Music videos used to be the lifeblood of MTV and pop culture. While videos on YouTube are still wildly popular, the art form has suffered over the past decade as MTV and VH1 have moved away from showing them.
Frankly, I miss when music videos were important. Good ones told a story that connected a song’s lyrics to the audience through a visual medium. With that in mind, we at The Big Lead wanted to rank the top 50 music videos of all-time.
A quick note on the criteria we worked off of. Most importantly, the song had to be good. If a great video was matched with a bad song, what was the point? We also trended towards videos that were different or even groundbreaking. A straight performance video wasn’t getting on this list no matter how cool it was. Concepts and directing matter, as did strong, interesting visuals.
Alright, enough explanation. Here’s our list of the 50 greatest music videos of all-time.
(Some of the following videos contain graphic imagery and/or NSFW lyrics. Consider yourself warned.)
50. Freaks and Geeks — Childish Gambino
There’s something cool about a single-shot video and Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) nails this one. Without the camera moving much or any visual tricks, this is an intense, energetic video. It was also his first video and helped launched what is now a wildly successful rap career. Oh, and the lyrics are absolute fire.
49. Firework — Katy Perry
Say what you want about Katy Perry, but the girl knows how to make a pop song. This won the 2011 VMA for Video of the Year and it’s not hard to see why. While it may not be my kind of music, this video has more than a billion YouTube views for a reason. It’s an endlessly catchy song accompanied by a video with a social message.
48. Losing My Religion — REM
Directed by Tarsem Singh (yeah, the guy who did The Cell and The Fall directed this video), this video won Video of the Year at the 1991 VMAs. While REM just wanted to do a straightforward performance video, Singh sold them on a dream-like vision that gets a little weird. Somehow the fusion of the two styles works and creates an iconic video.
47. Fell In Love With a Girl — The White Stripes
The White Stripes had a number of visually incredible videos, this one fuses the song and video concept perfectly. Using Lego animation, this video was painstakingly crafted shot-by-shot with director Michael Gondry rebuilding the bricks each time to create the movement. The end product was worth it though, as the video serves to enhance the song, which is the whole point of the medium.
46. Hotline Bling — Drake
“Hotline Bling” has a minimalist concept, and while we can endlessly debate whether or not Drake can actually dance, there’s no doubt something about this video is captivating.