Its not often that We judge songs based on their music videos, because the harmony of lyrics and instruments speaks to us all in different ways. But, as a visual artist, I am occasionally struck by the creative mastery that goes into motion media and video editing. So, in no particular order, here are some songs that (in my humble opinion) have especial value with respect to production design. These are all songs that I like and that you may also enjoy, however I’ve selected them not for their sonic elements but due to outstanding set, lighting, costuming, narrative, moral, humor, or other such genius.
1. Beyonce And Jay Z Apeshit Video
It was one of 2018’s most memorable music videos, and now the Louvre says Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Apeshit” is also partly responsible for the famed Paris museum welcoming a record number of visitors last year.
Some 10.2 million people visited the museum in 2018, about 25% more visitors than in 2017, officials at the Louvre announced. That’s the most visitors ever to any museum in a year.
The video, which dropped last year June, featured the couple in front of the museum’s most iconic pieces, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Jacques-Louis David’s “The Coronation of Napoleon,” and the ancient Greek statue “Winged Victory of Samothrace.” Jay-Z also rapped in one scene in front of the famous glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei in the museum’s exterior.
The video, directed by Ricky Saiz, was shot in May at the Louvre at night when it was closed to visitors.
The music video has since been viewed more than 147 million times on YouTube and received a nomination in the Best Music Video category at the Grammys.
Louvre officials said there was also a significant rise in the number of US visitors to the museum in 2018, as well as tourists from China, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the UK.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video was released on December 2, 1983 and directed by acclaimed film direct John Landis. The video became a landmark for music videos as it revolutionised the medium by subverting common music video tropes and the image of Michael Jackson in popular culture.
The video was made up of seven plots.
Some background info: Michael Jackson was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and remained a longtime member of this community. When the video of Thriller was released, the Jehovah’s Witnesses threatened to exclude him. As a result, Michael Jackson wanted to destroy all the copies of the video to please them. His producer however, having obtained 1 million dollars from MTV and other companies selling the video’s exclusivity (selling the Making Of’s exclusivity), made him change his mind. This warning screen was agreed upon in which Michael clearly condemns the anti-Christian side of his own video. This schizophrenia can also be found in the story, between the 2 Michaels: the nice, well-educated, clean student, and the zombie/werewolf…
3. Michael Jackson you rock my world
Just as amazing as the old stuff. This was the late pop kings return to Victory and he did not disappoint. Not only is the song an amazing track but the video featuring Chris Tucker and the Late Marlon Brando proved once again that Michael Jackson is the all time never to be seen again Master of Pop.
4. We need a Resolution by Aaliyah
The music video for “We Need A Resolution” was directed by Paul Hunter in April 2001 in Los Angeles. Hunter had previously worked with Aaliyah in 1996 for her video “One In a Million”. After directing the video for “One In a Million” Hunter wanted to work with Aaliyah again on other projects but it never came into fruition due to timing.
The actual theme for the video was to take an exclusive look into Aaliyah’s life , the goal was to create an illusion that only certain people could see. According to Hunter “One of the things that she wanted to do, she wanted to obviously dance, and she was really great at it. I felt that the idea behind that connection, we wanted an exclusive peek into her life, so the idea there was to create a sense that every room, every scenario that you’re looking at something that only certain people can see”. When explaining the videos theme Hunter compared it to a celebrity in the airport. Hunter explained, “It’s almost like if you’ve ever seen a celebrity in the airport, they’re going into a first class lounge, or they’re going into a private hallway, they sort of slip past you”. Ultimately Hunter wanted the theme for the music video to have an exclusive feel within every room and scene. For the video multiple snakes were used and the usage of snakes represented the idea of Danger. According to Hunter the idea to include snakes in the video were either Aaliyah or his idea; the goal was to show Aaliyah being in control. Hunter stated, “I think that idea was about danger. I don’t know if it was her idea or my idea, but ultimately it was about her being in control of something that was dangerous or that would create some sort of tension in the story and that ultimately she was in control of it…Aaliyah always wanted something that was different from what was going on”.
