To me, the best music videos are able to communicate a story, and in many cases, also utilize the technology of its time to create something visually stunning.
My all-time favorite music video is for a-ha’s “Take on Me”. I have always enjoyed the rotoscoping used in it to make it appear that the main female character entered a comic book world. Admittedly, the video looks rather cheesy today, since it’s now over 20 years old; however, for its time, it was a rather innovative and visually stunning piece of work.
Metallica’s first music video, for their song “One,” is also one of the best music videos I’ve seen. This is in reference to the version that utilizes the movie footage, not the “jamming version” (where all you see is the band performing). In the movie footage video, the director was able to effectively utilize footage from the 1971 film, Johnny Got His Gun. It was a video that really captured my attention when it first came out in 1989, and it’s still one that makes an impact on me when I see it today.
Over the years, Madonna has also had some visually stunning videos that told a story. My two favorites both came from the Like a Prayer album: “Express Yourself” and “Oh Father”. “Express Yourself” was based on the silent film, Metropolis; it was also the most expensive video ever made back in 1989. You can tell how much money was spent on the video by simply looking at it. And the “Oh Father” video not only tells a story, but it’s loaded with a lot of imagery and symbolism.
Aerosmith’s video for “Janie’s Got a Gun” also falls into this category. Director David Fincher created a visually stunning piece of work that helps tell the story of the song. The visuals leave an impact with the viewer. For me, one of the most memorable visuals is seeing Janie spelling out the word “LOST” with the pieces of china that she broke a little earlier in the video.
In more recent years, one of my favorite videos would be TLC’s “Unpretty”. I like how the director came up with several mini-stories to convey the message of the song. The most compelling of these would be Chili’s story about getting breast enhancement; the scenes at the plastic surgery clinic are some of the most compelling in the whole video.
Finally, Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” is another powerful video that not only tells a story, or, in this case, multiple stories, but the technical aspects used in the video to help tell these stories are simply stunning and visually interesting.