Iconic music videos of the 80s and 90s?
October 2, 2013 11:43 AM   Subscribe

One of my good friends had very little interaction with pop culture through childhood and most of college, and so missed out entirely on the now-classic music videos that were airing on MTV and VH1 up through the mid-90s. They're interested in improving their music video literacy, so I'd like to put together a playlist for them. Help me make sure I don't miss anything!
posted by Narrative Priorities to Media & Arts (49 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Michael Jackson's Thriller and Genesis' Land of Confusion are the two that come immediately to mind.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:47 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

A-ha's Take On Me.
posted by *s at 11:50 AM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer
posted by BurntHombre at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

I can't link to them from work, but these should be easy enough to find:

"Take on Me," a-ha
"Groove Is in the Heart," Dee-Lite (I swear, I spent years thinking this was a parody, but it's note-perfect for its time)
"Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard
"Money for Nothing," Dire Straits (for computer animation fans)
"Sledgehamer," Peter Gabriel (for claymation fans)
"Land of Confusion," Genesis (for puppet fans)
"Mediate," INXS (often paired with "Need You Tonight" -- it's a ripoff of Dylan's video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues," but it's a good one)
"Billie Jean," Michael Jackson
"Thriller," Michael Jackson (the long-form one)
"Say Say Say," Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson (notable largely for the idea that you can tell a story that has nothing to do with the song)
"Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
"Everybody Hurts," REM
"Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor
"Tonight Tonight," Smashing Pumpkins
"Right Now," Van Halen
posted by Etrigan at 11:51 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I started to list a few Michael Jackson videos, and then realized that just about any Michael Jackson video is relatively iconic.

Madonna too.
posted by erst at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2013

You can Call Me All - Paul Simon
You Got To Fight For Your Right to Party - Beastie Boys
Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
Whip It - Devo
posted by brookeb at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Losing My Religion" REM
"Rock the Cradle of Love" Billy Idol
"My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" En Vogue
"Walk Like an Egyptian" the Bangles
"Hold On" Wilson Phillips
"Free Your Mind" En Vogue
"Vogue" Madonna
"Express Yourself" Madonna
posted by tafetta, darling! at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2013

Love Shack - B52s
posted by brookeb at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely check out this previous AskMe.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:07 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

As gnomeloaf mentioned, definitely check out my question from a few months ago. The answers might miss some of the more subdued/non-bombastic iconic videos, but there's a huge wealth of awesomeness there.

sldownard did everyone a huge favor by corralling most of the responses into three massive youtube playlists: one two three
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:22 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

November Rain - Guns N Roses
Sabotage - Beastie Boys
Everything Madonna
Everything Michael Jackson
Everything Tool
Closer - Nine Inch Nails
You Spin Me Round - Dead or Alive
posted by bfranklin at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2013

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. Which has the excellent professional wrestling crossover with Captain Lou Albano
posted by kimdog at 12:28 PM on October 2, 2013

"True Faith," New Order.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2013

Wild Wild Life - Talking Heads.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:32 PM on October 2, 2013

Not just "Rio", you're going to want every Duran Duran video released up until "The Wild Boys" and, perhaps, "Notorious".
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:37 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two (well, three) from George Harrison:

When We was Fab

Got My Mind Set on You (version 1)
Got My Mind Set on You (version 2)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2013

Pressure by Billy Joel.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:40 PM on October 2, 2013

Billy Squier - "Rock Me Tonite"
Thank me later.
posted by 1smartcookie at 12:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Missionary Man - Eurythmics
Cars - Gary Numan
Addicted to Love - Robert Palmer
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:45 PM on October 2, 2013

Burning Down the House (Talking Heads)

Close to the Edit (Art of Noise)
posted by see_change at 12:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
Pretty much the iconic video, since it was the first one MTV played.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Missy Elliott - Can't Stand the Rain
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
Janet Jackson - Pleasure Principle, Alright, Rhythm Nation, Nasty, If, Miss You Much..
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out
Beck - Loser
Hole - Doll Parts
Busta Rhymes - Woo hah/Got you all in check
posted by citron at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2013

Money for Nothing-Dire Straits

But you kind of had to be there.

We went from no channels at my house to cable and with MTV you could NOT leave the damn house. We'd sit there mesmerized by it.