In an interview Aaliyah discussed her experience with working with snakes for the video by saying, “I saw bags moving in the corner, And I found out they were real snakes. I was a little nervous, but I kinda like doing crazy stuff.” Prior to working with snakes in her music video Aaliyah had previously worked with them for a photo shoot. According to Aaliyah “I first dealt with snakes when I was in Australia and I did the photo shoot for the album. We used five pythons in the shoot. At first, I was a little nervous, but once I started to handle them, I totally fell in love and felt an affinity toward them. They’re very mysterious creatures. They live in solitude, [and] there are times in my life [when] I just want to be by myself. There are times I can’t even figure myself out. I feel they are very complex creatures, [but] at the same time, they’re sexy, too. That’s why they represent Aaliyah pretty well. They’re dangerous, but quite beautiful. I thought that it would be an animal that could represent me on this album, so I wanted to take it from the photo shoot to the video and probably throughout the whole project.” To match the snake theme of the video in one scene Aaliyah is shown wearing fashion designer Gianfranco Ferré’s spring 2001 fringe reptile tube dress.
From see-through lace to gothic make up, and back around to one-dot lipstick application and free-flowing curls, “We Need A Revolution” captured every angle of Aaliyah’s existence at the time.
5. Kanye West Fade
He took a cue from Beyoncé and used his moment in the spotlight to premiere a surprise music video for “Fade,” off The Life Of Pablo. The music video stars singer Teyana Taylor and her husband, NBA player Iman Shumpert. … In “Fade,” a nearly nude Taylor is working out and jamming out, à la Flashdance.
The sweaty, oily, sexy, ’80s workout montage is one of West’s most creative feats yet.
But what does it mean?
According to a West-themed Reddit thread, via Mic.com, there could be a deeper meaning to the surprise ending of the video. In “Fade,” a nearly nude Taylor is working out and jamming out, à la Flashdance. Then, she’s completely naked in the shower with Shumpert and the scene is nearly pornographic. Next, we’re back in the workout room and the couple is still naked — but now, Taylor’s face has transformed into a Cats-like character and the couple is surrounded by sheep. At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. Even Chrissy Teigen was baffled by it.
But one redditor has an analysis that’s worth considering.
“At the end, Tenaya becomes a cat. She literally becomes pussy. This stands out a lot to me, especially after such a sexualized video,” writes ChipSkyLurk.
Whoa. The other commenters agree. If Taylor is just a sex object, the sheep are all the viewers, another adds. They’re saying that by turning Taylor into a physical cat, West is interrupting the narrative of his intensely sexual video to make the audience snap out of the trance that he created for them.
The impact of turning the weirdly hyper sexualized woman into literally a pussy is jarring,” one user writes. “It breaks you from the spell of being a slobbering horny animal real quick. It’s like the self-introspection the moment after an orgasm watching nasty porn. You really think about what the fuck you were doing in that sexualized trance state.”
Another relates the video to the title of the song itself: “The video purposefully turns you on and then subverts your expectations and questions what you find sexual or why it’s sexy at all. Our feelings fade away.”
Now if only West would weigh in on it all.
6. National Anthem” by Lana Del Ray
This video is a smorgasbord of stylish cars, blooming flowers, glittering jewelry, exotic furs, and false eyelashes. While Lana’s romanticized interpretation of the Kennedy assassination is debatably in poor taste, the cinematography of the video itself is absolutely beautiful. The ambiguous tableau of sex and politics is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes, and the concept, however tragic, is intriguing. Lana has a knack for smothering repulsion with allure
7. Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” by Panic! At The Disco
Panic! At The Disco has always excelled in doling out strange fantasy lands. The 1940s fishbowl world in this video is no different, and no less heartbreaking in how stunning it is.
8. Just Like Fire” by P!nk
This promotional music video was played in theaters showing “Through The Looking Glass.” Having viewed both the film and music video, I love the parallelism in P!nk’s message and the film’s moral: feminism, empowerment and individuality. Excellent set and costume design
9. Beyonce Formation
Beyoncé is many things, but subtle isn’t one of them. “Stop shooting us,” reads graffiti on a wall in the music video for the R&B singer’s new single, “Formation,” intercut with scenes of a boy in a black hoodie facing off against a line of riot police with nothing but his dance moves. But the clip, directed by Melina Matsoukas, is much more than simply an audio-visual manifestation of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Doubling as a tribute to New Orleans, the video opens with a pointed shot of Beyoncé standing atop a New Orleans Police Department car submerged in floodwater, and it dips even further back into our country’s racially charged history to ask, via a fake newspaper titled The Truth, “What is the real legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and why was a revolutionary recast as an acceptable Negro leader?”
Though she’s fond of surprises, Beyoncé, who chose to release “Formation” a day before she’s set to take the stage in front of millions of viewers alongside Coldplay at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, has never been an overtly political artist, a fact that makes the video an even more startling, and subversive, statement. “You know you dat bitch when you cause all this conversation,” she quips at the song’s end. The track is rife with quotable bon mots that will no doubt be causing conversation for the next 12 months (choice lyric: “When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster”), but it’s Beyoncé’s decision to include a queer hype man—New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia—and redirect the world’s attention to a city whose minority communities are still struggling, over a decade after Hurricane Katrina, that’s truly worthy of discussion.
