The 100 Greatest Music Videos (2023)

In the wee hours of August 1st, 1981, someone flipping through their channels might have come across the image of a rocket blasting into space. The familiar sight of Neil Armstrong exiting his lunar module and walking on the moon would fill the TV screen. And then they’d hear a voiceover, with all the smooth patter of an FM disc jockey: “Ladies and gentlemen, rock & roll.” Cue power chords, and a flag with a network logo — something called MTV — that rapidly changed colors and patterns. This wasn’t a news channel; it was “Music Television.” If they kept tuning in, they’d see clips and hear VJs talk about bringing you the latest in music videos. At this point, viewers might have a few questions, like: Is this like a radio station on TV? What is a “VJ”? And what the hell is a “music video”?

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A year later, no one was asking that last question. Virtually everyone knew what a music video was, and they wanted their MTV. The network revolutionized the music industry, inspired a multitude of copycat programming, made many careers, and broke more than a few. Entire genres and subgenres — from hip-hop to grunge to boy-band pop to nu metal — became part of the mainstream. The format proved so durable that when MTV decided to switch things up and devote its air time to game shows, reality TV, and scripted series, thus shutting down the primary pipeline for these promos, artists still kept making them. The internet soon stepped in to fill the void. Four decades after the channel’s launch and long after it stopped playing them, music videos still complement songs, create mythologies, and cause chatter and controversy. We no longer want our MTV. We continue to want our music videos.

In honor of MTV’s 40th anniversary, we’ve decided to rank the top 100 music videos of all time. You’ll notice some significant changes from the last time we did this. (Yes, Michael Jackson is on here. No, “Thriller” is not.) A few pre-date the channel; several have never played on MTV at all. But all of these picks are perfect examples of how pairing sound and vision created an entire artistic vocabulary, gave us a handful of miniature-movie masterpieces, and changed how we heard (and saw) music. From Adele’s “Hello” to ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin'” — these are the videos that continue to thrill us, delight us, disturb us, and remind us just how much you can do in three to four minutes with a song, a camera, a concept, a pose, some mood lighting, and an iconic hand gesture or two.

  • A Tribe Called Quest feat. Leaders of the New School, “Scenario”

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    There are music videos that are indebted to their time — and then there’s the clip for this Tribe Called Quest song, both the raucous closer to their sophomore album The Low End Theory and a strong contender for one of the best posse cuts of all time. Directed by Jim Swaffield, the video featuresQ-Tip, Phife Dawg, and a whole lotta friends (from De La Soul to Spike Lee) crowding a frame that mimics a retro PC mixing display, which controls everything from Phife’s wild hairstyles to Busta Rhymes’ long-sleeved top. It’s like a digital fun house, with special effects that couldn’t feel more Windows ’95 — which only adds to the goofy, retro charm. And whether they’re scowling for the camera or acting silly, the dream-team pack of rappers all look like they’re having the time of their lives. —M.C.

  • The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony”

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    The premise is simple: Richard Ashcroft walks down a busy London street, aggressively bumps into people headed in the opposite direction, and totally ignores their agitated responses. The original cut showed the Verve frontman getting his comeuppance when a group of thugs beats him to a bloody pulp; the end result, however, he’s simply joined by his bandmates and walks off unscathed.Director Walter A. Stern drew inspiration from the video for Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Symphony,” in which Shara Nelson takes a similar stroll down a Los Angeles street. (Though she didn’t assault anyone, however.) The clip turned “Bittersweet Symphony” into a huge hit, but it also set them up for years of litigation since the song samples a symphonic version of “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones … and they didn’t exactly have the rights to it. Still, the video remains a time capsule of a moment when Britpop was ascendant, Ashcroft radiated with coolness, and it was OK to randomly assault pedestrians for absolutely no reason at all. —A.G.

  • Madonna, “Vogue”

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    Hands, hands. Face. Body. “Come on, vogue” — Madonna commands it, and the world listened. Voguing was an outlandish, nonviolent way of “fighting” in New York’s queer, underground ballroom culture — and was often more athletic, involving contortions and martial arts influences. (See: Jennie Livingston’s landmark documentary Paris Is Burning.) But in the video — Madonna’s third collaboration with director David Fincher, following on the heels of the equally exhilarating “Express Yourself” — the dance was a refined form of feminist posturing and a statement of sexual defiance. “We cut this thing together as quickly as we could,” recalls Fincher. “We shot the video in, like, 16 hours, that was it. She got on the plane and went on her world tour.” The video was choreographed by classically trained dancer José Gutierrez and his best friend Luis Camacho, both members of the House of Extravaganza and two of the seven male dancers who’d also join her on the legendary Blonde Ambition tour. Although accusations of appropriation have plagued Madonna ever since, there’s no denying that she successfully elevated ballroom to the mainstream, creating a global fanbase. We can never forget to thank the blonde bombshell’s iconic video for inspiring countless queer kids to “strike a pose.” —J.P.

  • Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé, “Telephone”

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    Lady Gaga once again teamed up with Swedish filmmaker Jonas Akerlund to craft a singular piece of pop propaganda, picking up where her crimes in their “Paparazzi” clip ended. A nearly 10-minute-long odyssey, the video shows Gaga headed to prison for murder. A (slightly confused?) Beyoncé breaks her pal out, and the duo take a joyride in the Pussy Wagon from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill before getting revenge in a desert diner by killing model Tyrese Gibson for stealing her honey. “We shot the whole thing in two days, which is pretty incredible,” he told Variety for the clip’s 10-year anniversary. “Beyoncé and Gaga were practicing, like, literally there on the spot, figuring out the choreography while we were waiting. It was crazy.” —J.P.

  • Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP”

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    The most joyous ode to vaginal lubrication ever put to video featured a political conservative’s concept of hell: Two strong, rich, confident, and massively influential black women openly embracing their sexuality. Director Colin Tilley’s clip for this Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion joint juxtaposes this brash love of the “king cobra” (or “big Mack truck,” dealer’s choice) with a whimsical, pastel-covered innocence and exotic cats that earned the ire of everyone from members of Congress to Fox News pundits to … Carole Baskin? Score one for Cardi and Megan. Few videos dominated culture more in 2020, hitting all the water-cooler benchmarks: a Jenner or Kardashian cameo, countless think pieces on the video’s meaning, and pseudo-outrage of the self-proclaimed moral majority. —J.N.

