There’s an extensive history of nightmarish videos going with heavier dance tracks, from The Prodigy‘s acid trip of Smack My Bitch Up to Aphex Twin’s eternally creepy Come to Daddy video way back when. I’ll never say a bad word about either, but really: Where’s the Squarepusher love? Despite this being one of the most genuinely terrifying videos I’ve ever seen, it remains an underrated enigma of a filmclip. Hardly anyone I know has any love for this clip – and that’s just plain old crazy talk to yours truly.
Set in a child’s mental institution in Japan, a jailbreak is hatched with a little girl and her dog. Her plan is simple: Get one of the guards and turn them into her dog using a brain-switcher. Yeah, this mental institution happens to have a brain-switching device for some reason. I don’t know. Don’t question it. What unfurls is a blood-pumping race of psychopathic proportions, which matches up to every last glitch and tweak that the song presents. It’s quite a feat, making the video even more involving and terrifying than it already was. Have to warn you all, though, this can and will give little ones nightmares, so if you have kids or are one then please put them or yourselves away. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
You guys! This is it!
I’ve teased you for long enough, dragged this fucker out as far as I could possibly stretch it. Now, at the end of the month, you all finally get to experience the ten best music videos released before December 31st, 2011 and after December 31st, 2010. Here, boys and girls, are Yes, We’ve Got a Video!‘s top ten for 2011!
10. Bon Iver – Holocene
Directed by Nabil Elderkin
I’ve often said that the best music videos can create a perfect atmosphere for the song that is its soundtrack. Many fine examples of this are scattered throughout the top 30, but I feel like very few came as close to this than the effort for Bon Iver‘s second single from the strangely-titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Shot in the breathtakingly gorgeous surrounds of Iceland, a little boy wordlessly explores parts of this glorious country. It almost feels as though time is slowing down when you watch this video, taking in the excitement and the awe and the utter wonder that comes with this little boy. It’s a video in which you can’t just watch while you’re doing other things, checking emails or poking the person you like on Facebook or whatever else have you. It’s a full involvement – and this alone should serve as proof that the art of the music video is not dead. Videos like Holocene matter – and if you didn’t know that already, perhaps now is the time.
Read my original blog on Holocene here.
9. SebastiAn – Embody
Directed by So Me
Here’s a left-field smash from a couple of eccentric Parisians – director So Me and electronica producer SebastiAn. The latter is certainly not one to shy away from confronting and confusing imagery – you only have to take one glimpse at his album cover for Total, in which he is making out with himself, to know that. Teaming up with So Me seemed to be the perfect match, then, as the robotic electronica track is turned into the soundtrack for a peculiar tale of dancing, imagination and being lost in the music. The entire time, the viewer is left to wonder how much of this is “real” – or, at least, as “real” as something can get in a music video context. The ending won’t help, either way. It’s all still up in the air. What does this young man represent as he dances throughout the town and in a variety of situations? I say it all depends on how much you invest in Embody, and how you respond on an emotional basis to this seemingly surreal montage. There are dozens of end results, subsequently, and that’s part of what makes this such an excellent video. Nothing quite like it came out in 2011.
8. Brendan Maclean – Cold and Happy
Directed by Peter Ireland
Top ten twice in a row? You’d better believe that Brendan Maclean and Brisbane director Peter Ireland are onto something. After the wild circus-tent madness that was Practically Wasted, the opening number from B-Mac’s White Canvas EP, the second single was a more subdued affair – initially, at least. Maclean has gone from a manic split personality of the slave and the master to a humble bingo night runner. It all seems sweet, up until a cheeky elder citizen decides to do something a little different with dessert than just eat it. You’ve probably guessed where this is headed, but it’s not the predictability that is Cold and Happy‘s selling point. It’s the utter charm of the thing – the liveliness, the sweet nature, the subtle streak of naughtiness. Cold and Happy is a joy to watch, every single time.
Read my original blog on Cold and Happy here.