Like her under-appreciated music video for 2006’s “Déjà Vu,” “Formation” slyly turns the antebellum South on its head, with Beyoncé, donning Givenchy, serving as plantation mistress. For a superstar like her, reparations, and forgiveness, might come a little easier (“Always stay gracious/Best revenge is your paper,” she advises), so she could have easily dropped another “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” or “Drunk In Love.” That she didn’t speaks to either a cynicism this writer’s not willing to ascribe to such a bold, if indulgent, video, or her refusal to simply be cast as an “acceptable Negro leader.”
10. Beyonce Deja Vu
No one really knew what to expect from B when she dropped “Deja Vu.” Though it was all experimental for the contemporary R&B artist that, let’s be honest, could be categorized as that sexy female artist that gyrates suggestively enough to attract approving glances and just looks cute. In “Deja Vu,” while Beyoncé looked as beautiful as ever, it was a chaotic clip that showed a frenzied New Orleans belle on the verge of implosion from infatuation. Directed by the acclaimed Sophie Muller, known for her work with No Doubt and indie acts, this was her first-time collaborating with King B and it was a controversial one for the fans especially that actually demanded a re-edit. They weren’t down with the shaky and in-and-out camera movements; how aloof she was behaving in the video; her ode to African dance got lost in translation, and the Beyhive particularly cringed when she danced somewhat erotically (and nearly) atop of Jay-Z’s during his verse. While a re-edit never actually happened, the one time Beyoncé herself challenged to being more than just the pretty girl in the video, she was ridiculed for essentially doing something different. “Deja Vu” however, remains her most artistically brave clip to date.
11. Cry me a River Justin Timberlake
In March 2002, a pre-buzzcut Justin Timberlake broke up with a pre-breakdown Britney Spears after a three-year relationship which saw them blossom from perma-smiling Mouseketeers to pin-ups for young love (they used to call each other Stinky and Pinky!). Rumours circulated that Britney had cheated on Justin (this was before he brought sexy back, so don’t judge too harshly), allegations that seemed to be supported by Justin’s subsequent passive-aggressive pop masterpiece, Cry Me A River.
“You don’t have to say what you did/ I already know, I found out from him”, squeaks Timberlake over layers of imposing Gregorian chants, before delivering the line, “It wasn’t like you only talked to him and you know it”. That’s followed by a huge pause, the musical equivalent of two raised eyebrows. Britney chose to wait until 2004 to respond with the delicate piano ballad Everytime, a tear-stained love letter that hinges on the line “My weakness caused you pain and this song’s my sorry”.
Despite the confusion, one fact remains: Cry Me A River, in all its over-sharing glory, has become a classic of its genre; a song that’s able to say much more via one acoustic version than any number of media-trained interviews. It should act as the benchmark for any future pop star break-up songs.
12. The Rain Missy Elliot
till holds up as one of the greatest musical debuts of all time. Prior to its release, Missy and her childhood friend Timbaland worked on Aaliyah’s One in a Million and other hit singles for the likes of Destiny’s Child, was part of an all-female R&B group called Sista, and eventually broke out as a solo artist, most notably featuring on a Diddy remix.
Selling 1.2 million copies in the US and achieving Platinum status, Supa Dupa Fly was only the beginning of Missy Elliott’s hip-hop reign. From her first album, Missy would go on to snag five platinum albums, four Grammys, sell over 30 million records, release hits like “Get Ur Freak On” “Work It” and “Lose Control,” and inspire everyone from Tyler, the Creator to Thom Yorke.
It’s practically impossible to visualise the quintessential 90s hip-hop music video without a Supa Dupa Fly-era Missy materialising in your brain. The fisheye lens views, the futuristic settings, and the insane outfits are inseparable from Missy’s verses, and were a crucial component of Missy’s forward-thinking rap manifesto.
In a recent interview with Elle Magazine, Missy explains the meaning behind her iconic garbage bag chic look:
“To me, the outfit was a way to mask my shyness behind all the chaos of the look. Although I am shy, I was never afraid to be a provocative woman. The outfit was a symbol of power… I loved the idea of feeling like a hip-hop Michelin woman. I knew I could have on a blow-up suit and still have people talking. It was bold and different. I’ve always seen myself as an innovator and a creative unlike any other.”