As a special Thanksgiving treat, here’s part two (the final part) of my Top 24 Favorite Music Videos of the ‘90s! Gobble gobble, my darlings.
12. “I Miss You” by Björk (1997), dir. John Kricfalusi (NSFW)
Björk has a lot of great videos, but I’ve always been drawn to this animated masterpiece. It has the same animation style as The Ren & Stimpy Show (probably because it was directed by the show’s creator, John Kricfalusi), which means it’s packed full of crude humor and surrealism. This animation style definitely suits an artist like Björk because it’s off-kilter and kind of unnerving. Warnings for cartoon nudity and some strange imagery that may not fly at work.
11. “Liar” by Rollins Band (1994), dir. Anton Corbijn
Henry Rollins is a god amongst men, and this video proves it. It starts simply enough—Henry struts around doing his jazzy, spoken-word thing in a couple different costumes (including a superhero and a cop). But as soon as the chorus kicks in, he goes full ape-man, jumping around the set covered in red body paint. If you want to know what Henry Rollins is all about, look no further than “Liar.”
10. “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys (1998), dir. Nathaniel Hörnblowér
Ah, the Beastie Boys. I was torn between this video and “Sabotage,” but I have to be honest—I just love “Intergalactic” more. I mean, what’s not to love about this video? You’ve got robots, a giant squid monster and it’s all set in Japan. It’s the Beasties at their most irreverent, and boy, is it entertaining. The corniness of the special effects just makes it all the more hilarious.
9. “Let Forever Be” by The Chemical Brothers (1999), dir. Michel Gondry
You will see Michel Gondry again on this list because he’s just an amazing director. “Let Forever Be” is one of his best videos because it’s a perfectly synchronized, surreal dance epic. His work has a lot to do with dreams, and this video is no exception. It just looks like a dream with the camera angles, the color scheme and all the cool effects.
8. “Smack My Bitch Up” by The Prodigy (1997), dir. Jonas Åkerlund (NSFW)
Okay, this video is 100% not safe to view at work. Just warning you now. I actually did a presentation with “Smack My Bitch Up” in an English class last year, and let me tell you, the looks on people’s faces were absolutely priceless. Controversy aside, this video is incredible. It’s shot from a first-person perspective, which gives the whole thing a more intimate feel. We follow a particularly rowdy individual on a night out and things get a little extreme. This also has a great twist ending, but I won’t spoil it here. (Note: You may have to sign into YouTube to watch it, since it's age-restricted.)
7. “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (1994), dir. Mark Romanek (NSFW)
Here’s another one you might want to save for a home viewing. “Closer” is a visually stunning video because it has a 19th century torture chamber motif. Okay, so it’s just really creepy and I dig creepy videos. The editing in this video is pretty cool, too. In order for it to be shown on MTV, certain scenes had to be removed. They were replaced by a title card reading “Scene Missing.” And every time the word “fuck” had to be censored, the video appeared to stop, like a defective filmstrip. The film stock Mark Romanek used gives the whole video a nice vintage look.
6. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. (1991), dir. Tarsem Singh
This is a video that’s heavy in metaphorical imagery, but that’s what makes it great. There’s a lot of religious imagery here, but it’s not of the sacrilegious variety, as shown in “Closer.” The color contrasts are what really sold me—the video shifts between dark grays and browns in the band scenes and oversaturated colors in the other scenes. “Losing My Religion” is a gorgeously haunting song with an equally gorgeous music video.
5. “Everlong” by Foo Fighters (1997), dir. Michel Gondry
Didn’t I tell you that you’d see Michel Gondry again? This is definitely my favorite Gondry video. He still plays with the dream motif (this time by actually structuring the events of the video within a dream), but it has that trademark Foo Fighters humor to it. Also, Taylor Hawkins makes a surprisingly pretty woman.
4. “Longview” by Green Day (1994), dir. Mark Kohr
What’s a ‘90s countdown without Green Day? This was the band’s first music video, and it’s pretty underrated, if you ask me. It doesn’t have the cool special effects of “Basket Case” or the nice tracking shots of “When I Come Around,” but it perfectly captures the snotty essence of Dookie-era Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong still has a nose piercing and the remnants of dreadlocks. Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool have enough pent up energy to rock out in a closet. This is what Green Day is all about.
3. “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana (1993), dir. Anton Corbijn
Kurt Cobain had a particular vision for this video and Anton Corbijn executed it perfectly. “Heart-Shaped Box” is a surreal trip into Kurt’s imagination, complete with hospital beds, poppy fields, little girls in KKK uniforms, human fetuses dangling from trees and an old man representing Jesus in a Santa Claus hat. It’s creepy, but visually stunning.
2. “Criminal” by Fiona Apple (1997), dir. Mark Romanek
So if you read this blog on a regular basis, you already know that I’m in love with Fiona Apple. This is one of her best videos because turns the whole female exploitation thing on its head. Fiona was barely legal at the time, making the scenes of her mostly naked a little risqué. Though it was deemed controversial, the video was all Fiona’s idea. She said, “I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself.” Nicely played, Fiona.
1. “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins (1996), dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
There are too many things to love about this video. Based on the groundbreaking silent film, George Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, “Tonight, Tonight” successfully evokes a sense of whimsy and pure magic. It’s almost frame-for-frame identical to the film, with shots of the band performing in the clouds added for good measure. I’m actually speechless when it comes to this video. It’s just perfect, okay?