Note: Many of these songs contain explicit lyrics.
Here’s the list:
Performance videos are denoted by the band performing the song similarly to how the do on stage. All the instruments are there, they are just re-enacting what they do live. The majority of performance videos are, in my opinion, quite boring. If I want to watch the band play a song, I will watch a live video instead. But there are exceptions that take a different take on performance videos, and for that, they are interesting.
While this is a performance video, the concept and execution pushes this into art video realm. There is a story being told through the performance and it’s striking.
If you’re going to do a performance video, and it’s literally just a performance with no artistic stuff going on, then you have to be fun…and this video is so much fun.
A nostalgic video is one that looks like it belongs in another time period. It’s usually done for one of two reasons: a) to emulate an era that the musician finds interesting (the first video) or b) to evoke an emotional bond with the viewer who grew up in that era (the second video).
Nostalgia doesn’t have to be for the 20s, or the 50s, it can be for something as recent as a few decades ago. I’ve talked to a lot of people who grew up in the 70s and they said this video was basically their childhood. It continues to be one of those videos where I hear people say “I hate that band, but that video is so good I still love it.”
While this could also be considered a performance video, I’m using this to point out the costumes used, which elevates this from just a “performance video” to something that is visually interesting. It’s also obviously extremely low budget, but that doesn’t matter when coupled with the nostalgic costumes and dancing styles.
A lyric video’s usual purpose is to familiarize the viewer with the lyrics of the song, especially if it is for a band or musician who is known for doing “sing-a-long” songs. They are also often used as the first promotional video for a new album.
I like this lyric video because it’s personal to the artist. It’s not stale, it’s not just words on the screen. It’s the artist actually writing the words by hand, over his past. You see him strain, and you see him create art. It adds a personal flare that fans love.
This is a whole different take on lyric videos. At times hilarious, at times you feel the gravity of the song, somehow this is just perfection in lyric video form.
Comedic videos are music videos that add a sense of humor. If something is funny, it will encourage people to watch the video multiple times. This also achieves the effect that when the person listens to the song, absent the video, they will remember the video and it will make them laugh again, thus making them happy and wanting to listen to the song more.
Okay, so this wasn’t the original music video. The official music video has 20 million hits. This parody video, shot in someone’s backyard, has 178 million hits. Why? Because it’s funny. And the best part…they don’t tip their hand that this is a joke, right away.
By many, this is considered the funniest music video of all time. I don’t necessarily say it’s the funniest but if it tops many lists, then I’ll be on mine. (I do love the video, it is very funny and very good).
A “One-Shot” video is a video that has no edits in it at all. That means there is a lot of pre-work that goes into the video, from rehearsing over and over again, to planning exactly what has to happen and when it needs to happen. Making these videos creates a lot of pressure, because if they don’t pull it off, they have to do it again, and again, and again. That being said, when it works, it is remarkable.
OK Go made a name for themselves with their clever, mostly one-shot music videos. Seriously, if you have an hour or so to kill, just go through all their videos starting with the “A Million Ways” video. This video is by far my favorite, and one of their most complicated to pull off.
I could post a dozen or more amazing one shot videos, but this is by far one of my favorites. There is so much going on, while being minimal, that it’s a draw for me. Everything is in the setting and the set up. It’s expansive while not being complicated. There is literally very little going on, but at the same time, so much.
Is it a lyric video? Is it a one-shot video? It’s both and it’s damn amazing. Seriously, it’s almost dizzying because of how much they fit in. John Darnielle is a wordsmith, and his lyrics can fill novels, so tackling a lyric/one-shot video for this band was a feat unto itself…and it paid off.
An impactful music video is one that evokes an emotion, usually sorrow or hope. If done correctly, these videos usually leave a lump in the stomach of the viewer, and the memory of the video in their head.
It is hard to get through this video without feeling that lump in your stomach, and it has less to do with the lyrics and more to do with the emotion Karen O puts into her performance. I found out years after this came out that she actually thought her boyfriend was in trouble, because he promised to come to the filming and never showed up and she couldn’t reach him. So that fear and sadness you see on her face is real. While I feel bad about what she went through, it made for an amazingly powerful video.
This could also be considered an “art” video, but it’s so perfectly done that it puts a lump in my throat (and it looks way more complicated than it actually was to shoot…I saw the making of and it was quite easily shot with very little CGI).
I know there is a lot of stigma that comes with Miley Cyrus, you either love her or you hate her. If you are in the latter camp, set aside that prejudice to watch this version of the video. You can’t make it all the way through and say “meh.” There is so much emotion in this one shot video (yes it could go in the one shot video slot as well) that it’s hard to ignore how powerful it is. If only they released this one instead of her riding an actually wrecking ball while being nude, maybe it would have been taken more seriously.
