Agron’s brilliant meltdown is what elevates this video to a work of art. This is true storytelling at its cinematic best. My favorite moment is when she pulls a bottle of wine off a store shelf, takes a deep swig, and then cleans them out of lighter fluid.
5. “Don’t” – Ed Sheeran
Dance is once again at the center in this entertaining snippet. The bouncy tune is accompanied by former “So You Think You Can Dance” alum Phillip “Pacman” Chbeeb as he twists and contorts his body through a neighborhood, multiple houses, and even a swimming pool or two.
Even though it might be harder to find them these days, it’s nice to know that MTV keeps music videos alive and well and as awesome as ever.
Photo Credit: Fred Siebert/Flikr