Video killed the video star


Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking video for his 1982 smash single Thriller has been chosen the #1 video of all-time in a survey commissioned by MySpace.

As reported today by the Ottawa Citizen, the survey asked more than 1,000 music fans to choose from a list of 20 highly influential and acclaimed videos as chosen by a panel of music and entertainment critics.

There are some really great videos on the top-ten list as chosen by the poll respondents. The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, which came in at #10, has long been a favourite of mine, as has A-Ha’s Take On Me (#4), a video light years ahead of the common technological possibilities of its 1985 release date.

What I find interesting about the top-ten is the date of some of the videos — Bohemian Rhapsody (1975), Sledgehammer (1986) and even Hit me Baby One More Time (1998).

It’s no secret that the wide availability of live music performances via sites like YouTube has eroded the popularity of the traditional music video. It’s also true that it’s hard for a video to be widely influential if it’s only been out for a couple of years.

Nonetheless, I think the list is evidence of a waning of quality in music videos. Popular music generally sucks right now, so why shouldn’t the videos too, right? There seems to a correlation there.

I’ve never liked music videos much, as I’ve always felt they detract from the importance of the music itself. And I was a teenager at the peak of MTV’s popularity, during which the now-irrelevant video channel rode the success of the late-1980s and early-1990s hairbands to odious heights. But, a great music video does have some neat potential in selling an artist. Look at Weezer. Where would they be if the fantastic Happy Days-themed video for Buddy Holly hadn’t placed them unforgettably in our collective conscience?

The music video is all but dead as a commercial tool for artists. I can’t say it bothers me much, but I do get a bit nostalgic for the days when a band could use the medium to do something new and exciting.

Then again, who’s doing anything new and exciting in popular music itself?


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