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  • Psy, “Gangnam Style”

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    What’s that, Billy? ? What was 2012 like? Well, sit on your grandpa’s knee and listen. See, there was a South Korean singer-rapper who released a manic, whirlwind video with explosions, goofy-yet-contagious choreography, and horses. Yes, horses. The whole world embraced this clip that transcended “video” into “global phenomenon,” with seemingly every TV show and commercial either emulating or parodying its equus-themed strutting. We also said “sexy laaaady” a lot. For a minute, Billy, the dying monoculture was revived to celebrate the shlubby guy in the tacky suit — so much so, in fact, that the video became the first video to hit 1 billion views on YouTube. Here, let me show you the horse dance. —J.N.

  • Kanye West, “Bound 2”

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    There are some who despise Kanye West’s intentionally bad video for this, his most commercialtrack on his 2013 album,Yeezus. But how you gon’ be mad on vacation? Kanye laces his clip with green screens that make The Room look like Gravity, landscapes reminiscent of knockoff motivational posters, and a topless Kim Kardashian, who became the scourge of motorcycle safety enthusiasts everywhere. The result is Kanye distorting and subverting the form by embracing the artificial, and doing it on a level big enough to inspire postmodern parodies and memes galore. “I wanted to take white-trash T-shirts and make it into a video,” he said at the time. Mission accomplished. —J.N.

  • Run-DMC, “King of Rock”

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    Nearly 25 years before their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, Run-DMC entered the fictitious “Museum of Rock N’ Roll” to wig-snatch the Beatles, unplug a Jerry Lee Lewis video, and crush Michael Jackson’s bejeweled glove. “I remember people were saying that was kind of prophetic,” DMC said in 2009. No one used rock in hip-hop better to both bolster and upend the sound. And the video, featuring Letterman regular Larry “Bud” Melman saying, “You guys don’t belong in here,” is iconoclastic enough in its idol-busting to make the line, “There’s three of us / But we’re not the Beatles” (somewhat) forgivable. —J.N.

  • Janet Jackson feat. Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell, “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”

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    Janet Jackson and director Mark Romanek re-create an apartheid-era South African lounge in this jubilant paean to Afrocentricity. With a nattily-clad Q-Tip in tow, Romanek’s stylistic choices — including sharp clothing and use of African dance — channel Malian photographers Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe, while Jackson’s portrayal of a lounge singer evokes an effortless cool that stands in sharp contrast to her Rhythm Nation 1814 militarism. Even Joni Mitchell, whose song “Big Yellow Taxi” was sampled for the track, said that the video “had dignity, and it was full of life.” And Joni Mitchell never lies. —J.N.

  • Massive Attack, “Teardrop”

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    Look, we all love the theme song to House, but this Massive Attack tune’s most enduring impact will always be a latex fetus lip-syncing Cocteau Twins singer Elisabeth Fraser’s haunting vocals. Walter Stern, whose previous work for the Prodigy looked like the love child of coke and meth, celebrates life centering on what Massive Attack’s 3D would later lovingly call “a primitive animatronic half-creature in a puddle of rotten latex.” A joyful combination of terrifying and life-affirming. —J.N.

  • Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

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    If there’s one video that manages to nearly encompass the vivid, early Lady Gaga aesthetic, it’s 2009’s “Bad Romance.” Part Kubrickian techno-horror, part avant-garde fashion show, and part Michael Jackson dance homage, “Bad Romance” — directed by Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games, I Am Legend) with art direction by the singer’s own Haus of Gaga — spills her unfettered imagination all over the screen. There’s a loose narrative about Gaga being abducted by supermodels and sold to the (very handsome) Russian mafia before she exacts her fiery revenge, but it’s easy to overlook it for all the gloriously bespoke details: the razor-blade sunglasses, the latex wolf suits, the Alexander McQueen heels, the jerky, “Thriller”-derived choreography. It’s an unholy, head-spinning collision of style, sex, and showbiz that’ll have you saying, Rah, rah, ah-ah-ah. —J.F.

  • LL Cool J, “Going Back to Cali”

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    Ric Menello, a college dorm security guard and film savant who befriended Rick Rubin at NYU, had already co-directed the insanity of Beasties’ “Fight for Your Right” video. Now, taking cues from his favorite films Touch of Evil and Rebel Without a Cause, Menello turned LL Cool J’s ambivalence about moving cross-country into rap’s greatest arthouse video. Mimicking the song’s unhurried pace, images of LL slowly cruising in his Corvette and Automaton dancers robotically dancing remain indelible more than three decades later. LL originally hated the video. He has since gone on to embrace it as the masterpiece that it is. —J.N.

  • Jay-Z, “99 Problems”

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    Jay-Z didn’t love the videos for his first two Black Album singles, so he tapped Mark Romanek to film Brooklyn at its bleakest and grimiest for the most brutally stark clip of his career. “You know how a photographer can make a pissy wall look like art?” the rapper said at the time. “That’s what I wanted.” Romanek shoots the black and white video in a series of dizzying, handheld images that careen from the Brooklyn Bridge to Marcy Houses to Bed-Stuy. Jay’s murder at the end was so shocking to MTV, the network aired a bowdlerized version with a disclaimer discouraging gun imagery in videos. —J.N.

  • Björk, “It’s Oh So Quiet”

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    How does Björk visualize falling in love? It’s a random delivery guy who doubles as a dance partner, a mailbox that comes to life and twirls, a businessman doing backflips ‘til he’s out of frame. It’s the sheer chaos and unpredictability of a new love that, against all better reason and judgment, you allow yourself to be swept up in oblivious to future results. And there’s Björk, under the watchful eye of director Spike Jonze, channeling Busby Berkeley, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and other classic musicals to summon a whole town (and every viewer who comes across this video) into an exuberant sense of ecstasy. —J.N.

  • Aphex Twin, “Come to Daddy”

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    Part Alien, part Videodrome, part Children of the Corn, Chris Cunningham’s frenetic masterpiece mirrors the pace of Richard D. James’ pummeling song as a group of children — all wearing masks of RDJ’s adult face, complete with an eerie Cheshire-cat grin — terrorizes unsuspecting adults, all filmed on the same deserted council estate Stanley Kubrick used for Alex’s home in A Clockwork Orange. It’s not a music video so much as an assaultive horror film in miniature; we’re still praying that we’ll one day get a full-length feature version of nightmare. (Our suggested title: Children of the Cornwall.) —J.N.

