The 8 Ball 02.08.14: Top 8 Marilyn Manson Music Videos
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 02.08.2014
From "The Beautiful People" and "Coma White" to "Long Hard Road Out of Hell," "The Dope Show" and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Marilyn Manson music videos of all-time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Welcome, one and all to the 411 Music 8 Ball! This week we're heading back into music video territory, an area in which I've always been quite the fan. As a writer about both music and movies, music videos often provide the perfect melding of the two and few people are as well known for their music videos than the ever-controversial Marilyn Manson. The shock industrial metal rocker has become a lightning rod for controversy since he hit the music scene for not only his incendiary lyrics but also his striking, often shocking visual sense. Manson has always had a cinematic flair to his videos and the outrage sometimes gets in the way of the fact that he is a very intelligent and creative artists. This week we're going to look at the best music videos the band has released to date.
Caveat: Was it a Marilyn Manson music video? It was eligible. Doesn't get simpler than that!
First up on our list is one that is only as low as it is because it isn't an original storyline. The music video for "Man That You Fear," the last track on Manson's seminal Antichrist Superstar, is based on Shirley Jackson's famous short story "The Lottery." So the video doesn't have anything going for it in terms of overall storyline originality. However, what it lacks there it makes up for with thematic appropriateness of said storyline and haunting visuals. This video is very much unlike what we had seen of Manson at this point. The western-esque setting, the restrained performance the frontman gives as the condemned man and the somber, almost tender moments between him and his on-screen family are striking when compared to his other videos. The video was directed by W.I.Z., who has made a career out of high-concept videos and does some of his best work here. The video is expertly paced and has cinematic touches that make it reminiscent of HBO's Carnivale, which is certainly a good aesthetic to shoot for. It fits the song supremely well and gave people who were just tuning into the band a hint that maybe there was more there than medical fetish and shock lyrics.
#7: "Disposable Teens" (2000)
This is more along the lines of what people immediately think of when they hear mention of Marilyn Manson. The first single off of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) took both barrels and fired them straight at the controversy that had erupted around the band following the Columbine shooting in 1999. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's horrific assault on their high school was attributed to the music they listened to and the games they played, and Manson's name came up often--and incorrectly, as it turned out. Manson took serious offense to this and "Disposable Teens" is one of the songs where he refutes accusations that he played a role, however indirectly. In the music video he takes shots at his critics among the Christian right, suggesting that they have far more to do with it. From Manson himself in a mockery of Papal vestments to a monkey swinging from a cross, Manson makes his displeasure with the doping effects of organized religion clear and shows teens rebelling against the oppressive authority as he mocks the Baby boomer age by paraphrasing a Beatles line: "You say you want a revolution, and I say that you're full of shit." The message is clear and you can agree with it or not, but as an artistic statement is stands very strong indeed.
#6: "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" (1997)
"Long Hard Road Out of Hell" was Marilyn Manson's first steps into a deeper world of electronica than they had previously taken. The song was recorded in collaboration with the Sneaker Pimps for the Spawn soundtrack and the music video has long been one of my favorites for its use of tableau vivant--living pictures. The band has used it before and since but never was it more effective than this one, which shows Manson himself alongside a couple of androgynous models in poses that range from artistic to seductive to downright sinister. And sure, the video has religious iconography that had the moral minority up in arms, most significantly that of Manson himself as a crucified Christ. But where the video is most subversively delicious is the way in which it twists sexuality and gender identity. People in music have been pushing the boundaries of androgyny for years, and people have done so since. But few artists pushed this onto a genre like metal before, and outside of arguably David Bowie, few had done it with so much mainstream attention. Lady Gaga and other artists have done great things in this area, but they owe a huge debt to Manson for videos like this. It's a fantastic video to a great song and frankly, both are underrated in my book.
#5: "Coma White" (1999)
"Coma White" was never released as a single from Manson's 1999 LP Mechanical Animals, but it did receive its own music video. This little allegory paints Manson and his then-girlfriend Rose McGowan as John and Jackie Kennedy. Obviously that's an attention-getting theme for a music video, especially considering it is the re-enactment of the president's 1963 assassination. That being said, "Coma White" is, if not as restrained as "Man That You Fear," certainly one of the group's most stripped-down music videos. It isn't manic or full of insects and decay; it is shockingly bloodless and even the shots of Manson performing seem cleaner than we usually see him. However, the video is no less striking than any of his videos that love getting down and dirty. This is one of Manson's stronger socio-political statements in his videos, showing how much America is obsessed with and worships violence through the microcosm of the (then) thirty-sixty year-old assassination. The video doesn't compare Manson to those men like Kennedy and Christ who died, at least not in terms of their importance. Instead it shows how society tries to take men of vision--great or not--and destroy them in one way or another. It's a powerful video that, like many of the band's songs and albums, uses the power of shock to call attention to greater issues in society.
