The 8 Ball 12.01.12: Top 8 Music Videos of 2012
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!
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We have officially hit the last month of the year, and you all know what that means…year-end columns out the ass. Yes, now is the time when we all look back at the last twelve months and pick out the best, the worst, the hottest, the most cringe-worthy, et cetera of the year in whatever we feel like covering. Here at the music division of 8 Ball headquarters we will be taking a look at our favorites in a few topics over the next month, and where better to start then music videos? Some have said that music videos have been on a decline since the fall of MTV (and later VH-1) as music video-centric networks, but for my money music videos have remained a significant, if not quite as essential, part of the music industry as it ever has. This year we had no short of good and bad videos and so let’s take a look at some of my favorites.
Caveat: A few quick notes on this one. First, the music video in question had to be released in 2012; there are some rare-ish cases where the song or album was released in 2011 but the music video didn’t come out until after the ball had dropped. Second, I was looking at artists who work primarily in music. There are a ton of great videos out there (mostly humor-based) that come from comedians or actors who aren’t a “regular part” of the music industry, so to speak. It’s a fuzzy line but usually obvious. One other thing: in terms of criteria, I just looked for the ones that appealed to me the most. In some cases it is artistic value, in others its pure entertainment. The song didn’t directly factor into any of them, as this is about the video and not the music. And finally, I apologize for the entries being a bit shorter than normal, but it’s been a rough week at 8 Ball HQ and I’m feeling under the weather, so I skimped just a bit.
Katy Perry – “Wide Awake”
Mumford & Sons – “Lover Of The Light”
Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”
First up on the list is one that might make a lot of people groan, as it was one of the most ubiquitous videos of the year. Seriously, you couldn’t look at a computer screen without seeing this video at some points and it spawned a thousand (or more) parodies due to its distinctive look. Its true that this video got seriously overplayed at one point, but there was a reason for that. I am not one who believes that popularity is equivalent to quality (Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, I’m looking at you too), but there are times when the two do coincide. What made this video stand out was the artistic vision by director Natasha Pincus, who drew inspiration from art by Gotye’s father Frank de Backer. The way that Gotye and Kimbra blend into the wall (and thus each other) is very well done, and I am a sucker for stop-motion photography. As I said this spawned a ton of parodies, but none of them (funny as they were) were quite as high of quality as the original.
There will probably be a couple people I know of who will go into conniption fits over Lana Del Rey being involved with one of the best of anything, but I really dug this video. It has such a grandiose scale to it that you have to sit back and give it a little appreciation; it is chock full of ambition and pretensions of artistic value, which always make for an amusing and entertaining mix. What the hell are the tigers there for, except to say that Lana has done something that Gaga hasn’t? And yet at the same time there actually is a pretty decent story running through the video, one that doesn’t need to be spelled out word for word the way that some music videos (Taylor Swift) do. Del Rey has attitude a-plenty here and you have to appreciate that; the heft production values don’t hurt either and fit very well into what Del Rey and director Yoann Lemoine were trying to accomplish. You can take issue with the song or Del Rey’s personality if you like, but the video is very damned well-done.
This video actually gained notoriety for this video when he accidentally had a typo in the opening bit that lists his daughter’s birthday (it was a simple typographical error, quickly fixed). Get past that embarrassing but funny anecdote and you have one of the most emotionally honest and revealing music videos of the year. The song is about Nas observing the growth of his daughter Destiny and the difficulties of raising her, with the video portraying such from Destiny’s visual viewpoint. It’s not a Will Smith “Just The Two of Us” kind of video; the camera viewpoint of Destiny shows that neither she nor Nas are intended to be viewed as saints here but instead two human beings making their way through life together as father and daughter, struggling with the various travails of being a famous father and famous daughter. In the days of celebratory, bling-filled and party-themed hip-hop videos, this is a refreshingly honest and sincere examination that is no less loving for showing off the rough edges of both of them.
Before you click on the video, a warning; this is the official “clean” music video but only in the fact that female nudity is pixellated. In other words, it’s not R-rated but it still isn’t safe for work. Anyway, that’s out of the way so let’s focus on what’s great about this video. It’s a fantastic concept, with the lyrics of the video playing out as an ongoing line that the camera follows, over Palmer and her bandmates and throughout the room in which the video is shot. It is simple stop-motion photography (which as I said I have a strong affinity for) but it also fits the song perfectly in terms of portraying the ties that bind us to each other emotional or in this case, metaphorically lyrical. It ends up serving two hats, both as the lyric video that has become the trend as of late among artists and as the regular music video itself.
This little steampunk, Victorian-style video for the debut single by indie pop act Of Monsters & Men is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. It plays out with a Georges Méliès-style visual sense, taking the band members by airship through a bizarre land full of sea serpents, angels, two-headed crows and a variety of other fantastical wonders. And then it gets to the main event, that weird-ass creature in the picture up there. There is something to be said for a group who doesn’t mind taking audiences on weird and wonderful worlds of adventure; there isn’t any kind of deep message or vast meaning behind this, it is merely an inventive and visually fascinating journey to accompany the song. I really appreciate that.
Jay-Z and Kanye West have both stayed mostly quiet on the musical front this year, being more interested in their personal lives with a new daughter in Jay’s case and Kim Kardashian in Kanye’s. They still had time to release this music video early in the year though, and for once the famously egotistical stars put the focus on something other than themselves. What did they put the focus on, you ask? A brawl between protesters of indeterminate origin and riot forces of equally-indeterminate origin that immediately had people speculating. Was it symbolizing the battle between the 99% and the 1%, some sort of weird Illuminati thing or something else entirely? I think it is open to interpretation and that’s exactly what the duo and director Romain Gavras wanted, to their credit. The video has some incredible visuals of the fight that breaks out, making it quite (excuse the pun) arresting. The muted color scheme makes it even more unique, making it one of the more memorable videos of the year.
You know, I could try to take for paragraphs about the aesthetic value and the themes or storyline of this video and how well it fits the song. But the thing is, none of that is particularly true. What makes this video so awesome? Pretty simply, the fact that Ben Folds Five utilized Fraggle Rock within the story of the video. If that doesn’t make you smile then you have no soul. The Jim Henson-made series is one of the great underrated gems from the 1980s and I love that the band brought them back for this. I don’t need any reason to put it at #2 besides that, thank you.
M.I.A. has her share of fans and critics. I am a measure fan of what she does; she has had some brilliant albums and some disastrous ones. We don’t know what category Matangi will fall in, but the “Bad Girls” is definitely a step up from the disaster that was // / Y /. But remember, this isn’t about the song; its about the video. And in this case, the “Bad Girls” video is incredibly entertaining. Like some of the better videos out there, this is really absurd in some aspects, but that’s sort of the point. Hate M.I.A. if you want but she has an uncanny sense of visual flair and that works to her benefit here as you have nails being filed on top of a car pulling a two-wheeler. That has a level of “What the hell?” to it that can’t be denied. It also does a great job of hitting on both the entertainment value and on a deeper level in terms of mixing cultures together in an empowering video that doesn’t have to be all “Who Run the World?” about it.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
One of my favorite videos that I didn’t think qualified being as they aren’t strictly musicians came from the Guild, who capitalized on the rise of geek chic with this little, remarkably funny and cool gem “I’m the One Who’s Cool”:
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.