7. Tyler, the Creator – Yonkers
Directed by Wolf Haley
Kanye West had no bones about straight-up calling this “the video of the year.” Not too outlandish – except, let’s remind you, that he said this back in February, when the video was released. Nearly a year on and he’s not too far from the truth. How could Yeezy – as well as Tyler, the Creator himself – have gotten it so right? After all, it’s not like Yonkers sets out to be anything inventive or fun – it’s quite intentionally an off-putting and ugly video. Shot in ghoulish black and white, Tyler raps on a chair before eating a cockroach, vomits and then hangs himself. It’s vile, it’s indulgent, it’s creepy, it’s… well, it’s utterly watchable and completely fascinating. For all of its efforts to turn Tyler into a vile creature, it becomes increasingly difficult to turn away from the video – no matter how much the envelope is pushed. Having Tyler himself as the central character with literally no-one else apart from the aforementioned cockroach in the video also engages you as a viewer in a very confronting one-on-one perspective. To me, Tyler was easily the water cooler act of the year – from this to the controversy surrounding the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All crew, it seems that nearly every music fan was discussing this very peculiar young man. I think the greatest thing that can be said, though, is this: whether you were a fan of the group or whether they sent you into a hyperbolic “think of the children” frenzy not seen this side of when Eminem was relevant, Tyler, the Creator made music fans feel something either way. Bold and brazen, Yonkers was definitely a clip that needed to be seen to be believed.
6. Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
Directed by Marc Klasfield
I feel like there’s been a major renaissance in the top 40 pop video in the past few years. You could certainly link this to acts like Lady Gaga, who took out the top spot in last year’s countdown with flying colours thanks to the game-changing Telephone. Overall, though, I think it’s just a case of a lot of pop acts realising that there is more to a clip than just to move numbers, and for gratuitous bitches and bling. It’s an art form, and one that can be celebrated no matter what walk of musical life you come from. Sadly, aside from outstanding efforts from both Ke$ha and Britney Spears, no pop act quite managed to cause quite the frenzy that Gaga did last year – not even Gaga herself, with a slew of mostly quite disappointing videos from her batch of Born The Way singles. May it be put on the record, however, that the divine miss Katy Perry came the absolute closest.
A singles and video machine, Perry secured two positions in last year’s countdown for Firework and California Gurls, but in 2011 she managed to make a video that was greater than all of her previous ones combined. Put quite simply, Last Friday Night was the pop video event of the year. Amazing, then, that this happened without Perry herself even appearing in the video. Not even once! There was a young lady who looked remarkably like her, though – thirteen-year-old Kathy Beth Terry, a daggy teen who simply got caught up in a whole heap of craziness one Friday night. Whilst trying to study, she became distracted by the party across the road, hosted by the adorable Rebecca Black; furiously heading over there to sort out the mess. The rest, as they say, is history: Hanson rock up, Kenny G plays a sax solo, Artie from Glee falls in love and kicks arse… all in all, it’s one hell of a party.
This easily set itself up as one of the most fun-loving and delightful viewing experiences of the year. The whole team really went all-out here, delivering a gorgeously glossy pop video that truly did take the meaning of the song to another level. The chunks of pop-culture-reference gold also makes this a must-see video for all pop trainspotters out there. See if you recognise who the parents of Kathy are near the end of the clip, for instance! There’s just so much to enjoy about this. Don’t act like you’re too cool for it.
Read my original blog on Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) here.
5. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
Directed by Daniels
Pretty much anyone who’s heard more than a fleeting moment of Manchester Orchestra‘s music is sure to confirm that this isn’t an act that does things half-heartedly. They are an all-in, often quite heart-wrenching experience – and that’s just from listening to them. It gets all the more powerful when given an audio-visual aspect, as proven with this stunning visual companion to the title track of the band’s excellent third album. In this clip – the second appearance in the countdown from the unstoppable Daniels direction team – a series of road-related experiences are tied together in a seemingly jumbled memory. It takes awhile for the whole thing to sink in and be properly understood, but holy mother of God when this thing hits…it hits hard. Artistic beauty, and something that everyone involved should be so incredibly proud of.
Read my original blog on Simple Math here.