  • ZZ Top, “Gimme All Your Lovin'”

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    The original knock on MTV was that it prized cheekbones over chops, and that once the channel became a tastemaker, bands that didn’t fit the pretty-boy aesthetic would be left out on the cold. In other words, no one was betting that a veteran blues-boogie trio out of Texas, with two members sporting Biblical-length beards, were destined to become early music-video MVPs. A red 1933 Ford coupe and a silver set of keys would change all of that. The first of a series of videos featuring ZZ Top as mystical guardian angels, ever-ready to transform wallflowers into bombshells or help nerds lose their virginity to leggy models, this clip helped rebrand the band for the Reagan era and turned their 1983 album,Eliminator, into a smash. They’d add elements as they went along — see: the furry, rotating guitars of the “Legs” video — but “Gimme All Your Lovin'” established the template that would turn ZZ Top into Top 40 superstars. “The videos made them bigger than life,” director Tim Newman says in the 2012 oral history I Want My MTV. “When they started, they were a hugely successful touring band. By the time we were done with those videos, they were international.” —D.F.

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  • Jay-Z, “Moonlight”

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    It’s the Friends episode titled “The One Where No One’s Ready”; you might remember it as the one where Joey asks Ross if he wants to drink a glass of fat. Except this time, that line is delivered by Lil Rey Howery to Jerrod Carmichael. The rest of the cast — Tiffany Haddish, Lakeith Stanfield, Issa Rae, and Tessa Thompson — are replicating the exchanges from the show, on a carbon copy of the Nineties sitcom’s set. Other than Whodini’s “Friends” playing over the opening credits, it’s a dead ringer for the original. If director Alan Yang’s video for Jay-Z’s 4:44 track was nothing but a spot-on parody, or even a “what if a TV show long criticized for being lily-white was cast with black actors?” scenario (a question that already has an answer), it’d still be an all-timer. Except the Master of None co-creator has a few other things on his mind. Once Carmichael sneaks off the set, the lyrics kick in and the track reminds you that it shares a title with Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film — “We stuck in La La Land/Even when we win, we gon’ lose” — you suddenly realize that this has nothing to do with Must See TV or clever reproductions at all. It’s about having your achievements belittled, stolen, uncredited, eclipsed, snuffed out. And should the connection between that notion and Moonlight seem coincidental, the video ends on a voice-over of that infamous 2016 Best Picture Oscar botch. According to Yang, Jay-Z cried after reading the pitch. Once you see the final result, you can’t blame him for tearing up. —D.F.

  • Janet Jackson, “Rhythm Nation”

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    If this video made you want to suit up and join the fight against … well, anything, you were not alone. Militarism has never seemed so cool as when Janet — Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty — began executing her precision moves with an army of stone-faced dancers behind her, all clad in matching uniforms, gloves, and boots. (Janet’s in particular now lives in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.) Filmed in smoky black and white and set in what appears to be an abandoned power plant, the video announces the singer and her crew as soldiers of social justice, as she sings about breaking color lines and joining our voices in protest. Does the title track of her 1989 concept album, Rhythm Nation 1814, propose that we can end racism through dance and music? Yes. Is that incorrect? Patently. But there is no denying that it snapped a bunch of people the hell awake. —M.F.

  • The Prodigy, “Smack My Bitch Up”

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    Imagine a first-person video game in which your objective was to get ready for a night out, go to a bar, get drunk, assault bartenders and bouncers and passerbys, get even drunker, snort coke, go to a strip club, and became a genuine menace to society. That may be the easiest way to describe Jonas Åkerlund’s video for the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up,” which turns an after-hours excursion gone haywire into a harrowing, you-are-there downward spiral. The track was already highly controversial, thanks to its name (derived from a couplet in an Ultramagnetic MCs song, the only lyrics heard in “Smack”). The debauched, dizzying video only added diesel fuel to the fire, with MTV originally airing it only after midnight before banning it all together. It’s not an easy watch, and the “twist” ending isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. But once you’ve seen it, this virtuosic clip is impossible to forget. “No radio station was gonna play the song,” the Prodigy’s Liam Howett told Q Magazine. “So we thought we’d make a video that no one would play either.” Well done, sir. —D.F.

  • Aerosmith, “Janie’s Got a Gun”

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    The lyrics to “Janie’s Got a Gun” could easily get lost in the face of its driving guitars, sweeping string arrangements, and Steven Tyler’s signature scream-sing. After all, Aerosmith aren’t exactly known for music with a conscience. But the video for the smash-hit track off the 1989 album Pump — about a girl who shoots her sexually abusive father to death — makes its message painfully clear. Directed by a pre-Hollywood-heavyweight David Fincher, it unfolds like a noirish police procedural, flashing back from a nighttime crime scene to glimpses of a fractured domestic life for a well-to-do wife, her sick husband, and their terrorized daughter. Using stylistic flourishes he would hone later on (fast cuts, playing with light and shadow, an eye for telling details), Fincher mirrors the emotional punch of the song note for note. —M.F.

  • Run the Jewels, “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)”

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    The twentysomething African-American everyman looks battered and exhausted. So does the white cop, who’s yelling, “Don’t you fucking move!” as the other man turns and runs. They tussle in the street, punch-drunk and exhausted. Day turns to night. They move the fight to an apartment, eventually sitting on opposite ends of a bed, catching their breath. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this. It won’t be the last. Filmed in black and white and featuring Lakeith Stanfield and Boardwalk Empire‘s Shea Wigham, this video for Run the Jewels’ standout RTJ2 track (featuring an incendiary verse from Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, who makes a cameo alongside the rap duo) turns the hot-button issue of police violence against the black community into an endless rinse-repeat cycle of agony. Whoever wins, we all lose. “This video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system,” Killer Mike said in a statement after the video hit the internet. “There is no neat solution at the end because there is no neat solution in the real world.” —D.F.

