published Friday, July 15th, 2011

Phillips: Rolling film on music’s most memorable videos

Last week, a minor conflict erupted between me and a co-worker when he sent me a link to an online list of the Top 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time.

I hate these kinds of lists to begin with, but New Music Express made some astounding omissions.

I’ve never been an MTV junkie, but certain videos are cultural touchstones everyone is familiar with. Of these, it’s hard to imagine one that left a deeper impression on pop culture than Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Shockingly, the 14-minute horror epic didn’t even make NME’s list, despite being the first music video included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

After tallying up further examples of oversight on NME’s list, I decided to make my own. Most of the following videos weren’t considered worthy of inclusion, and while I won’t argue they are the best videos ever made, they’ve certainly stuck with me.

Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” — This No. 1 by the most-famous ginger of ’80s pop music is the bane of online users who have fallen victim to a “Rickroll” bait-and-switch that tricked them into watching Astley sing while rocking a sweet blond trench coat. Call it worthy for its infamy.

OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” — This is the band’s follow-up to the treadmill dance stylings of its 2006 video “Here It Goes Again.” The 31⁄2-minute piece features a complicated, seemingly never-ending Rube Goldberg machine culminating with the band being sprayed with paint. Awesome.

DragonForce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” — A shredding opus that’s light on production values, its real draw is a prolonged duel between lead guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li. Picture-in-picture effects provide a close-up of fingers moving so blindingly fast many people accused the band of speeding the video up. (They didn’t.)

Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” — The blocky 3D effects may look antiquated now, but they paved the way for over-the-top computer effects used by everyone from Lady Gaga to Gorillaz.

A-ha’s “Take on Me” — Norway’s synth-pop ambassadors lost to the previous entry at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. Nevertheless, the video’s surreal pencil-sketch animated love story between lead singer Morten Harket and a young woman in a cafe has had a lingering cultural impact, including a hilarious “Family Guy” spoof.

Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” — Robyn dances in an empty gymnasium lit by strobes while wearing tights designed by Jackson Pollock and a sweater made from Yeti hide. Her presumably unchoreographed performance is recorded in a single take that shows off her unabashed passion for the music. Simple but brilliant.

MTV may be dead, but just as digital recording has democratized audio recordings, YouTube has ushered in a music video renaissance. Even independent artists can now compete with the Kanyes and Beyonces of the world for your views. I’m sure I’ve missed some of the best ones. If so, send me your picks.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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