Beavis and Butthead may have pissed away their lives on a couch sniggering at the latest MTV music videos (where are they now, eh?) but we’ve always advocated that such time in front of the telly isn’t ill spent; which is hard when you’re watching Justin Bieber party with his tween friends. But it wasn’t always this way. The music video has been the playground for some of the creative industry’s most talented auteurs and art directors.
Text Ben Liew, Kevin Yeoh, Miranda Yeoh, Muna Noor + Raphael Westwood
Directors Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich and Where The Wild Things Are) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science Of Sleep) honed their craft making music vids for the Beastie Boys through to Beck, while countless other names mentioned when not whisking up dream scenarios for hip hop artists and rock bands are producing smart, sassy, multi-million ads for big dollar clients. So tell mum/dad/the girlfriend/husband, you are doing research. So you don’t waste your time or braincells, JUICE separates the wheat from the chaff and picks out the most mind-blowingly creative music videos visuals of the past decade. Dim the lights and bring on the popcorn….
Ok Go! – ‘This Too Shall Pass’
First came the dancing, then the treadmill choreography. Directed by James Frost, ‘This Too Shall Pass’ is like the myth busters on one continuous roller coaster of perfectly-timed weight-balance experiments. Created in conjunction with the boffins at Synn Labs, when OK Go! bag the final money shot and the cam pan up to the clapping white coats, it makes you go “Ahhh…” After all you’ve got to love it when a crazy plan comes together. See also OK Go!’s ‘Here It Goes Again’ which was performed live at MTV Music Video Awards.
Radiohead – ‘Knives Out’
This isn’t the first time you’re going to be hearing this name: Michel Gondry. The French auteur directed Radiohead’s music video for the song ‘Knives out’, from the 2001 album Amnesiac. Reminiscent of his movie ‘Science Of Sleep’, Thom Yorke initially didn’t like the treatment – all relationships, oversized props and an innocent naivete. Or maybe he didn’t like acknowledging that he is creepy looking, especially as rabbit doll.
Jaga Jazzist – ‘Oslo’s Skyline’
If only chemistry and biology class looked like this. Created and directed by Charles De Meyer, Francoise Roisin, Raphael Martinez-Bachel and Jules Janaud, the French quartet take human chemistry and illustrate the boy meets girl scenario as a series of physically emotive notes and diagrams in 2004 for the single which was eventually included on album ‘What We Must’ (Ninja Tune).
Gnarls Barkley – ‘Who’s Gonna Save My Soul’
Directed in 2008 by Chris Milk, ‘Who’s Gonna Save My Soul’ is not unlike the Spike Jonze-Kanye West short We Were Once A Fairytale; both involve the wrenching of body parts. Chris’ version however is bloody, came first, and has the stirring insistence of Cee Lo Green’s soulful pleading voice to tug the heartstrings. Twitter’s ly_sim name checked this as a fave. For us it’s a tie with Rorschach inkblot test themed ‘Crazy’ by art director and motion graphic designer Bryan Louie, directed by Robert Hales. And the winner is (drumroll)….
Royksopp – ‘Remind Me’
Directed by Ludovic Houplan & HervÃ© de CrÃ©cy of French motion graphics company H5, ‘Remind Me’ won the 2002 MTV Europe Music Award for best music video. Featuring infographics; labels, lifecycles and schematics, if you like, this you’ll love the Wilfred Brimo directed Habbo Hotel, Sim City-style ‘Lovegame’ by Shakedown.
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Believe’
It’s extreme paranoia as the machines take over and run rampant in London in pursuit of a hapless everyday jobsworth. Though possibly under the influence of painkillers (the worker’s left arm is in a cast), he imagines the assembly-line “arm” is after him. Directed by star music vid and advertising directors Nick Goffey and Dominic Hawley aka Dom+ Nick, who have worked with The Chems since their 1996 breakout ‘Setting Sun’, the pair eventually went on to direct Simon and Ed’s ‘Salmon Dance’ and ‘Midnight Madness’.
Beck – ‘E-Pro’
A video game aesthetic is rendered in lo-fi 3D simulation style by British visual art collective Shynola for Beck, who also appears, mostly headless and with a dog, trying to outrun wily skeletons. Shynola also created the dark and twisted animation for UNKLE’s ‘Eye For An Eye’ and live action animation for Coldplay’s ‘Strawberry Swing’, but if you like manipulating your rock stars then hit up Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Californication’. Directed by Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris, Anthony Keidis and Flea are your avatars. Game over.
Chemical Brothers – ‘Star Guitar’
Michel Gondry first tested the concept for ‘Star Guitar’ on a sidewalk with random objects like oranges, shoes, and drinking glasses. Unfortunately the real deal required 3 months of post production and required 10 separate train rides at different times during the day in order to capture the various light gradients. But that’s what happens when hop aboard the Gondry steam engine. Here landmarks on the landscape outside the train window appear in sync with the music. The bands have it easy.
Shitdisco – ‘OK’
Directed by James Price, this video for Glasgow dance punks Sh!tdisco utilises pop-up book puppetry to full effect. Released by Fierce Panda, the child-like music video looks simple to make, but like all things, it really isn’t. James also did videos for Friendly Fires (‘Paris), Florence & The Machine (‘Kiss With A Fist’) and The Teenagers (‘Starlett Johansson’).
Muse – ‘Supermassive Black Hole’
This macabre music video was directed by Italian-born Floria Sigismondi, who trademarked the dilating, jittery camerawork that made Marilyn Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’ so mind-warpingly disturbing. Floria got the idea from a recurring dream she had in which dancers wearing masks of their own faces filled an unlit mirrored room. If that kind of darkness doesn’t suck you in, watch Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ and Sigur RÃ³s’ award-wining ‘Untitled #1’.
The White Stripes – ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’
Also known as the Lego video, surrealist director Michel Gondry shot this frame by frame, with real Lego bricks, to create the illusion of motion. Consisting primarily of The White Stripes signature red, white and black colour themes, it went on to win 3 MTV Video Music Awards in 2002 for Breakthrough Video, Best Special Effects and Best Editing and a nomination for Video of the Year. Eyeball also Fujiya + Miyagi’s ‘Ankle injuries’ – they do it with dice.
Justin Timberlake – ‘Lovestoned/I Think She Knows (Interlude)’
Off JT’s second solo album FutureSex/LoveSounds, UK director Robert Hales used “audio waveforms” and 600 kilowatts of lighting to animate JT. Way to save the planet! Director James Frost used a similar albeit more experimental approach in Radiohead’s vid promo for ‘House of Cards’. No cameras or lights were used thus saving a species or too. Instead 3D plotting technologies collected information about the shapes and relative distances of objects – so what you are seeing isn’t Thom at all but visualisations of that data. Welcome to the Matrix.
Blur – ‘Good Song’
Illustrated by legendary artist/cartoonist David Shrigley and directed by UK collective Shynola, this sweet yet bleak video of inter-species love and a leaf blower proved to be an award magnet for Brit-pop royalty’s most under-rated song. For more Shynola see, Beck – ‘E-Pro’.
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