4. World Order – Machine Civilisation
Directed by Genki Sudo
“I am around the odd section of YouTube once again,” exclaims a user of the site, commenting on a music video. It’s a common expression amongst users, often going down “holes” (in which one clicks on a related video, then the a related video of that related video, and so on), often coming across very bizarre and crudely-made videos the further they go down said “hole.” Were such a hole to lead them to something as original, creative and downright awe-inspiring as Machine Civilization, the stunning music video from Japanese collective World Order, one would have to think that the destination was more than worth the journey.
What can be said about a video that is bound to leave you speechless? A team of seven men – including Genki Sudo, the brains behind World Order and the director of the video – begin their journey at what appears to be Tokyo airport. From there, they defy both time and physics with some out of the ordinary choreography, moving from seaside wharfs to industrial lots with their shapeshifting dances. I’m not sure if dancing is the right word for it, but whatever they are doing… man, some of it just defies belief. If this video doesn’t make you stop dead in your tracks at least half a dozen times, you’re not watching the right video.
It’s worth mentioning all of it was done in real-time, too – all that shit that looks as though it’s totally warped and slowed down is a genius optical illusion. No kidding. Machine Civilisation is a shining example of exactly what can happen when one ends up on the odd section of YouTube. A song brought to life in a way that no-one could have seen coming.
3. Kimbra – Cameo Lover
Directed by Guy Franklin
To me, the most powerful command issued in pop music all year was probably the most simple – “Open up your heart!” as sung by the stunning Kimbra Johnson. Her noble quest to get the person on the receiving end of said command is brought to life through this clip, making for some absolutely wondrous results. It’s been a fantastic year for Kimbra, dropping her debut album in Vows and selling out shows all around the place. For all those achievements, though, I can’t help but feel nothing quite compared to the outright endorphin-releasing delights of the Cameo Lover video. Can you blame me? Have you seen this thing? With its technicolour landscape, delightful costumed characters… oh, and that ENDING! Holy shit, I don’t think any video has quite responded to the glory of a key change in such gorgeous fashion. I have watched this video possibly more than I have watched any other clip this year, and it still makes me as giddy as anything when I watch it. It’s just an absolute treat for the senses. Exactly why the hell HAVEN’T you opened up your heart yet?
Read my original blog on Cameo Lover here.
2. Children Collide – Loveless
Directed by David Michôd
Sometimes, sacrifices are made in order to create a great music video. It could be doing some crazy shit with fire, some mad stunts, even learning to jump rope (as the previously-listed Bluejuice had to do). In this instance, Children Collide‘s frontman Johnny Mackay sacrificed his most defining visual aspect – his long flowing locks – in order to create this dark, confronting and shatteringly powerful video. Seemingly not a big sacrifice – surely rockstars get a slab of “get a haircut” jibes all the time. Not only is this Children Collide’s best video, it’s amongst one of the greatest works of art this country has produced in the last few years. Hyperbole? Sure, if you want to play it like that. But watch this video from start to finish, without any distractions, and just see if it doesn’t feel like the visual equivalent of being punched in the guts.
There is no escaping Mackay’s desperation as he sits close to the camera, spitting out the lyrics with the kind of cathartic vitriol you can only imagine was in his mind when he wrote them to begin with. He begins with a headful of hair and a face full of clown make-up, both of which are forcefully taken from him as he sits there and gets what is coming to him. As the lyrics describe the demise of a relationship, Mackay himself lets go of everything resembling him – including playing the clown, explaining the Joker-esque makeup. An obvious metaphor, maybe, but don’t like it didn’t paint you curious the second his face appeared on-screen.
While there are a lot of very broad and powerful expressions here, I found the most impact in the subtler moments of the clip. Director David Michôd, responsible for the landmark Animal Kingdom, holds down Mackay in one scene with a firm headlock – a small but startling part of proceedings. At the very end, Mackay also runs his hands through his newly shaved head and freshly clean face… only for us as the viewers to find that he has been handcuffed this entire time. It slays me every time – this tiny little twist, one that most might not even pick up the first time around; representing the trapped, helpless feelings conveyed throughout both the song and the video. And it’s moments like these that make this video what it is. Loveless is a deeply personal and often quite scathing vision – essential viewing, but it may cut much too close to the bone for some. In many ways, that’s the point.