Why do I spend an entire section on just one director? Because his videos consistently push the limits of music videos. They are artistic, they are weird, they are amazing. It’s very difficult not to be instantly captivated by his way of telling a story.
Just watch and you’ll understand why it’s one of the best videos of all time. I can’t describe how amazing it is.
Another Michel Gondry video, and it perfectly shows his weirdness. I admire that a lot of the tricks he did were simple camera tricks that made it look really, really weird. (BTW, it is a video for a soundtrack, so it has clips from the movie in it, but the parts that Michel Gondry directed for the video integrate perfectly, which is not often done with a soundtrack music video).
This could be put up in the one-shot realm, but I’m putting it here because of who directed and conceived it. He plays with size (with both people and the sets), and with optical illusions to make this surreal, incredible video.
An artistic video is one that less tells a story, and more takes an artistic approach to the visuals. Some of them, if not for being a music video, could easily be seen as “video art.”
This video is the essence of an artistic video. Using visual imagery, it's telling a story that is told more in what you're watching than what it is telling. Abstraction becomes key, which is something that is rarely used in a non-artistic video. There are so many layers to the video that no many how many times you watch, you are always finding a new interpretation, which is key to an artistic video. Edgy, challenging, and powerful, a person who is afraid to push themselves may turn it off, but a true forward thinker would watch and love.
This is the very essence of an artistic music video, because it is basically a video art installation. Minus the band sitting around the televisions, you could easily walk through a modern art museum and see an installation like this. I also love that the band is literally just standing/sitting there doing nothing and it doesn’t matter, because there is so much going on that it works.
Essentially, this was probably all filmed in two rooms, that’s it. (It might even be the same room just dressed differently.) But the composition of the video brings it to a whole new level. It’s unconventional for a music video but that’s what makes it great. It looks as if it was designed by a graphic design artist rather than a director.
A dance video is a video that centers around someone, or a group of people, dancing. Dance videos do add the need for a choreographer if you’re going to get really into the dancing aspect. And if you’re going to do a dance video, why not get really into it?
This is just a really fun video that grows and grows and grows. Thats kind of what needs to happen with dance videos. Sia’s “Chandelier" has more choreography than this one, but this one has Emma Stone and I enjoy the humor of it more than Sia’s video.
This is a lower quality video, because it’s from the 90s, but you’ll get the jist. This was directed by another iconic music video director, Spike Jonze.
These are videos shot on a very small budget. These are usually done by independent bands or fans. These need to be really clever to distract from their low quality.
This was filmed in a single room probably in one day. But there is enough going on, especially with the gimmicky nature of the how they deal with lighting that pulls you through with not a lot of money (you’ll see more as the song goes on).
This video could also fall into a one shot video. Here’s the thing to know about this video…it looks awesome, it’s very impactful (especially with the lyrics of the song), it’s artistic (being reversed), but it was shot for a contest. It was a contest winner. The creator paid for it out of his own pocket.
This is a genre I notice, though I doubt you’ll find anyone else calling it this. What these videos do is to take an artist that is established with a persona and then have them doing the complete opposite.
If you close your eyes and not watch the video, you wouldn’t think of what is shown on the screen. Basically, it’s 5 middle aged men in business suits (the band), and they are being drunken fools. It’s brilliant, because the song is about a person falling apart because a someone left them, but the song doesn’t scream “let’s party like we’re in high school!” (Note: they realized afterwards that partying like you’re in high school when you are in your 40s leads to bad things…one member got a concussion, and another one chipped a vertebra).
The only way this application really works is if the artist has a very steady, established persona. Sean Rowe is a folk singer, who always appears very serious. He’s the last person you would expect to just cut loose (at least in the way he portrays himself). This video takes that into account (as noted with the very first line of the music video).
In this genre, the video has a message beyond “I’m sad, because my partner broke up with me.” It’s usually social commentary.
Not only is this video just beautifully shot, and extremely artistic, but the video is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s probably one of the best music videos of the year.
You can almost always turn to a punk band to find a good social commentary video. This one is one of my favorite because it’s “cutesy” nature makes the message hit even harder.
Obvious from the name, but I want to note that animated music videos are on the pricier side if you want them done correctly.
This video falls on the lower end of the spectrum for animation. It’s simple, South Park style animation. Still a lot of work, but I like this one because it shows that you don’t need amazingly detailed art to have something a lot of fun.
This is on the complete other end of the spectrum. A video like this (stop-motion animation) takes months of long work to do. But as you can see, it pays off in a beautiful video. This video took 9 months to make, and technically was made to be a short film, that turned into a music video for the song.