  • Adele, “Hello”

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    Capturing the sweeping drama of an Adele ballad is no small task … but sepia tones, a dusty farmhouse, and a wind machine will get you at least halfway there. From the moment it dropped in October 2015 — marking the release of Adele’s first album in three years, 25 — the video for “Hello” was a sensation, breaking Taylor Swift’s Vevo record for the most views in 24 hours, with over 27.7 million. Celebrities posted teary pictures of themselves watching it. It launched a thousand memes. SNL parodied it. Indie film director Xavier Dolan, who shot partly in IMAX, has admitted the concept wasn’t particularly high: Adele reminisces on the dissolution of a relationship, occasionally trying to call her former love from a series of increasingly obsolete phones (flip, landline, old-timey booth rotting in the woods). But the sumptuous visuals bring out a depth of feeling only Adele can hit. —M.F.

  • Soundgarden, “Blow Up the Outside World”

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    Yes, the “Black Hole Sun” video is surreal, and disturbing, and helped introduce Soundgarden to a whole new, non-grunge-fanatic audience. But this clip, directed by Devo’s Jerry Casale, arguably one-ups the things-fall-apart factor from its predecessor, while simultaneously capturing the vibe of this stellar Down on the Upside track to a T. It’s no coincidence that Chris Cornell bears a strong resemblance here to Alex the Droog from A Clockwork Orange, as he’s forced to watch scenes of serenity interspersed with snippets of sex and violence. And viewers familiar with the Seventies cinéma du conspiracy theory classic The Parallax View will pick up on the similarity between that film’s brainwashing sequence and what’s going on here. Then the band begin blowing the place apart — first figuratively, then literally — and what starts as a double homage turns into some nuclear-grade catharsis. —D.F.

  • Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)”

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    Have you ever lapdanced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Lil Nas X co-directed (alongside Tanu Muino) the clip for the title track of his 2021 album, and it’s a riot of color, historical allusions (from Genesis to Revelations, Greco-Roman architecture to medieval artwork), sound, fury, ecstasy, and vision. But what grabbed the most attention was our man Montero — the artist’s real first name — sliding down a pole into hell and giving Satan (also played by Lil Nas X) the single hottest crotch grind that the Prince of Darkness has likely ever experienced. Though satanists seem to give the video one sign-of-the-beast up, the far right predictably went nuts. (We’re not even going to go into the whole thing with Nike.) There was a method to Lil Nas X’s baroque madness, however. “I wanted to use these things that have been around for so long to tell my own story,” he declared, “and the story of so many other people in the community — or people who have been outcast in general through history. It’s the same thing over and over.” You can’t say Lil Nas X doesn’t have a point. And haters: You can’t ever call him a one-hit wonder again. —D.F.

  • The New Pornographers, “Moves”

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    Because who doesn’t love a star-studded origin story involving fame, drugs, guns, knives, bad behavior, moving up, and selling out? WFMU’sBest Show host Tom Scharpling directs this “trailer” for the ultimate biopic on Canada’s the New Pornographers, with his fellow host and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster as red-haired singer A.C. Newman, “the boy who had a dream … [and] became the man who challenged destiny.” He forms a band, they have a hit, success turns them all into coke-sniffing, money-grubbing monsters — you know the drill. Everyone from Donald Glover to John Oliver, Horatio Sanz, Ted Leo, Wyatt Cenac, and the mighty Julie Klausner drops by to recount “the rise and rise” of a cult power-pop band. It’s a brilliantly ridiculous clip, and a near-perfect piss-take on rock movie clichés. P.S. We really do hope the Paul Rudd–Bill Hader comedy Expectant Dads is coming to a theater near us soon. —D.F.

  • The White Stripes, “Fell in Love With a Girl”

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    Michel Gondry, having gained a reputation as a video magician for Daft Punk’s “Around the World” and the Chemical Brothers’ “Star Guitar,” pulled his most whimsical trick yet by turning the White Stripes duo into … Lego bricks. Back in 2002, the sheer nerve of painstakingly capturing the Stripes in color-blocked stop-motion was enough to make the video iconic. (Third Man even now sells a “Fell in Love With a Girl” Block Kit, with which you can reproduce the effect yourself.) It’s still an impressive feat, considering how uncanny Jack and Meg’s likenesses are captured in 2D, and it would only be matched by Gondry and the Stripes’ further collaborations like “The Denial Twist” and “The Hardest Button to Button.” —C.S.

  • D’Angelo, “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)”

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    As famous one-shots go, there’s the Copa entrance in Goodfellas, Danny riding his tricycle down the halls of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, and this — a doctor’s-office-close examination of D’Angelo’s glistening naked body in the eye-popping, breath-stopping 2000 video for the juggernaut track off his sophomore album, Voodoo. Starting a whisper away from the back of the singer’s head, directors Paul Hunter and Dominique Trenier slowly trace the contours of his hair, his ears, and his face, before spending the remaining three minutes and 30 seconds objectifying the ever-living shit out of his insanely chiseled torso. (Is this the entire reason men’s magazines became fixated on telling guys how to get V-shaped abs?) The concept is at once a creative shrug and a stroke of genius: In truth, the song — an ode to Prince layered with raw, tender vocals and almost filthy grooves — does all the work. What better way to mirror its intimacy than to strip down its maker and let him move us. —M.F.

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  • Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

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    The tapping Converse All-Star hightop. The punk cheerleaders with anarchy symbols on their uniforms. Kurt Cobain’s striped tee, worn over a long-sleeve shirt. Those opening chords, the unruly teens, that build-up from quiet to deafening and unhinged. Director Samuel Bayer swears that Nirvana, the trio from Seattle that no one at Geffen Records expected to do much in regards to their major-label debut, picked him to helm the video for the opening track off 1991’s Nevermind because he had the worst reel out of all the candidates. “[He] wanted to do all this story, narrative stuff,” Nirvana’s soundman Craig Montgomery is quoted as saying in the seminal grunge history Everybody Loves Our Town. “Kurt just wanted to have the band playing and kids going nuts.” Grainy and grimy-looking, Bayer’s pep-rally-run-amuck video ends with one of the most ecstatic examples of mosh-pit liberation ever. It’s cliché to say “and the rest is history.” But it’s impossible to underestimate the sea change that happened once “Smells Like Teen Spirit” took over the radio, and, after a premiere on 120 Minutes, MTV decided to add the clip into heavy rotation. The single was already garnering buzz for Nirvana. But the video caused everything to go nuclear for the group, helped sell the notion of alternative rock to the masses, and officially ushered in the Grunge Era. Here we are now. Entertain us. —D.F.

