The video has to be better. That’s our criteria.
We start with the first year MTV was on the air. Yes, there are some absurdly great and absurdly bad videos pre-1983, but they were few and far between.
Björk is not on this list. Björk is one of the few artists that has released multiple groundbreaking videos with equally great music. Same with Aphex Twin. They have not been overlooked, we just think you’d still know them without their visuals.
Some of the videos on this list are great due to artistic achievements. Some are laughably bad. Some change the meaning of a song. All have value. Except the 1989 entry. There is nothing redeeming about that video. But we can’t stop thinking about it and that makes it great.
Once again, the video is better than the song. That’s our criteria.
Thomas Dolby “She Blinded Me With Science”
This song is fun to dance to and is often incorrectly attributed to the Weird Science soundtrack (nope, not on it), but the video elevates it to a whole new level. Dolby is committed to a home filled with deranged scientists who are treated by an actual mad scientist in the form of Magnus Pyke. Look him up. He did some shit. Watch the video. Blind yourself with science. – Jenn Tisdale
Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
Am I a huge Twisted Sister fan? No, though I have always loved Dee Snider. Their videos always seemed to feature teens rebelling against adults and at the tender age of 4 I had no idea what that was. What I did know was people in the video literally turned into various members of the band and that was always amusing. Plus look at all of that makeup and hair. – Jenn Tisdale
a-ha”Take On Me”
This entry included a length discussion in the BYT office. Some of the staff thinks this is a great song. Some of us think that it’s a good song. Everyone agrees that the video is great and influenced a generation of video, television and film makers. The video broke ground. We would not know this song if not for the video. -Brandon Wetherbee
David Bowie & Mick Jagger “Dancing In The Street”, Kate Bush “Cloudbusting”, Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”, Godley and Creme “Cry”, David Lee Roth “Just A Gigolo (I Ain’t Got Nobody)”, ‘Til Tuesday “Voices Carry”
Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”
Funny I should mention this song. I was dragged to the Dave Matthews Band concert Saturday night with my mom who is a HUGE fan. Just ask her DMB tattoo. I was a good sport however but I nearly lost my shit when they covered this song. Did they make it better? No, but the original music video was quite innovative for its time and not surprising given how artsy fartsy Peter Gabriel’s always been. That’s just one of the reasons why he originally left Genesis, so Phil Collins could eventually go on to make a music video filled with creepy puppet versions of the band. See below. – Jenn Tisdale
The Eurythmics made some great music. They also made some good music with some great videos. This is a great video. Sure, it’s dated but the influence continues. Watch the newest St. Vincent video and this and try to figure out who influenced who. -Brandon Wetherbee
Neil Young “This Note’s For You”
Neil Young has multiple classic songs, a healthy amount of important songs, an amazing amount of great songs and an astounding amount of good songs. This is an OK song. It’s about how he’s not a corporate shill. We already knew that.
The video features a fake Michael Jackson, a fake Whitney Houston and maybe a fake Spuds Mackenzie. Michael gets lit on fire. Neil parodies commercials a la SNL in 88. He plays a super simple, super Neil Young solo. Neil Young is cool. This is a cool video. -Brandon Wetherbee
Michael Jackson “Liberian Girl”
We put this on in the office a few months ago. We still don’t know what happened.
This was the ninth video from Bad. NINTH! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9! 9!-Brandon Wetherbee
George Michael “Freedom! ’90”
Here’s a great video featuring a gay man surrounded by beautiful lady models! It was very ahead of its time. It’s easy to sing about safe sex when you literally want to fuck no one in the video with you. That being said it’s a good song, dance to it. -Jenn Tisdale
LL Cool J “Mama Said Knock You Out”
A well-lit black and white video that helped LL Cool J appear to be an intimidating figure, rather than a very likeable, bankable sitcom star. LL doesn’t appear on MTV Unplugged without this video. -Brandon Wetherbee
Blind Melon “No Rain”
I want to cry now. -Jenn Tisdale
So simple, so good. The Edge is treated like human garbage in a single shot. The band and multiple people not in U2 make his life much harder. Adam Clayton smokes two cigarettes in under 5 minutes.
This is a video that will make you wish U2 still sounded like early 90s U2. -Brandon Wetherbee
Weezer “Buddy Holly”
Weezer rocked thick rim glasses and sweater vests and nostalgia before it was cool. Don’t hate. Their career has had its ups and downs (lately more of the latter), but the fact remains that you can’t discuss 90’s alt-rock without at least mentioning the Blue Album. They’ve also put out some of the quirkiest music videos ever to hit MTV, due largely in part to their close relationship with iconic director Spike Jonze. The clip for “Buddy Holly” features some seriously impressive editing and splices a clean-cut, cardigan clad Weezer smack into the middle of an episode of Happy Days – complete with a commercial break. It’s geeky, it’s clever, its nostalgic, it’s the freakin’ Fonz, man. A very good song you most likely wouldn’t know if not for the great video.
Highlight: The Fonz’s dance moves, duh. -Trent Burns
The Pharcyde “Drop”
The best backwards video. The one people are still trying to figure out. -Brandon Wetherbee
Jamiroquai “Virtual Insanity”
America does not know this guy in the hat without this guy in the moving room. -Brandon Wetherbee
Backstreet Boys “Everybody”
Say what you want about manufactured boy bands, this video is fucking great! It’s a little bit Thriller it’s a little bit HEY WE JUST WANT TO WEAR COSTUMES AND DANCE TOGETHER OKAY? By the way it won Best Group Video at the MTV Video Music Awards so there’s your proof right there kids. Bonus Round: Brian trying to sing through a rather large set of fangs, Nick dressed like a mummy based on some kind of Oedipal yearning I am sure of it. – Jenn Tisdale
Air “Kelly Watch The Stars”
After you see the video you can’t hear the song without thinking of the video. Life, ping-pong, death, the afterlife, more ping-pong, victory. -Brandon Wetherbee
Blur “Coffee & TV”
Before Gorillaz, there was Blur. “Coffee & TV” comprises the soundtrack of an absurd narrative in which a milk carton (dubbed Milky) searches for Blur guitarist Grahm Coxon. Love, loss, and adventure ensue. Directed by British duo Hammer & Tongs, and featuring a milk carton puppet created by Jim Henson’s special effects company, the video leaves you caring way too much about a dancing milk carton. That’s some impressive storytelling.
