Who says an EDM video has to have, you know, dancing? When it comes to the five nominees for the new Best Electronic Dance Music Video category at the 2012 Video Music Awards on September 6, the groove is sometimes way more subtle than you might think.
Let's start with irreverent DJ duo Duck Sauce's insanely NSFW "Big Bad Wolf". Don't try to understand it; just sit back and revel in the "Twilight Zone"-like tale of a pair of dudes who can't control the randy little guys in their pants whenever they see a sexy mama. No, seriously, they have actual human heads down there that require soaping up, shaving and a little extra room in the jeans when the fellas go out on the town and try to score with the ladies. And, apparently, they're not alone.
Fond of high-concept vids with a dark edge, dubstep superstar Skrillex went a bit more cinematic in "First of the Year (Equinox)," which casts a pint-size, ponytailed crime fighter in a twisted tale of revenge on a seriously creepy dude in a trench coat. To the strains of the song's dark, glitchy beats, we see the possessed grade-schooler summoning energy waves with a wiggle of her finger, sending her tormentor flying backward as he screams the "call 911 now!" refrain. A slimy beast inexplicably shows up at some point, and by the time the "Poltergeist"-y girl adds the latest victim to her tally on the wall, you start to wonder who the bad guy really is.
Things are a bit less dramatic in Avicii's "Le7els" video, though. What starts out as an "Office Space"-like tale of gray, paper-pushing drudgery, quickly escalates into a torso-jerking cubicle rebellion as the beat takes over. Sick of working for the man, the clip's hero pops and locks his way across his officemates' desks before getting tasered into an alternate universe where he is transformed into Sisyphus pushing that big rock up a mountain to the strains of the song's signature Etta James sample. We're not sure why that flower grows out of his mouth as he lays in a hospital bed, but its strange magic infects the orderlies, who join him in surrendering to the tune's rubbery groove.
The Calvin Harris video for "Feel So Close" is more of a Dance Video 101 effort. From the ranch to suburban cul de sacs, mountain passes and desert homes, it's pretty much a travelogue of young people flirting, dancing, hiking and pirouetting in a timeless teenage mating dance cued to the song's spare pop techno rhythm. Oh, and one awesome old cowboy with a white mustache doing some cool lasso tricks.
And then there's Martin Solveig's "The Night Out." The French DJ plays it straight, mixing studio footage with the tale of a couple's fun Vespa ride around town set to the strains of the song's bouncy pop house hook. There's the obligatory club scene, a midnight river cruise and plenty of cameos (in the extended version) from DJ buddies like A-Trak, Zedd, Dillon Francis and Laidback Luke.
You can dance if you want to — or not.