  • George Michael, “Freedom ’90”

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    George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice era was all about tearing down the public’s previous conceptions of his work — including his reputation as a charismatic, aggressively heterosexual MTV heartthrob. In that respect, the video for “Freedom! ‘90” leaves hardly any room for interpretation, with Michael bringing back the rock & roll iconography from his “Faith” video — leather jacket, jukebox, guitar — only to have it literally burst into flames. But that’s not what everyone remembers about “Freedom! ‘90.” Directed by David Fincher, in what would be one of two breakout projects for him in 1990 along with Madonna’s “Vogue,” the video takes the ballsiest possible route and leaves Michael himself entirely offscreen, replacing him with five of the most famous supermodels in the world (Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Tatjana Patitz), who lip-sync to the song in a diamond-hued London warehouse. Pompous? Yes. But, anchored by Michael’s lyrics — which hint at a personal coming-out for him as much as a professional one — ”Freedom! ‘90” transformed into a complete artistic statement, the kind that still feels rare in the world of music videos. —C.S.

  • Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda”

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    “Anaconda” was a massive moment for Nicki Minaj — and the video, directed by Colin Tilley, would only make the song’s bawdy lyrical content that much more explicit. (If nothing else, it proves that the sample of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” wasn’t a coincidence.) The rapper channels everyone from Josephine Baker to Jane Fonda, pivoting from twerking in a resort to conducting an asserobics course. After a messy cooking class, she surprised fans with a Drake cameo as her Young Money ally gleefully receives a lap dance from Minaj. A power move in more ways than can be counted, the “Anaconda” video has racked up a billion views, which made Minaj the first female rapper to do so. —B.S.

  • Backstreet Boys, “I Want It That Way”

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    As the lead single for Backstreet Boys’Millennium, “I Want It That Way” would usher in a powerful era for boy bands and pop music. Directed by Wayne Isham, the video takes place at LAX, with the boys in matching white or black outfits, dancing and slow-walking throughout the airport. As they prepare to board their plane, they’re surrounded by screaming girls with loads of headshots and merch for the group to sign. It’s one of the most popular visuals in the boy-band canon, embodying the type of fervent fandom that acts like BSB bask in. The clip became so popular and pervasive in the late Nineties that Blink-182 parodied it for what would become their equally iconic “All the Small Things” video. —B.S.

  • Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (32)

    By the time of Taylor Swift’s synth-pop pivot 1989, the star found her life both exhaustively documented and unfairly critiqued in the public eye. As Swift put it at the time, the media characterized her as a perpetually jilted lover who “goes to her evil lair and writes songs about it for revenge.” So on “Blank Space,” helmed by her frequent collaborator Joseph Kahn, she had some fun with the commentary on her dating life and love-obsessed image by playing a perfect girlfriend in a picturesque relationship who goes full Swimfan in the mansion she shares with her partner. She stabs a blood-filled cake, cries mascara tears, drops an iPhone in a fountain, and destroys the decor, all with a wink at both her fans and detractors. —B.S.

  • Britney Spears, “…Baby One More Time”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (33)

    Here she was: the girl next door with a twist. This Nigel Dick–directed clip introduced the globe to a 16-year-old Britney Spears, who would quickly become pop’s reigning princess. Spears herself pitched the idea of filming the video in a school, where she’s seen sporting a series of the most iconic outfits in Nineties pop-culture history. Bored in class, Spears impatiently awaits the moment when she can take to the school’s hallway and gymnasium to dance away her heartbreak. Amping up the legacy of the video’s setting, Dick shot it at Venice High School, the same place where Greasewas filmed. “…Baby One More Time” was essential to MTV’sTRLera, and when the show went off the air in 2008, it was the final video played on the program. —B.S.

  • Missy Elliott, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (34)

    “The Rain” wasn’t just Missy Elliott’s debut single; it also was the first time the rap icon worked with acclaimed director Hype Williams. At this early stage, the pair were already comfortable enough with each other to create something that would set a precedent for the future of music videos and set the tone for the rest of Missy’s forward-thinking career. Featuring a slew of cameos (Lil Kim, Diddy, Da Brat, and the song’s producer Timbaland, among others), the clip makes heavy use of a fisheye lens as the rapper moves through a number of surreal scenes. The most iconic of them is Missy in a black trash-bag–like inflated jumpsuit — a popular Halloween costume for decades to come. “The outfit was a symbol of power,” Elliott later told Elle. “I loved the idea of feeling like a hip-hop Michelin woman. I knew I could have on a blow-up suit and still have people talking.” —B.S.

  • Beyoncé, “Formation”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (35)

    If Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album established her as one of the greatest artists of all time, her surprise-released “Formation” video (and ensuing albumLemonade) marked her as one of the most important. She partnered with directer Melina Matsoukas, who culled inspiration from the likes of Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison in a striking commentary on significant moments in black American history. In under five minutes, Beyoncé moves from a plantation-style house where the black denizens are the masters not the slaves to the top of a sinking police car. Notably, she released the video in the first week of Black History Month 2016, the day in between what would’ve been Trayvon Martin’s and Sandra Bland’s birthdays. Days later, she would perform the song at the Super Bowl, surrounded by dancers in outfits inspired by the Black Panthers. “I wanted to show — this is black people,” Matsoukas told The New Yorker. “We triumph, we suffer, we’re drowning, we’re being beaten, we’re dancing, we’re eating, and we’re still here.” —B.S.

  • Herbie Hancock, “Rockit”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (36)

    It’s the scratching that gets you first — that needle-on-the-record squeal that still sounded novel enough in 1983 to stop you in your tracks. No sooner had GrandMixer DXT’s work on the wheels of steel kicked in then: Boom! We’re transported to an apartment full of robots, each jittering and whirring along to the beat. Three pairs of legs kick in sync over a couch. Two mannequin heads, rocking an admirably vintage Carl Sagan look, watch something mechanical splashing in a soapy sink. A robo-wife hits her robo-husband at a robo-brekafast table. And when the camera pans past a tiny TV set, you can glimpse a pair of hands — human hands — plinking out a keyboard line. Without MTV O.G.s Kevin Godley and Lol Creme’s video for Herbie Hancock’s unclassifiable melding of jazz, electro-funk, and early hip-hop, it might have been just another musical gumbo from a longtime fusion pioneer. With it, the song became the soundtrack to some sort of techno-utopian future and a genuine WTF mindblower. You’d never seen anything like it. You still haven’t seen anything like it. —D.F.

