A one-man dance party, a loveable elephant just trying to find his way home, latchkey kids gone wild, self-immolation and a slow trudge through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Nobody said it would be all sunshine and rainbows in the race for the Best Rock Video at the 2012 Video Music Awards on September 6. And for upstarts Imagine Dragons, that exile in a cracked earth wasteland could be a harsh introduction to the world of the VMAs as they take on a quartet of music video veterans in the form of the Black Keys, Coldplay, Jack White and Linkin Park.
White has scooped five, Coldplay and Linkin Park have been there four times and the Keys have a Breakthrough moonman on their mantle. Imagine Dragons, though, are new to the game, but they've put up a valiant effort with the monochromatic clip for their strummy breakthrough hit, "It's Time".
As they walk across a parched landscape with ominous, lightning-streaked clouds overhead, the boys discover a mysterious "Jack and the Beanstalk"-inspired glowing orb that might just hold the answer to their problems.
Or not. After burying it in the ground and fleeing from a series of erupting dirtballs that fill the sky with a brilliant, sunshiny light, the clip comes to an enigmatic end. Way to keep us on the edge of our seats, boys.
The Black Keys have no such drama on their minds in the deceptively simple "Lonely Boy" video. In fact, the one-take marvel is all about 48-year-old part-time security guard/actor Derrick T. Tuggle in all his glory.
Originally cast as an extra, Tuggle caught the eye of director Jesse Dylan, who decided to scrap his original idea and just let Tuggle do his mash-up of moves from "Saturday Night Fever," "Pulp Fiction" and "The Fresh Prince" and Michael Jackson.
The result? An instant viral smash that may have given Tuggle the big break he was looking for and the Black Keys a shot at their first Best Rock Video VMA.
Coldplay were also on the whimsy train with the playful pachyderm-centric clip for their euphoric hit, "Paradise". It's the empowering tale of a cheeky elephant (okay, a dude in an elephant costume), who busts out of the zoo, hops a subway to Heathrow Airport and stows away on a plane in an attempt to find his way back to his South African home. Along the way, he spare changes on the street, rides a unicycle down the highway and is finally reunited with his band, er, herd.
We like to think it's Coldplay singer Chris Martin dancing around in that suit the whole time (he does take the head off just long enough to prove he can ride a unicycle at one point). But after seeing the whole band jamming out in front of a huge South African audience while wearing elephant heads, the only question is, "Why didn't they think of this before?"
Surrounded by wayward teens, a captive, bound White is dumped into a nihilistic Larry Clark-like world of depravity full of auto-erotic asphyxiation, blueberry milkshake spitting, home-tattooing, rather creative drug use, rampant property destruction and (fake) booze huffing pulled off by a cast of Springfield, Tennessee, kids producers found on the street.
Are they "Over the Edge?" For sure. Is it scary entertaining? You bet.
When it comes to pulling off epic videos, Linkin Park have got it in the bag. With the band's DJ, Joe Hahn, once again behind the camera, "BURN IT DOWN," is a performance video pushed to the extremes.
Hahn has drowned his bandmates in water tanks and blasted them with dust storms, so what's a bit of fire, right? Okay, a lot of fire. The moody, futuristic video looks like a "Prometheus" outtake, as singer Chester Bennington and the gang perform the slow-build rocker under a blue energy dome that sends shockwaves pulsing around their heads and bodies until they burst into flames.