#4: "The Nobodies" (2001)
This one is just weird, but in such a glorious way. Another song off of Holy Wood, the video casts Manson as a jester-like devil and a demonic tree creature luring children off into a world of corruption and evil. This is another one that can be viewed as a shot at organized religion, with the elderly women looking very much like nuns who are sacrificed by Manson--playing their secret master--so that they can be fed to the children. The dirty, muck-ridden characters in the video can actually be seen as more pure in nature than the cleaned-up versions, going along with the song's lyrics of being dirty but wanting "to be pretty." It's a story about how the poor and dirty have to destroy and then take the corruption of their elders into themselves if they want to be rich and powerful. Of course, this is lost to anyone who looks at the videos and takes the imagery at face value, but that's nothing new with rock videos or Manson's in particular. Some people view his videos as simply grotesque; this is a strong argument that grotesque does not mean lacking in artistic merit.
#3: "The Beautiful People" (1996)
"The Beautiful People" is probably Marilyn Manson's most well-known song. It's been played just about everywhere, not the least as the theme song to WWE Smackdown for several years. And yet its video is often a bit overlooked among Manson videos to the still-good-but-inferior "Tourniquet." Don't get me wrong, folks; I think the "Tourniquet" video is fantastically creepy and very well-done. But "Beautiful People" takes that creepy factor and applies it to a much more meaningful canvas. Manson managed to shock mainstream America just when they thought they couldn't be shocked anymore with this video, which saw him being turned into a giant stilted Hitler-like personage who stands at a balcony and shouts down to his adoring masses. These days it is passé to make Hitler references but this was not nearly as common in the mid-1990s. While Manson is shouting his satirical rant down from his doorway the crowd just eats up what he has to say, and I'm not gonna lie; it's a little bit brilliant in how it makes the point that people have been arguing ever since about the media creating puppets for us to worship. Because that's what this video is clearly about; this isn't a man who rises on his own. He is assembled piece by piece. It is the dirty Manson shouting into a mic stand while the band plays behind him that speaks the truth. Throw in several of the bizarre medical fetish-laden shots that would become the band's signature and you have one of their most enduring videos.
#2: "The Dope Show" (1998)
If "The Beautiful People" made the point that we're getting our media icons spoon-fed to us, "The Dope Show" drove it home like a jackhammer. For many people Mechanical Animals was a disappointing album, taking a hefty departure from the music of Antichrist Superstar which made the group famous. Love it or hate it though, you have to respect the group's willingness to try something new and its strong creative material. "The Dope Show" was the lead single from that album and the music video created one of Manson's most well-known and controversial looks as an androgynous alien with nippleless breasts. The video features alien Manson being hunted down and captured by faceless individuals, drugged up and made to perform for rabid fans. It must be noted that Billy Zane is fantastic in his brief role as alien-Manson's agent/manager in the back of a limo, peddling him to people as he gets high. Along the way he manages to find room for such subversive imagery as pink-clad police leaning in for a gay kiss and more of his gender-bending talents. The video is obviously a Bowie homage and he does it fantastically; it deservedly won several awards and showed that Manson and his band were more than just a one-note group.
#1: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (1995)
All due respect to the group's other music videos, but this one was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Manson has always been a master of theatricality and the macabre and never was that more evident than in this video, for the group's cover of the Eurhythmics song. This one is viewed by some as their breakout hit (although truly, that came more with "Beautiful People") and is absolutely their most disturbing music video. With its distorted-lens imagery, Manson's sinister looks and the building that has a vague notion of being a safe house belonging to the likes of Jigsaw or John Doe from Seven, this placed Manson on the map and inspired a thousand nightmares in the process. Even potentially laughable scenes like Manson wandering around in a tutu or riding a pig while covered in mud get a wildly disturbing bent thanks to director Dean Karr's aesthetics and the setting, an old and decrepit asylum, was wonderfully used to chilling effect here. In a videography full of creative, strange, disturbing and artistic videos, this is his single-most effective at accomplishing what it set out to do.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
Before we depart, I leave you with this week's Music Video A-Go-Go. It didn't make the list above but I have to single it out for the simple fact that even if it's not incredibly artistic, it's fun to see the goths beat the jocks from time to time. Enjoy the "Tainted Love" video from the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack below:
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.