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 411mania » Music » Columns

The 411 Music Top Five 06.25.13: The Top 5 Music Video Storylines
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.25.2013


Criteria: Music videos are, of course, an intrinsic part of the music industry and have been since even before the days of MTV. While the format waned a little bit in the late 1990s and 2000s with falls of MTV and VH-1 into reality programming and other entertainment ventures, the rise of YouTube and Vevo revitalized the format. There are several "styles" of music videos from live concert footage and visual concept pieces to videos from soundtracks that consist of scenes from their films, one of the most prevalent and creative are those that tell complete narrative storylines. This week the topic was the greatest videos that tell a narrative story within the running time of the video.

Honorable Mention: Amanda Palmer - "The Bed Song," Pat Benatar - "Love Is A Battlefield," Tool - "Sober," Aerosmith "Janie's Got A Gun"

5. Nickelback - "Savin' Me"

Let me be clear; this is not for the song but for the video. The song is quite good for Nickelback but pretty lackluster overall; that being said, I love the storyline for the video. The story sees a man get saved from being run over by a traumatized-looking guy in a trenchcoat, after which he begins seeing people with a glowing countdown over their heads. He quickly comes to realize that he's not crazy; he's seeing how many seconds they have left in life counting down to zero. He begins to realize what a curse this is (Cassandra complex, anyone?) until he is able to save someone from being crushed by a falling statue in a crate, at which point he passes the ability onto the newly-saved individual. It's a great concept for a video that plays out really well and while the song may not be the best, I always enjoy watching it.

4. Eminem & Rihanna - "Love the Way You Lie"

Kudos to Megan Fox for showing some acting talent in this one. Sure, it's a non-speaking role but that actually gives her more credit in my book; she has to portray her character without being able to overtly vocalize anything. The song is a good one about domestic abuse and the storyline of the video is plotted out nicely, with Fox and Dominic Monaghan playing the two partners in a highly dysfunctional and abusive relationship. There are moments here that are really sublime; my personal favorite is Fox's character standing in the doorway, looking up into the man's face for any sign of caring and Monoghan's subtle transition from smiling to cold. It's a powerful video and I particularly appreciate that doesn't try to make any overt statements about abuse other than to show what kind of a terrible cycle dysfunctional love can be.

3. a-ha - "Take On Me"

Sure, it looks goofy these days because it's an effects-driven video from thirty years ago with a lot of 1980s fashion styles, but damn if it isn't inventive and fun. I laugh along with the "literal version" that was released on YouTube too, but that doesn't change the fact that it was a classic and influential video from the rise of the MTV era. This video won six awards from the MTV Music Video Awards and while I'm still not entirely sure why the comic book art racer thugs were trying to murder poor Morten Harket and Bunty Bailey (is comic book racing really that cutthroat?), it was incredibly creative and showed what could be done with music videos as an art form.

2. Guns N' Roses - "November Rain"

If not for the worldwide phenomenon nature of the #1, this would be an easy choice for that spot because wow, talk about a video that tells a story. Axl Rose may be a douchebag but he's a hell of a music video star. This video, which took one of the band's best songs and kicked off an unofficial trilogy of videos along with "Don't Cry" and "Estranged," is ridiculously epic in scope. The video is incredibly ambitious and some could even say it fit the arrogance of Rose at the time, but it all falls together perfectly to create this perfect collision of all the elements needed for a great video. Reportedly one of the most expensive videos ever made, it makes sure every penny is spent and you have to appreciate what they did.

1. Michael Jackson "Thriller"

Come on, this was probably obvious from the beginning. I know that it's dull to have an suspenseless choice for #1, but Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is proof that sometimes you just have to go with the obvious; anything else is frankly being dishonest. "Thriller" broke ground in terms of music videos, which is why it's the only music video in the Library of Congress. It also helped to make horror an acceptable topic for mainstream music. Before "Thriller" any kind of horror mention in mainstream, radio airplay-style songs tended to be very sanitized. With "Thriller" you have Vincent Price at his spookiest talking about the hounds of hell, rotting corpses and such. It is more than a video; it's a short film. That easily makes it the #1 choice.

The Final Word

As always, the last thoughts come from you, the reader. We're merely unpaid monkeys with typewriters and Wikipedia. Here's what you need to do: List your Top Five for this week's topic on the comment section using the following format:

5. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
4. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
3. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
2. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it
1. Artist - "Song": Why you chose it


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