SOME OF THESE VIDEOS ARE NSFW (NOT SAFE FOR WORK*)
The art of the music promo is essential to the musician as it visually draws you into the world of the sound it’s selling to you. Music video promos can range from basic, low budget to Hollywood style, expensive productions. Some will be shot on location in neighbourhoods, some will feature cameos from well known faces not connected to the track.
Some will feature animation and some music promos will spoof films or events in history.
Every now and again a music video will either be banned from prime time viewing or spike controversy through being too raunchy or violent.
Every so often you have a video and track so good and balanced with each other it blows your mind with it’s deft camera angles, shiny sets, arty prowess or it’s ability to add to the story.
Mini-movies like MJ‘s ‘Thriller’ are works of art too.
Here are a five examples that I’ve picked, these are just my opinions and there are indeed thousands that could make anyone’s list.
Some of these may be familiar to you but if you’re seeing any of these for the first time… you’re welcome.
Reaching a respectable number 10 in the UK charts and arguably one of Mike Skinner’s finest and definitely from his finest album, the concept driven, ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free.’
A chunky, lazy beat pattern and dance music type stabs set the mood and pace for the visual. Skinner’s story leads you into the self-destruction and confusion and all but lets go of your hand for you to fend for yourself towards the end.
This video is too adult for prime time (and probably NSFW*) as the location of the video contradicts the location in the song but it’s plot is told identically.
This gets my nod over the all to easy pick of The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up.’
Booze, drugs, sex, paranoia and a devastating ‘beat down’ at the end rides this thumping, sparse beat with a sprinkling of a haunting female vocal.
If you’ve not seen this, it will catch you off guard. It will also remind you that The Streets are a significant landmark in modern culture, there’s literally nothing like it (above ground, anyway).
Great uplifting Jazz sample and and air of grandiose living as this stand out track from Jay-Z‘s masterpiece album ‘American Gangster.’ This is what we call ‘grown folks’ music, it’s almost acoustic in feel, a real big band vibe.
Starting off with a ‘young’ Jigga the video evolves into sharp suits and expensive drinks in his 40-40 Club where just a few familiar faces drop by: Nas, Rick Ross, Diddy, Swizz Beats and Mariah Carey to name a few.
This is the kind of track you’d have on if you were on your way out for an up-tempo, night out or indeed, that great ‘turn it up loud’ track in the car as I have done many times.
As is the theme of the film American Gangster, the good times are forcibly, gate-crashed at the end, leaving an eerie ‘to be continued’ title to fade out. But for the time period of the film’s setting, this track would have slotted perfectly into the soundtrack.
Guest vocals on the track, as standard, Kanye and a certain ‘Mrs. Jay-Z.’ Lyrically this is a fine moment for Jay-Z too, who always seems to really connect to the Jazz inspired stuff in his catalogue.
Forget the controversy, this is a serious track. Sampling a Public Enemy drum-loop, Madonna gasps and moans on the track, barely forming her words, that must have been one hell of a vocal recording session for anyone involved!
Oh yeah, the co controversy: This video was banned and banished to late night viewing and caused a stir. It probably wouldn’t have caused too much fuss if released now.
Madonna queen of pop and had the world’s media eating out of her hand in anticipation of this release. She had come a long way since ‘Holiday’ and owned every second of that version of her musical-alter-ego.
An arty, black and white affair, we are apparently given a tour of Madonna’s sexual fantasies, nowadays, some late night TV adverts go close in it’s ‘raunch’ and Britney Spears‘ ‘Toxic’ is a little more outwardly provocative.
Over the top without being smutty, the single topped the US charts and peaked at number 2 in the UK this Hip-Hop tinged genre-breaker will always be a classic to me. Possibly not one for the playlist at a kid’s party mind you.
An infectious, simple, laid back house/electro track featuring a man with with a crutch, his leg in cast and he appears to be part dog, mostly human, carrying a ghetto blaster around the streets of New York where he annoys, gets ridiculed and generally despairs.
Directed by the acclaimed, Spike Jonze, surely, there’s some kind of social or moral message being visualised. Maybe the world’s ‘acceptance’ of a half-man/half dog to the point where someone who he bumps into from his past doesn’t recognise him at first until he says his name. Maybe it’s world’s acceptance of ‘different beings’ so long as they behave themselves?
According to the Thomas Bangalter half of Daft Punk:
“There’s no story.
It is just a man-dog walking with a ghetto-blaster in New York.
The rest is not meant to say anything.
People are trying to explain it:
Is it about human tolerance? Integration? Urbanism? There’s really no message…”
Calling Lucas a one hit wonder is as ignorant as calling Dr. Dre a rapper/record label boss.
The Swede’s record production credits runs like a who’s, who of the music business both here and stateside: Christina, Britney, Mos Def, The Sugababes, Sean Paul, Cee Lo Green and Sean Paul (to name a very small few) have all benefited from some Lucas magic.
This video is directed by Michel Gondry, no less, (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind, anyone?) and legend has is that this was a one-take wonder, with Lucas having to run behind the camera as it moves away to be in place for his next position to make him appear to be always in the next room.
Great Jazz/Hip-Hop and a lot of feel good fun.
I spent a summer with:
‘What ever bubbles, bubbles up, I feeeeel, run come follow me now, run come follow me now, yeah, yeah yeah!’ in my head.
The music promo equivalent of a celebrity sex tape leak. Directed by Hype Williams, this video is simple, beatiful, intimate with tinges of mild eroticism.
Don’t get me started on that beat, retro electro style with synths and strings with Timbaland‘s mitts all over it. The lyrical content of this is all too real for a couple famed never to really talk in depth about their relationship, whether cavorting on this Florida beach or deflecting high-kick’s from B‘s sister in an elevator.
Jay-Z chimes in with his ‘must have free styled this’ contribution with some word play surrounding Ike and Tina Turner’s turbulent relationship (which many took to mean, that Jigga advocated domestic abuse… really..? on his wife’s track?) and looks like the cat that got the cream, beverage in hand as his Mrs. shows us why we think he’s the luckiest man alive!
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