Ten of my Favourite Music Videos
Over the last two years I’ve had a lot of fun making lists of my favourite songs, bands and cover songs. I always include the videos, but I usually just talk about the song. This time I wanted to choose my top ten music videos, with the emphasis on the videos themselves. Expect some weird videos, amazing animations and ten great songs.
I have to give an honorary mention to Van Canto’s Badaboom (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aeaz4s7q0Ag) which didn’t make this list as it has already appeared on one of my lists. I love the story it tells and how much fun the band had dressing up as heavy metal icons.
1. Anvil by Lorn
The best music transports you to somewhere else, and everything about this video is out of this world. A sci-fi video is a great choice for these sweeping synths and the animation is fantastic. The city is teaming with detail and the use of black and white is just perfect. So many things really stand out in this video because of the strong contrasts and dark shadows. I wish it was longer, but when it does end, it does so with a really powerful image that shows how these were the last few minutes of someone’s life. Once you understand what the animation is about, the video is even more powerful the second time you watch it.
2. Lone Digger by Caravan Palace
Electro-swing is extremely catchy and Caravan Palace do it better than anyone. Their video for Lone Digger is incredible. The animals never talk, but their faces are so expressive. You can really feel the anxiety as the cats enter the club. I love the little details like the different drinks for all the animals, or the very human way the cats groom themselves on the way in. The ending is pretty shocking, but I still want to see more of this world and all the animals that live in it. We only get to see it for less than three minutes and I would be happy to watch an entire film in this strange new world.
3. Last Resort by Papa Roach
Unlike other entries on the list, Last Resort is here for more personal reasons and what the video represents to me. This video was instrumental in shaping what I thought live concerts would be like. It was many years later that I started going to gigs and festivals and I fell in love with being in the front row. I have spent all day at the front of festival stages, or queuing outside venues so I can be in the front row for my favourite bands. I loved it, but there was a catch.
At all those festivals and venues there were, quite rightly, a protective layer of barriers and security staff between you and the band. But I remembered this video where there is nothing between the band and the fans. I kept searching for the perfect gig, trying to be and feel as close to the action as possible. At tiny venues this is trivial, but these gigs were always for bands I barely knew. Then in 2012, my favourite band Sonic Boom Six were trying to get signed to a record label, having run their own record label for a number of years. As part of this, they played a couple of small gigs which I believe were put on for the benefit of scouts at record labels. They weren’t part of any tour, and they were at much smaller venues than I’d seen SB6 before. Only hard-core fans were there, and I finally had that intimate experience I had been seeking.
I was stood directly between the two lead singers and was as close to the action as the fans in this video. The singers were often leaning on me as they held the microphone out to others in the audience behind me and it was incredible to be so close to my favourite band. It was as intense as I had always hoped and I doubt I will ever go to a better gig. For the previous two and a half years, going to concerts was a big part of my life, and I travelled a lot to try and see all my favourite bands and to have that perfect front row experience. It’s hard to quantify, but I think a huge amount of that drive and motivation came from this video and the real connection you can see between the fans and the band.
4. Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers
My favourite Red Hot Chili Peppers songs make absolutely no sense. Can’t Stop is an example of one of their songs where the lyrics are written to the rhythm instead of starting with the lyrics and working out the rhythm. This means the singing and the guitar blend together so well. Complementing the random lyrics is an equally eclectic mix of artworks. These are inspired by the artist Erwin Wurm and his series of One Minute Sculptures. Ordinary objects are transformed into slightly surreal compositions and they are often quite humorous. I don’t like every piece of art but there are so many there is always something new and weird to look at.
5. Full Steam Spacemachine by Royal Republic
Another sci-fi video makes my list with Full Steam Spacemachine’s alien invasion. Royal Republic don’t just save the world but they sound good doing it and make a very funny video, all at the same time. The general’s horror at asking the Swedes for help makes me laugh every time. My favourite thing about this song is the way it blends together lingo from different sci-fi franchises, especially the use of starburst from Farscape, my favourite TV show of all time.
6. Rock N Roll by Avril Lavigne
This is easily one of the strangest music videos of all time. Several other videos on this list established their own fictional world, but this one is astonishing for how detailed but nonsensical it is. In a world where bearsharks threaten to destroy rock and roll and heroes wield chainsaw-guitars, anything can happen. Not content to play the song and tell a simple story, this video delights in bombarding you with surprises and tonal shifts. We veer from a car chase to tragedy to a make out session in mere seconds. Interspersed with comic book panels, animated sub-titles, and voice overs, it feels like many different genres and styles smashed together in one.
There are two things I especially love about this video. Firstly so many questions are left unanswered. Why are bearsharks trying to destroy rock and roll? Why are lobsters so terrifying? How can a dog drive a car? We will never know.
Secondly everything is so extremely over the top. It would be easy for such a mainstream star to play it safe. Here she absolutely does not. Even the product placement at the beginning feels like a mockery of all Avril Lavigne’s previous product placements. And obviously the idea of a pop-punk princess being the saviour of rock and roll is ludicrous. But somehow if you put enough crazy things in one video, it works. I’ve watched it many times, and I still can’t quite believe what I’m seeing.
7. Resonant Chamber by Animusic
I’m sure many people will say this isn’t really music, as it’s all 100% fake. This instrument may not exist, but I love the idea that an instrument that only exists in someone’s imagination can still be seen and heard through the wonders of CGI. Animusic produced a number of videos based around fantastical instruments that play themselves and Resonant Chamber is my favourite. It isn’t as crazy as the others, but I think this is part of the charm. It’s not too hard to imagine that this instrument could actually exist.
8. Le Château Magique by Guilhem Desq
I had to put this video next as it’s an interesting comparison to the Animusic video. Once again we have computer graphics and an instrument that plays itself. This time it’s a real instrument with a musician that is edited out. I’ve featured hurdy-gurdies on my music lists before, but this hurdy-gurdy must be one of the most beautiful instruments ever made. It’s only right that this work of art takes centre stage in a video. The animations are awesome too and together with the magical self-playing hurdy-gurdy, they bring a whole fantasy world to life. Interestingly this is the third song on today’s list without any lyrics. Do instrumental pieces make for better videos? I don’t know.
9. Empty Walls by Serj Tankian
After System of a Down split up Serj Tankian released a couple of solo albums. They never lived up to my expectations, but there were a couple of great singles on the first album and the first one came with this fantastic video. Serj brings so much manic energy to the song through his voice, and this is some of his best singing, either solo or with System of a Down.
I also just like the image of Serj dressed up and playing on a children’s toy piano. But Serj isn’t the star of this video. Recreating these iconic images from the war on terror with innocent children and toys makes for a video that really packs an emotional punch. This playful take on such dark and serious issues is incredibly powerful.
10. Diplomat by Itch
Rounding out my list is another weird and slightly surreal video. It starts simple with many duplicates of a one guy just walking past, but slowly more and more strange things start appearing. The army of people go past so fast I really enjoy watching it several times to see everything. This is always the sign of a great video. I also love how Itch is able to express himself. He’s apologetically honest and unashamed of his flaws and sees them as an essential part of being human. Which is a bit ironic given how inhuman the characters in the video become.