  • Blur, “Coffee & TV”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (37)

    By 1999, guitarist Graham Coxon’s drinking problem and creative grievances meant that he was increasingly distant from the rest of Blur. “Graham wasn’t happy and he didn’t always turn up,” the Britpop group’s bassist, Alex James, recalled in his memoir,Bit of a Blur. “It was frustrating because, when he did, everything he did was brilliant.” That intra-band drama found unexpectedly whimsical expression in the video that production duo Hammer & Tongs created for “Coffee & TV,” a single written and primarily sung by Coxon (and a top example of the brilliance James was talking about). Coxon plays the missing son of a sad suburban English family, first seen pictured on the side of a milk carton — a milk carton that promptly comes to life and becomes the video’s happy little protagonist. Milky bops along his merry way, hitches a ride into the big city, falls in love with a carton of strawberry milk, experiences wrenching grief, and finally finds Coxon right where he belongs: in a room jamming on “Coffee & TV” with the other guys from Blur. (Spoiler alert: Coxon goes on to chug Milky, who is later resurrected and reunited with his true love in beverage-container heaven.)—S.V.L.

  • Madonna, “Justify My Love”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (38)

    In a post-“WAP” and “Montero” world, it might be difficult to remember just how skilled Madonna once was at stirring up controversy with a new music video. She managed to outdo herself with the erotic reverie of 1990’s “Justify My Love,” which was so spicy that MTV actually banned it — and thus guaranteed its immortality. Filmed in noirish black and white, the clip (directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino) depicts the pop star experiencing a sexual awakening through a series of encounters, including a three-way with a passionate same-sex kiss. There are also brief glimpses of gay life and kinkiness in shots of a trio of gay men cuddling on a couch and a bare-chested femme domme practicing BDSM on her male partner. Those are considerably less taboo topics 30-plus years later, and this clip — and the woman at the center of it — deserves at least a little credit for pushing them in that direction.—J.F.

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  • DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels, “Nobody Speak”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (39)

    “You wanna hear a good joke? Nobody speak, nobody get choked.” The crate-digging genius responsible for giving the world Entroducing….. returns, enlisting Run the Jewels to drop dense, insult-heavy rhymes (about the Peanuts gang, about Trump, about your mom) over one serious banger of a beat. Director Sam Pilling’s music video then ups the ante: It puts all of El-P and Killer Mike’s shit-talking threats in the mouths of old, white-guy politicians at a United Nations–style summit, while various lackeys (including RTJ and DJ Shadow, rocking a grade-Z toupee) look on. Soon, tables are hopped, punches are thrown, a pig scurries through, and a full-blown bipartisan battle royale is in effect. Someone nearly stabs someone through the heart with an American flag, because symbolism. “We wanted to make a positive, life-affirming video that captures politicians at their election-year best,” Shadow said. “We got this instead.” —D.F.

  • The Replacements, “Bastards of Young”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (40)

    To say that the Replacements, arguably Minnesota’s finest (and inarguably its drunkest) punk band of the 1980s, hated MTV would be an understatement: They bad-mouthed the channel at every opportunity, and devoted a whole song on their 1984 masterpiece,Let It Be (“Seen Your Video”), to slagging bands who preened for the camera. ”If we do a video,” singer Paul Westerberg said, ”we want to do one that nobody would want to watch all the way through, much less twice.” Still, for their major-label debut,Tim, they decided to make an exception regarding their no-video policy, albeit completely on their own terms. Which is why none of the Replacements appear in this exercise-in-minimalism clip — instead, we get a single-shot close-up of a speaker in director Jeff Skinner’s living room playing the song. The camera eventually zooms out just in time to capture a disgruntled, unidentified listener kicking the speaker over. It was a beautiful fuck you from a band known for their eloquent kiss-offs. The irony: 120 Minutes started playing the clip regularly and turned it into an audience favorite. They watched it all the way through, even twice. Joke’s on you, gents. —D.F.

  • Childish Gambino, “This Is America”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (41)

    It starts with a man playing a guitar, and a gunshot — then the music video that launched a thousand think pieces turns a warehouse space into a vaudeville stage, a riot-in-progress, and a waking nightmare. Donald Glover’s musical alter ego Childish Gambino struts, shuffles, and shimmies his way through a tableau of dancing kids, angry cops, and scenes of both social unrest and unfettered black joy. References to everything from viral dance videos to the 2015 shooting in a Charleston church, minstrelsy to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” car dance, collide into each other, and given the way director Hiro Murai fills each frame with lots of moving parts and background business, it’s a clip that rewards dozens of viewings. But the gut-punch impact remains no matter how many times you see it. “The video is really a confluence of tone changes,” Murai told The New York Times. “Obviously we’re dealing with very provocative images, so it’s a total tightrope walk.”

    And in the middle of all this is Gambino, wandering from scene to scene in nothing but tight gray slacks, wearily stopping to light up a joint when he’s not shooting people or dancing up a storm. “It was important to have D. shirtless, because it’s like, yeah, that’s how we dance,” producer and Gambino collaborator Ibra Ake noted. “That’s like your uncle in Nigeria who drinks Harp. … That’s expressing yourself. Our goal [was] normalizing blackness.” All of this in four minutes, plus a semiotics-filled state of the nation that ends with the singer running desperately for his life, because, well … this is America. You can pick from almost four centuries’ worth of reasons as to why.—D.F.

