A good music video is as monumental as a good song or album. It'll embed itself into your consciousness in a manner that resists forgetting. It will become a gold standard by which you esteem other works of art. But most crucially, it'll be a window through which to regard the emotional and aesthetic parameters of the human experience.
That's why we've enlisted the expert opinion of Singaporean filmmaker Chai Yee Wei, whose 2017 film Benjamin's Last Day at Katong Swimming Complex, won Grand Prix in the George Lucas Award 2018, and was up for nomination at the 2019 Oscars, to esteem the merits of five legendary music videos.
It's the most iconic music video, ever. It blurs the line between music video and short film. It set a new precedent for music videos. Is it the best of Michael's music videos? No. But it points to the direction he'll go for the rest of his career. John Landis, who worked on 'Thriller', also directed An American Werewolf in London, so you can see where 'Thriller' comes from. It was on film; the choreography was superb. He turned it into an art form and he used it to brand himself: No one will forget that red jacket. And going forward, he only ever worked with famous directors on his music videos to make sure they have that cinematic quality. He has used his medium very well.
'Smells like Teen Spirit'
The imagery of this music video is so strong and iconic – it exemplifies the band so well. The song deals with consumerism and the materialistic world of music but Kurt Cobain didn't really use what is expected of the imagery. You have scenes of cheerleaders and fans intercut with an old man dancing to the music. The combination of all that is very avant-garde. That's why it's gone down in pop culture in such a deep way. Like the song, the video is phenomenal.
It's the only video from the list that was shot live. She's really good at using images. It's practically a live show. But the audience isn't live. She's designing how her performance is going to be viewed by her audience, on YouTube, at home, and not in the studio. Whoever came up with the idea knew they were going to capture people's attention. It's a live performance that like a music video that's rolling in real time. I think it's fantastic. For years to come, people will be talking about it.
'Losing My Religion'
They're playing with the idea of opposites. It's similar to why I chose 'Smells like Teen Spirit'. They use a lot of the iconography of fallen gods and they play on the word "religion" but the song isn't about religion, per se. In the music video, they've unlocked an alternative interpretation of their songs. That's one of the main reasons why music videos are necessary. From what I recall, they tried to but couldn't choreograph a dance that would work.
'Nothing Compares 2U'
That's an example of you don't have to have something complex or think too far to make something powerful. That particular video won Video of the Year at one of the MTV Video Music Awards. Just having a camera locked on her allowed her emotions to run. You know a tear is coming. So you wait for it. It's so simple and so good.
'Take On Me'
I chose this one to affirm that if a music video is executed well, it will be timeless. This was done in the '80s but it could also possibly be done today. It will still not look dated. It has 'lived beyond the artists who made it, like 'Bohemian Rhapsody', the song and the video.