Read my original blog on Loveless here.
1. Gotye featuring Kimbra - Somebody That I Used to Know
Directed by Natasha Pincus
Yep. You probably guessed it. Maybe I’m that obvious, or maybe you’ve found this whole list to be predictable. Or – maybe, just maybe, there was absolutely no contest as to who would take out the top spot when it came to the year’s greatest videos. Think about it for just a second. Has any video from this year generated this kind of response? This kind of movement? This kind of emotional reaction? This many bloody reposts on Facebook? This was the year that Wally de Backer - best known to you and I as Gotye – became perhaps the most unlikely popstar Australia has produced this century, aside from maybe Luke Steele. Eyes Wide Open got the ball rolling – it fell just shy of our top 10 last year, coming in at number 11 – but the song and video phenomenon of Somebody is where the tide truly changed.
With body paint, stop-motion photography and no-one except Gotye and miss Kimbra Johnson (back so soon, ma’am?) in the video, this was a shining example of a living, breathing work of art. It takes you by surprise the first time. “Were they really butt-naked? That’s how much of their body covered in paint? How are they both that good-looking?” Maybe that last one’s just me. The second time, you notice the littler things – the apathy in Wally’s eyes in the first verse, the passion of that first chorus and the way he just winces as though a band-aid has been torn off his person after Kimbra sings to him.
As for Kimbra, it’s in the way she shrugs her shoulders and glides to his side. It’s that look of utter desperation and remorse when she howls into Wally’s face, while he never makes eye contact. By the time he does, it’s too late. They stare at one another from a distance – longingly, regrettibly – before it suddenly cuts to black. It should be noticed that this is when they are simply observed. It’s in the views that come after this – and, for most, there were more than plenty – in which the smaller pieces of the puzzle truly began to be felt. For many, it hit like a truck – whether you had felt the pain of either character, whether you were in the right or in the wrong, this video resonated. It smacked you in the face. It really made you think. With all of that in mind, how many videos can you honestly say has done that to you in this, or any other year?
Somebody That I Used to Know is a unique, artistic experience. A video that will certainly grow iconic in its status. A video that notched up the bar for Australian music videos and music video makers (kudos, Natasha Pincus) and still managed to clear it.
Video of the year? Of course – it’s the obvious choice, after all.
Read my original blog on Somebody That I Used to Know here.
That’s it! Thanks so much to all of the artists, all of the directors, all of the producers, cinematographers… EVERYONE who worked on these videos! Your efforts are remarkable, and if I could have given you anything more than my highest of accolades than I would in a heartbeat!
Yes, We’ve Got a Video! resumes normal programming this time next week. Until, then, make sure you’re caught up with the following:
Don’t forget to leave a comment below; or, of course, drop me an email!
See you guys soon!
“We are animals, anytime we speak…”
I’ve been meaning to write about this atrocity for quite some time. Longtime follower of the blog – and serial devotee to all things old school, both good and bad – Mr. Ryan Towers gave me a link to this video awhile ago. I’ve only recently recovered from the shock, and am now finally getting around to fully comprehending just how terrible this video really is. Let’s take you all back to 1982…
Now, here’s what happens in this video. Dudes get into leotards, wear plastic masks and generally have a bit of a creep around. They sit around a table, they wave their fingers at the camera and, at one point, carves up an apple in a weird, sexual way. Everything about this video creeps me out – there’s a major sexual tension between them, and watching it just feels like some kind of international sex crime. Sure, it was the early 80s and everyone was trying some weird shit in pop music, but I can pretty much guarantee that NO-ONE else got this weird. It’s just…ahh, I can’t deal with this anymore. Towers, you’ve cursed me for life.
Also of interest: Beavis and Butthead‘s review of the clip as a part of their “suckiest music videos” series: