Welcome to the weekly Newsroom Poll, where we will give you a sneak peek into the lives and minds of some of the correspondents, writers, editors and producers here at MTVNews.com. Every week, they’ll answer a poll question that will reveal some of what we talk about behind the scenes here in the newsroom. Enjoy!
One of the recurring themes that came up during this week’s Michael Jackson memorial was the idea that the video for “Thriller” was such a huge event that it not only made people love Jackson but love music videos as an art form. Everybody who works here at MTV News had that moment at one time or another — the one where music videos suddenly became the greatest thing in the universe, even if for a short time. Which brings up this week’s poll question: What music video was the one that made you love music videos? Our responses are below, but make sure you add your own stories in the comments and at Your.MTV.com!
The first music video that really stuck in my head and turned me on to music videos was a-ha’s “Take On Me.” Sure, it’s an easy pick given that MTV was playing the video over and over when it first aired, but I was 7 years old when I first saw Steve Barron’s pencil-sketched, rotoscoped take on the song, and it’s still one of my favorite videos. “Take On Me” was my first exposure to music videos that were more than just taped recordings of a band only differing from one another by lighting choices and camera angles. Given my current gig as editor of MTV’s comic book and movie blog Splash Page, my early fascination with the video’s mix of live action and animation probably offered a great indicator of where I’d end up a few decades later. Over the years, it’s become apparent that appreciation for the “Take On Me” video is pretty much a common theme among comic book and animation geeks who grew up during the ’80s. Between Barron moving on to direct the awesome 1990 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film and more recently, a great riff on the video during an episode of “Family Guy,” it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that “Take On Me” was one of the first music videos I latched onto. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a sign of geek cred.
This wasn’t the official music video, but there was an episode of “Tiny Toon Adventures” way back in the early ’90s that was basically dedicated to the music of They Might Be Giants. “Particle Man” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” both had music video-esque cartoons dedicated to them, and it made me rush out and buy TMBG’s Flood, which was the very first CD I ever owned. I’ve been a giant nerd ever since. Go fig.
This is my “Sophie’s Choice,” since a better part of my childhood involved watching music videos on MTV. So, not to be a jerk, but I’m going to pick a few. There’s no particular order, because I really think I love them all equally. OK, maybe I like the Beastie Boys one a little more than the others.
Green Jelly, “Three Little Pigs” (Version 2)
I remember seeing slick, well-produced music videos with weird special effects when I was little (“Hazard” by Richard Marx, “Rush Rush” by Paula Abdul, “Freedom 1990” by George Michael, everything by Janet or Michael Jackson), but I liked this video more than any of those. It’s is so weird and the song’s so unlistenable and I’m pretty sure that if you watch it enough times, you’ll get the munchies. What I’m trying to say is that it’s amazing and it’s such a giant f— you. I definitely recorded this video onto VHS when I was 7.
Madonna, “Express Yourself”
I know I just talked down about budget-breaking videos, but this was something else. Madonna was a very big part of my childhood (my mother used to be obsessed with her), and even though I was so little when this came out, I remember being really offended and intrigued by “Express Yourself,” which is probably the reaction Madonna was looking for.
Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”
I’d already known that music videos were awesome by this point, but “Sabotage” is just so good. I won’t burden you with my reasons why. Basically, it’s like a nicer version of the home movies my friends and I would make in fourth grade that were funny to nobody but us. Also, I really love this video complement … to the music video.
“November Rain,” Guns N’ Roses. The extended version. I was 10, so I had no idea what was going on, but I loved that Stephanie Seymour’s wedding dress had a white ruffled miniskirt. I decided that my wedding dress would also have a white ruffled miniskirt. I am not yet married, but I still plan for my wedding dress to have a white ruffled miniskirt. I do not plan to be either struck by lightning or shot by my new husband. Aside from the fashion aspect, I loved this video because it told a story — a deep, dark story. I appreciated that. Or I do now because, like I said, I was only 10. After seeing “November Rain” at least a hundred times on MTV, I decided that I wanted to work for MTV and make music videos. One down, one to go.
