Top 10 Music Videos (Where Not Much Actually Happens)


I was planning on writing a Top 10 of my favourite music videos, but that led me to too many options, and I couldn’t face the task of narrowing it down to just 10 (although “What Else Is There” by Royksopp would be number one, if you’re curious). Instead, I’ve done music videos that should be dull and banal, but just aren’t. Here we go:

10. Girls Can Be Cruel by Infusion

Summed up:

Some models walk down a catwalk. Infusion appear on screens behind them.

Why does it work?

This song is just an excellently bitter kiss-off song to the fair sex when they’re being unfair, so it makes sense to have a music video portraying cold, calculated women as the means of getting this message across. Sure, the girls all look amazing when they strut their stuff in time to the music, but they’re so distant and artificial that you know you’ll never have a chance with any of them, and the song wants you to be pissed off about that.

9. Beggin’ You by Cerf, Mitiska and Jaren

Summed up:

Jaren sings from an operating table.

Why does it work?

I think this comes down entirely to Jaren. She’s one of my favourite singers, and definitely one of the standouts in the vast array of female vocalists in Trance music, and it comes down to two simple things: 1), the girl can sing! She has this beautiful deep voice that can just do amazing things with a song, and 2) she puts such emotion into the words she’s singing. Beggin’ You is just beautiful, and this comes across in the video – the vast majority of the song is just her face, singing, and it doesn’t bore you at all because you can read so much just from the feeling she’s put into each note. It’s a nicely shot little clip too, which just makes it all the more palatable.

8. Heartbeats by The Knife

Summed up:

Some kids ride skateboards downhill. Also, some shapes fly out of a train.

Why does it work?

I have no idea. I love the song, so I’m of course biased, but this clip should bore the shit out of me – it doesn’t! It’s literally nothing but footage from the 70s of kids riding downhill in their skateboards – but I watch without looking away. And it’s not like they’re doing heaps of totally radical tubular moves on those decks – the slaloming is cool, but it should be boring! So why isn’t it? Power of an awesome song maybe? And yeah, there’s also a few brief moments where a train rides along pumping out brightly coloured 3D shapes, but it’s like 2% of the total runtime, and even then – that should be boring too! Yet, I love it.

7. This Boy’s In Love by The Presets

Summed up:

Two guys wrestle in milk. The Presets get dusty.

Why does it work?

Its just super, super stylish. I’ve also seen a making-of clip for the video, and Kim and Julian said that they used the treatment for this video purely because it was so bizarre – two guys fight in milk – and it’s easy to see why it appealed to their oddball natures. Zack Snyder would also do well to see this clip, as this is how slow motion should be done! It’s so fucking cool when there’s just a slow-moving cloud of dust and dirt covering Kim and Julian with a light illuminating different particles. Awesome song, awesome clip.

6. Technologic by Daft Punk

Summed up:

Robot watches creepy robot.

Why does it work?

Well, other than the über-creepiness of the singing robot, I love this clip for visualising the sinister undertones of the song. The pitch-correction on the lyrics already made it unsettling, but when you think about the lyrics – which are just simple computer functions – it seems like some endless trap of constantly doing the same thing over and over again. Then the clip shows us a robot watching another robot brainwashing it with creepiness and technology, while Daft Punk (appropriately robotic) play their guitars alongside. Why are there pyramids? Because they’re creepy. Why is it orange-hued? Because it’s creepy. It’s a cool, creepy and effective clip, despite its simplicity.

5. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

Summed up:

Guy walks down a street.

Why does it work?

I love how simple the premise is – walking a line from A to B without avoiding anything in your way. I love that he starts off simply enough, but then as the song builds, so does the quiet chaos on the street behind him where everyone he pisses off or knocks to the ground reacts to him, or tries to even get some form of acknowledgement but he just keeps going. It’s a cool idea that works with the song – and I have to admit I’m not that big a fan of the song. Like Wonderwall, this is one of those songs that everyone I know simply adores, but I’ve always been left underwhelmed by it; it’s not to say I don’t like the song, but the music video definitely makes up for that.

4. Courtship Dating by Crystal Castles

Summed up:

Song’s performed in the shadows

Why does it work?

This song is bouncy and creepy all at once, and the latter element is definitely amped up when you realise the lyrics are about human taxidermy. How do you put that in a music video? You don’t! Instead, we get hidden shots of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath performing in blackness with a single globe and occasional strobe light illuminating them every now and then. I think I like this because the video uses so much black that you kind of get the impression that there’s something hiding in the darkness with them, and given that we can’t see it – that’s downright scary.

3. Satisfaction by Benny Benassi

Summed up:

Three guys and a girl stand there.

Why does it work?

This is of course the “clean” music video, instead of the one with large breasts and power tools. This clip works just for its sheer inanity. Apparently it’s a three second clip stretched out to match the song’s length, so it takes you forever to notice that they’re actually moving, just really slowly. And that’s cool. It’s odd that such a pounding beat can be matched up well with a seemingly static image, but somehow it all fits.

2. Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Summed up:

Robyn dances in a gym.

Why does it work?

It helps that it’s such a good song, but the video all comes down to Robyn herself. Like Jaren, she’s able to convey a bucketload of emotion in her singing, and this video has her act it out. And I don’t mean that is in the video has her doing an interpretive dance. The song is about a girl who tells her new man that he needs to break up with his girlfriend so they can be together, but she gives him advice on how to do it gently. Robyn looks like her heart is breaking with sympathy for his girlfriend throughout the song, and it just makes her so endearing. For added awesomeness, the video is shot in a single (impressive) take. It shouldn’t be as fascinating and easy to watch as it is – yet you just get swept up in Robyn’s performance, and she absolutely nails it.

1. Papillion by Editors

Summed up:

Some guys run around a city.

Why does it work?

This one’s simple: the video matches the energy of the song. This song makes me want to run, and it’s perfectly fitting that the music video is nothing but some guys running around a seemingly empty city. Why are they running? Where are they going? What’s the point of all this? It doesn’t matter – because it’s just a perfect fit for the mood of the song itself. I don’t know how anyone could possibly get bored with this clip – it’s just so simple and so cool. I could watch it till the cows come home, which will be a pretty long time, given my lack of cow ownership.

And the worst:

Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga

Summed up:

Lady Gaga totes hangs out on a fire escape.

Why it doesn’t work:

What a waste! I know some people get fed up with Lady Gaga’s constant theatricality in every single breath of her life, and yeah it can be a bit much at times, but I hardly think the way to make up for that is to have a video clip where you do nothing at all – especially when it’s to a song with so much potential! There’s so much feeling and depth to the song, and having Lady Gaga leathered up on a fire escape doing nothing except running up the stairs, then down them, then back up them, and a bit of a dance here and there – it’s just shit! It seems phoned in and done on the cheap. Disappointing, especially given how crazy awesome some of her other clips are.

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