Highlight: Milky’s ascent to dairy product heaven. Feels alert. -Trent Burns
Robbie Williams “Rock DJ”
I wrote a much too long essay about how this video rules in my Catholic High School’s newspaper. I showed it to my teacher. He did not like it. I was soon let go from the newspaper.
Dude rips off his clothes and then his skin and then his muscles and is the basis for 50 Shades of Grey. -Brandon Wetherbee
Fatboy Slim “Weapon of Choice”
The pinnacle of the Christopher Walken dancing craze. There was a craze.
A perfectly fine song with a perfect video. -Brandon Wetherbee
How mad was Elton John when the 70s ended and not everyone dressed like that? -Jenn Tisdale
Stereogram “Walkie Talkie Man”
Things are made of yarn! Everything is made of yarn! -Brandon Wetherbee
Sigur Rós “Hoppípolla”
Similar to the Eurythmics, Sigur Rós is another group that makes great music and music videos. Since this video is able to put nearly all ages into a crying fit, it belongs on this list. -Brandon Wetherbee
OK Go “Here It Goes Again”
A very good song and one of the most important videos of the 00’s, the most important video since YouTube launched.
The 80s had “Take On Me”. The 90s had “Virtual Insanity”. The 00s had “Here It Goes Again”. -Brandon Wetherbee
Fionn Regan “Be Good Or Be Gone”
2007 was not a banner year for music videos. For over a week Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” held this spot. That song is great and the video is great and it didn’t feel right. After some searing we stumbled upon this super simple, beautiful video. Regan sings his song. The audio is not from the studio recording, but the location. It makes the listener listen. No other video on this list does that. -Brandon Wetherbee
Iron and Wine “Boy with a Coin”
A very solid song with a much better video. Not modern dance has been underutilized in music videos.
I enjoyed this video when it was released in January 2008. It pops into my head every time I see a music video that uses not modern dance. But I can never find the video. I think it’s Jack Johsnon. I think it’s Jack Johnson every time. This is not an insult to Jack Johnson or Iron and Wine. Once again, solid song with a much better video. -Brandon Wetherbee
Major Lazer “Pon De Floor”
An Eric Wareheim joint. -Brandon Wetherbee
El Guincho “Bombay”
Is El Guincho’s BOMBAY my favorite music video of the 2000s? Definitely. Is it my favorite music video OF ALL TIME? Probably. I remember the first time I saw (WAS HIT FACE ON BY) the CANADA produced, Nicolas Mendez directed miracle (there is really no other word to describe it) and INSTANTLY feeling a need to share it with everyone I know (partially so I could watch it ad infinitum with every single person as if it was for the very first time). The series of seemingly disconnected images (which El Guincho introduces in a Sagan-esque fashion as “A story of the universe”) features yes, nudity, yes, violence, yes, pain but also some of the most beautiful, joyous, weird-as-all-heaven moments committed to film. Watch it, then watch it again. It WILL change you. The song is good too, I promise, BUT THE VIDEO IS TRANSCEDENTAL. -Svetlana Legetic
Arcade Fire “We Used To Wait”, The Black Keys “Tighten Up”, Dr. Dog “Shadow People”, Hot Chip “I Feel Better”, Jack Johnson “At Or With Me”, Klaxons “Twin Flames”, Lady Gaga “Telephone” ft. Beyoncé, M.I.A. “Born Free”, OK Go “This Too Shall Pass”, Summer Camp “Round The Moon”
Gotye “Somebody That I Used To Know” (feat. Kimbra)
Gotye clearly loves Peter Gabriel. Clearly. – Jenn Tisdale
What’s Alt-J singer Joe Newman mumbling about about in this single from 2012’s “An Awesome Wave”? Hell if I know. But I do know that the video tells an story as old as time, albeit in reverse. As standalone audio, “Breezeblocks” is catchy slurred nonsense with some references to “Where the Wild Things Are” thrown in for good measure. But the accompanying video, directed by Ellis Bahl, takes things down a dark and dangerous road – and reminds you that ‘breezeblocks’ is UK slang for cinderblocks. The track’s plodding bassline and kitchy toy piano become all the more disturbing as a violent domestic dispute unfolds, and nothing is left out. Beautiful slow-motion footage played in reverse highlights every push, shove, and bottle throw to a point where you almost forget how sinister the video really is.
Highlight: the bottle smashing against the wall – in reverse. -Trent Burns
Nick Offerman gets fired and smashes his phone with a hammer and buys 40s and drinks 40s and pisses and pisses and pisses. -Brandon Wetherbee
Joywave “Tongues” ft. KOPPS
This is Svetlana’s pick if it were made one month ago and the filmmakers had After Effects. Made by the directing duo’s DANIELS (famous for their fucktastic masterpiece “Turn Down for What”), the video elevates “Tounges” to internet art royalty. Casting: spot on. FX: nailed it. Nudity: of course. If only the video accompanied MGMT’s “Kids,” this would undoubtedly be the best music video pairing in existence. -Brandon Weight
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