I was literally there when MTV went on the air for the very first time. I had bugged my parents for months to get cable just so we could get the crazy “music video” thing I’d heard about and while I didn’t see the very first video the fledgling network played, I ended up seeing it thousands of times soon after as I wasted untold afternoons watching hour after hour of MTV back when all we offered was Aldo Nova, Joe Jackson and the Stray Cats. Watching the now totally low-budget-looking clip for “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles blew my mind. The cheesy space age not-so-special-effects, the iconic image of the girl listening to that old radio, Trevor Horn singing the J.G. Ballard-inspired lyrics into a vintage microphone, the space hottie levitating in a glass tube, the giant magnetic-tape computer terminals, the wacky off-kilter camera shots that would become MTV’s signature look. It was a glimpse into the future that looks totally ancient now.
I used to flip out every time the video for “Give It Up” by Public Enemy came on MTV in the summer of ’94. The image that really stuck with me was a claymation Flav wiggling his weird long fingers all around, sputtering out staccato jive like, “Clock tockin’, Chuck shockin’, Flavor Flav ain’t never shavin’.” Being a white suburban 9-year-old, you won’t be shocked to learn that at the time the message of the song was completely lost on me. I did recognize the claymation Bill Clinton, but I didn’t really think about Chuck D’s motivation. I understood that all the fake mini-music videos within were supposed to be wack, and looking back I can appreciate that PE stood up against the roaring tide of West Coast gangsta rap (a religion in its own right), but at the time all I could think was, “This looks so cool. Those clay dudes are rapping in a spaceship, and HOLY CRAP WHY IS THAT GUY WEARING A SKELETON MASK?!” Then I danced my 60-pound body all over the couch in the living room and waited another hour for the video to come back on again.
Dire Straights’ “Money for Nothing.” Not only was it kind of meta (it’s a video about how awesome videos and MTV were), it was the first thing that I can remember seeing anything completely made out of CGI. Plus, the song is super-freakin’ awesome.
Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” has always left an impression on me, probably because stop-motion animation had a magical drawing power to me as a child. I mean, you actually got to witness inanimate objects coming to life! Sure, they can create marvelous spectacles with computers nowadays (I mean, who doesn’t love Pixar?) but there’s something about stop-motion animation that seems so pure and unjaded. While these effects can easily be generated by machines in an instant, the idea that someone has opted to painstakingly move objects millimeter by millimeter over weeks and months in order to create art is something very noble and pure. Not only are there stop-motion dancing roasted chickens but Peter Gabriel filmed himself singing in stop-motion! Perhaps this was also the catalyst of my love for Michel Gondry. But also, it’s just a kickass song. It’s either that or “Alanis Morrisette” by Wesley Willis.
My first memory of a music video that impacted me was “Epic” from Faith No More, particularly the fish gasping for air. A neighbor showed it to me. He had the vid on VHS that he taped from “Friday Night Videos.”
The first memory of seeing a music video was probably seeing Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” at my grandmother’s house. But it didn’t make a whole lot of impact on me (all I really remember is that his hair was pretty crazy, and he did a lot of running on a catwalk). But I definitely remember the clip that made me a fan of music videos (and thus of MTV in general): Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” The first time I saw it was on the year-end countdown show that was airing on New Year’s Eve at the end of 1994. My parents had gone to bed but I stayed up to watch the ball drop, and in that era MTV just showed the top videos of the year (as an aside, I was convinced that Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” finished in first place, but it turns out it was Green Day’s “Basket Case”). Anyway, I had heard “Closer” on the radio and had giggled at the chorus but didn’t think Nine Inch Nails was that big a deal. But then I saw the video, which absolutely scared the s— out of me. All of those “Scene Missing” bits that were done for censorship purposes made it extremely off-putting, but I couldn’t look away. I had no idea who Mark Romanek was or that he was a hack, but it didn’t matter, because this thing had me hooked. And hey, it worked both as art and as a promotional tool: The next day, I pedaled to my local Coconuts so I could buy The Downward Spiral, and it remains a key album in my personal musical development. Nobody really does arty, shock-horror videos anymore, but maybe it’s because “Closer” scared’em all off.
Now we toss it to you: What was the video that made you love videos? Tell your story in the comments or at Your.MTV.com.