MTV is turning 30.
Remember back in the day when they actually played music videos? MTV launched on Aug. 1 at 12:01 a.m. in 1981. The first video ever aired was the Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.” MTV plans to commemorate the moment by replaying the first hour in MTV history at 6 a.m.
MTV was a pioneering network for music videos. For me music videos are a nice addition but the music needs to be good. A good video simply enhances an already good song. A bad video finds a way to detract. Here are my top five videos, in no particular order, to air on MTV.
Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns n’ Roses, 1988
I really appreciate the simplicity of the Sweet Child O’Mine video. It features a number of great shots of the band performing and I’m glad they focus just on Slash’s guitar during the solo. Seeing the speed and precision that he has on the guitar is something you can’t get just listening to the song. It’s the perfect way to emphasize the level of talent the band has. The video gets a little unnecessarily manic towards the end but it in no way takes away from the song and video as a whole.
Closer, Nine Inch Nails, 1994
Trent Reznor is a crazy person, but he somehow makes it work. The shot of the heart beating the chair is somehow one of the more perfect images for a music video. Despite the video appearing to be something in a drug hallucination, it all fits with the music. If someone asked what the Closer music video should be, the chaos on screen is. It would be impossible to imagine and yet makes total sense.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana, 1990
It certainly helps that this my favorite song of the 90’s, but the music video does the song justice. Performing in a busted down gym is grunge. The video wouldn’t make sense if it resembled present day rap videos. Instead, performing in front of a small crowd on a basketball court is highly appropriate. The video addresses those addressed in the song too. Dejected youth are given a bit of relief in this video.
Walk This Way, Aerosmith with Run DMC, 1986
As this was one of the first Rap/Rock collaborations is perfect that the video begins as both groups complain to each other. Aerosmith and Run DMC found a way mash their two divergent styles together, and the video pairs them appropriately. Performing on opposite sides of the wall and then breaking through and performing together at the end underscores the magnitude of the song.
Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1983
I’d prefer to refer to this as a music film rather than video. The fact that it was released in theaters as an opportunity to garner Oscar support is further proof. It’s also nearly fourteen minutes long and a takes a long time to actually get into the song. It’s a ground breaking video and the song thriller is only a small piece of the video. The song is fantastic, and there would not be a music video without it. It is arguably the greatest music video of all time.
Source: Andy Greene, MTV Turns 30, Rolling Stone.com
Rock on the Net staff, 100 Greatest Music Videos ever made, Rock on the Net.com