  • New Order, “The Perfect Kiss”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (42)

    “When you’re filming a band or an artist,” Jonathan Demme said, “you aspire to, and ideally become part of the band.” The director was talking about Stop Making Sense, but he might have been referring to his 1985 clip for New Order’s “Perfect Kiss” as well. The Manchester quartet would specialize in music videos that veered from faux-verité (that Arthur Baker–assisted, downtown-NYC disco romp in “Confusion”) to abstract AF (the attack-of-the-screen-savers imagery of “Bizarre Love Triangle”). For this highlight of the group’s 1985 album,Low-Life, Demme had them set up in their studio and play the track live. That’s it. Bernard Sumner looks like he might throw up before he starts his vocal track. Peter Hook attacks his bass strings as if they insulted his mom. Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert look at something below the frame with the intense concentration of math students solving an equation while the clock runs out. (They’re playing synthesizers.) The camera, meanwhile, gets right in their faces — Demme makes for a pesky, perseverant fifth member. Clocking in at a whopping 10 minutes, it’s a masterpiece of physical exertion and performance-capturing: a volley of fingers moving over fretboards and tapping keyboards, drumsticks hitting pads and cowbells, Sumner’s head tilted toward his mic. Arguably the most humanistic American filmmaker of the 1980s, Demme never lets you forget that there are people playing this song. The sound is synthesized, but the act of watching four people make that sound gives it soul. And no matter how many times you see that Joy Division poster behind Sumner’s head, it still brings a tear to your eye. —D.F.

  • Unkle feat. Thom Yorke, “Rabbit in Your Headlights”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (43)

    Music-video hall-of-famer Jonathan Glazer claimed that his eerie, unsettling (and award-winning) clip for “Rabbit in Your Headlights” was initially born out of a frustration regarding his work on a previous assignment, for Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” The director felt he hadn’t quite achieved his goal of doing “something hypnotic and dramatic from one perspective” for that clip, but when he took on the gig of providing British trip-hop/electronica duo Unkle with a visual counterpart for this moody track, Glazer finally cracked the code. (The fact that Thom Yorke sings on both songs was just a lovely coincidence.) French actor Denis Levant is walking down the middle of a busy roadway, with cars whizzing by him as he mutters to himself. A passing vehicles hits him. He goes down. He gets back up again, still ranting. Another car hits him. He gets up again. The scenario keeps repeating … until he removes his parka and Glazer throws us a curveball. The video is a prime example of sustaining a sense of mounting dread and delivering an odd yet thrilling payoff. And the filmmaker finally found that Venn diagram center of creepy and ecstatic he’d been chasing. —D.F.

  • Neil Young, “This Note’s for You”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (44)

    In the late Eighties, David Bowie, Madonna, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and many other A-list artists not only licensed their music to commercials but actually appeared in the ads as well. Neil Young was so sickened by the phenomenon that he spoofed it on the title track to his 1988 LP,This Note’s for You. “Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi,” he snarled. “Ain’t singin’ for Coke/I don’t sing for nobody/Makes me look like a joke.” He took things a step further when he made a video for the song that viciously mocked Clapton’s Michelob ad, Calvin Klein’s Obsession commercial, Bud Light’s Spuds MacKenzie’s spots, and the infamous Jackson Pepsi commercial where his hair caught on fire. Initially, MTV refused to air it under the specious grounds that it would open them up to “copyright infringement.” “You spineless twerps,” Young write them in an open letter. “You refuse to play ‘This Note’s for You’ because you’re afraid to offend your sponsors. What does the ‘M’ in MTV stand for: music or money?” MTV ultimately backed down and not only aired the video but awarded Young Video of the Year at the 1989 VMAs. —A.G.

  • Björk, “All Is Full of Love”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (45)

    If a couple of plastic androids getting freaky on the factory floor isn’t your idea of a good time, this one might not be for you. You wouldn’t be alone — plenty of people found director Chris Cunningham’s slick, sticky robot fantasy to be every bit as creepy as the nightmares he conjured up for Aphex Twin around the same time (see number 47 on this list). That was a plus for Björk, who was drawn to Cunningham’s flair for disturbing imagery: “Most video directors have one trick that they use all the time,” she’s been quoted as saying. “Then there are people who build a whole world around them. Chris is like that.” Looked at another way, “All Is Full of Love” is a surprisingly sweet sci-fi fable in which human feelings manage to survive even the most alienated future. Either way, it’s the perfect expression of the uncanny beauty of Björk’s Homogenic, and a key exhibit in the case for her as one of the great oddball auteurs of the music-video age, across her work with many directors. — S.V.L.

  • Kylie Minogue, “Come Into My World”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (46)

    Combining the unique vision of director Michel Gondry with peak-form Kylie Minogue was bound to produce something extraordinary. This 2002 video initially appears to be fairly no-frills — a quick stroll around a Parisian neighborhood for the Aussie pop star, set to her blissed-out disco tune. A couple argues, kids zoom down the sidewalks on skateboards, lovers embrace in this quaint little scene. Then Minogue walks by her starting point, and new iterations of the singer keep appearing every time she doubles back, all following similar yet distinct paths. Meanwhile, the chaos in the background multiplies to comical proportions, from four identical sets of motorists in physical altercations to four identical men frantically slapping posters on a building wall. It’s a marvel of planning and meticulous choreography, making repeat viewings to scan for lapses in continuity half of the fun. Long live the Kylie multiverse!—J.F.

  • Beyoncé, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (47)

    Beyoncé nearly made the impossible attainable when she dedicated the “Single Ladies” video to three minutes and 18 seconds of pure choreography, in your face and plain as day, with only two dancers by her side. See, performing at Beyoncé’s capacity is unrealistic for most of us, but when “Single Ladies” dropped, so did YouTube dance tutorials and presentations of the material from ordinary dancers. You can so easily pause, rewind, and pay attention to Beyoncé’s moves that everyone learned some of them, from Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live to President Barack Obama at an inaugural concert. —M.C.

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  • Fiona Apple, “Criminal”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (48)

    Directed by Mark Romanek and shot by the late, great Harris Savides, this Fiona Apple video for “Criminal” practically oozed pornographic menace — the dingy set of green carpet and Seventies-style wood paneling, the evidence of late-night debauchery laid out in exposed skin, unzipped pants, and carelessly discarded pizza crusts. Apple, still a teenager (and a young-looking one) at the time, shifted between the role of the photo-snapping aggressor and the exploited naïf, leering at the camera from a steamy bathtub or cowering in a closet. It sparked some necessary debates about “heroin chic” and sexual agency, helping to cement Apple’s reputation as one of this century’s most reliably challenging and uncompromising performers. “I called Mark,” Apple recounted years later, “and we talked about his idea that the song is about guilty pleasures and sexual deviance — me being in this house full of people, going around and experimenting, feeling a little bad about it, but enjoying it all the same. It corresponded with my meaning of the song.”—J.F.

  • The Roots, “What They Do”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (49)

    Not everyone was happy as major-label video budgets ballooned in the second half of the Nineties. Case in point: this 1996 video, where the Roots pair a characteristically smooth and soulful groove with a subtitled satire of their peers’ formulaic choices. No MTV cliché is spared, from the mansion (“Rented for the day”) to the bubbly (“It’s really ginger ale”) to the scantily clad models in bed with the star (“Yeah, right”). Director Charles Stone III’s pointed humor hit a little too close to home for the Notorious B.I.G., who reportedly saw “What They Do” as a dig at his own expensive videos. (Compare with the party scenes in “One More Chance”and“Big Poppa,”and draw your own conclusions.) Questlove has said he still regrets not getting a chance to clear the air before Biggie’s death: “Based on the way the set looked, we didn’t know we were doing a direct reference to ‘One More Chance.’ So, when we saw the final cut. … They showed it to us and I was like, ‘Oh, damn.’ But it was too late.”—S.V.L.

  • 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre, “California Love”

    The 100 Greatest Music Videos (50)

    This one’s not just a music video — it’s a messianic West Coast origin myth. Pan all the way out to the Compton Swap Meet circa 1995, then zoom in tight on a face in the crowd: eight-year-old Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, perched on his father’s shoulders, craning his neck to get a better look at two of his heroes on set. Years later, Kendrick would remember the moment like it was yesterday: “These motorcycle cops trying to conduct traffic but one almost scraped the car, and Pac stood up on the passenger seat, like, ‘Yo, what the fuck!’ ”he toldRolling Stone‘s Josh Eells. “Yelling at the police, just like on his motherfucking songs. He gave us what we wanted.” But even if it hadn’t helped inspire one of the greatest musicians of his generation to follow his hip-hop dreams, the two-part De Mille epic that Hype Williams conjured up for “California Love” and its remix would still be a high point. Juxtaposing wildly vivid imagery of an apocalyptic Mad Maxdesert rumble and a luxurious pool party, Pac and Dre sum up the unmatched grandiosity of the peak Death Row era.—S.V.L.


The 100 Greatest Music Videos? ›

“Thriller” (Michael Jackson, 1983)

Arguably the greatest music video ever made. The release of the "Thriller" video in early December 1983 was an event. It was essentially a short film, running more than 13 minutes, directed by John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London).

What 13 minute long music video was the most influential of all time? ›

“Thriller” (Michael Jackson, 1983)

Arguably the greatest music video ever made. The release of the "Thriller" video in early December 1983 was an event. It was essentially a short film, running more than 13 minutes, directed by John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London).

What is the best MTV video of all time? ›

1"Thriller" (1983) from the LP ThrillerMichael Jackson
2"Vogue" (1990) from the LP I'm BreathlessMadonna
3"Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1992) from the LP NevermindNirvana
4"Sledgehammer" (1986) from the LP SoPeter Gabriel
5"Walk This Way" (1986) from the LP Raising HellRun-D.M.C. & Aerosmith
63 more rows

What music videos were banned in the 1990s? ›

Videos including Madonna's "Justify My Love" (1990), Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" (1992), The Prodigy's "Smack My [Expletive] Up" (1997), and Nas' "Hate Me Now" (1999) all made headlines or were banned for content deemed controversial at the time.

What song was #1 the longest? ›

"Old Town Road" holds the record for the longest stretch at No. 1 with 19 weeks. It also became the fastest song in history to be certified diamond.

What is the #1 most popular song of all time? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.

What is the most played song on MTV history? ›

"Sledgehammer," Peter Gabriel: This 1986 video became the most played in MTV history, thanks to its Claymation, pixilation and stop-motion animation.

What is the most played song on MTV? ›

  • #8 "Addicted to Love" - Robert Palmer. RobertPalmerVEVO. ...
  • #7 "Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys. BeastieBoysVEVO. ...
  • #6 "Sweet Child 'O Mine" - GNR. GunsNRosesVEVO. ...
  • #5 "Walk This Way" - Aerosmith / Run DMC. ...
  • #4 "Sledgehammer" - Peter Gabriel. ...
  • #3 "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana. ...
  • #2 "Vogue" - Madonna. ...
  • #1 "Thriller" - Michael Jackson.
Sep 13, 2022

What was the 1st video on MTV? ›

The first video to air on MTV was one emblematic of MTV's concept, The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" which was then immediately followed by a brief message about music and television coming together and then "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar.

What was the first banned song on MTV? ›

In 1982, the channel banned the video for Queen's (UK) "Body Language" due to its "homoerotic undertones" and the presence of human flesh, although the band members themselves were fully clothed throughout.

What is the most controversial music video ever? ›

#1: “Like a Prayer” (1989)

Images of burning crosses and her romantic embrace with the holy figure notably sparked major outcry. The visual work was even called out by the Vatican. Not many music videos have generated controversy on this level, which is just one of the many reasons why Madonna will always be an icon.

What song was banned on MTV? ›

Banned music videos
  • "American Life" (Madonna) – pulled by the artist and replaced with a second version.
  • "Arise" (Sepultura) – banned for apocalyptic religious imagery, including crucified figures wearing gas masks.
  • "A Tout Le Monde" (Megadeth) - banned for alleged suicide lyrics.

What is the most influential video in the history of pop music? ›

1. Michael Jackson – Thriller: Early Music Videos. Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' was released in 1983. John Landis, of 'American Werewolf in London' fame, directed the accompanying video.

What is the most controversial music video of all time? ›

#1: “Like a Prayer” (1989)

Images of burning crosses and her romantic embrace with the holy figure notably sparked major outcry. The visual work was even called out by the Vatican. Not many music videos have generated controversy on this level, which is just one of the many reasons why Madonna will always be an icon.


1. 100 Greatest "Music Scenes" in Movies - mewlists
2. The 100 Greatest Soul Songs of the 70s Unforgettable Soul Music Full Playlist
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3. Top 100 Songs Global
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6. Music Seen: The 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time
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