Also, in Phoenix, a music store at Park Central shopping center showed music videos in their window, and we stood out there, in Phoenix heat, watching the damn things for hours, like those folks did in the fifties outside of appliance stores.

Then they ran a bunch of videos at the Valley Art Theatre in Tempe, and we sat through both showings. (This was when it was still an Art House.)

I don't know if it would have the same effect today. But really, being stuck in the house...such a thing at the time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on October 2, 2013

Prince, especially stuff from Purple Rain.

You Might Think, by the Cars

Free Fallin', Tom Petty
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:01 PM on October 2, 2013

Without exaggeration, the following videos were life-changing for my friends and me in the early '80s:

Ultravox, Vienna
Split Enz, I Got You
David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes
Adam and the Ants, Stand and Deliver
Blondie, Heart of Glass
The Clash, Rock the Casbah
U2, Gloria (and the whole Red Rocks video, in large part because We Were There)

nthing Duran Duran (esp. Hungry Like the Wolf) and Gary Numan's Cars
posted by scody at 1:21 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wreckx-N-Effect - Rumpshaker
Tag Team - Whoomp! (There It Is)
Snow - Informer
Kriss Kross - Jump

Common theme: varying combinations of broad hand/arm gestures and butts. With some backwards pants thrown in. Iconic to me, anyway. I remember being force-fed this stuff by MTV (via my older sibling). Love!
posted by mean square error at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Billy Idol - White Wedding
posted by intermod at 1:35 PM on October 2, 2013

Europe - The Final Countdown
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2013

I can see that everyone is embarrassed to bring this up, but the following are important to properly round out your friend's education:

Los del Rio - Macarena
Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart
Digital Undergound – Humpty Dance
69 Boyz – Tootsee Roll (this is how we twerked back in the day kids. Now slide...now slide...)
posted by Kabanos at 2:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I came to VH1 late, but these two are what I think of when I think of '90s videos:

Stay - Lisa Loeb
Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
posted by restless_nomad at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pearl Jam's Jeremy was iconic to the point that the band stopped making videos for years afterwards.
posted by kinetic at 2:53 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Safety Dance
posted by Kaleidoscope at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Absolutely Greg Kihn Band's video for "Jeopardy".

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - "The Waiting" and "Don't Come Around Here No More"

Elvis Costello - "Everyday I Write the Book"

REM - "Driver 8"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2013

This list is really 80s-heavy. Here are some 90s ones that are forever ingrained in my brain from way too many hours of watching MTV and VH1:

Fiona Apple - Criminal
Weezer - Buddy Holly
Beastie Boys - Sabotage
Beck - Loser
Green Day - Basket Case
NIN - Closer
Radiohead - Karma Police
Korn - Freak on a Leash
Warren G - Regulate
Counting Crows - Mr Jones
No Doubt - Don't Speak
Notorious BIG - Sky's the Limit
Jamiroquai - Virtual Insanity
Blur - Coffee and TV
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nirvana - In Bloom
Flaming Lips - She Don't Use Jelly
Snoop Dogg - Gin & Juice
Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice
Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight Tonight
Smashing Pumpkins - Today
The verve - Bittersweet Symphony
Foo Fighters - Everlong
Foo Fighters - Big Me
Bjork - It's Oh So Quiet
Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up
Fatboy Slim - Praise You
Chris Isaak - Wicked Game
Tribe Called Quest - Scenario
Britney Spears - Baby One More Time
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
Salt N Pepa - Shoop
Salt N Pepa - Whatta Man
TLC - Creep
TLC - Waterfalls
posted by emily37 at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is nobody else going to mention Sir Mix-a-Lot's definitive contribution, "Baby Got Back"?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Chris Isaak- Wicked Game
posted by fshgrl at 5:28 PM on October 2, 2013

Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box
Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet with Butterfly Wings
Hole - Violet
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give it Away
Bjork - Human Behavior
Radiohead - Just
posted by John Cohen at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2013

George Michael - Too Funky.
posted by goo at 6:16 PM on October 2, 2013

Opposite ends of the music video artistic scale:

Police - Every Breath You Take
Hall & Oates - Private Eyes
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:40 PM on October 2, 2013

I lost my MTvirginity to The Tubes' "She's a Beauty." A classic for sure.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:55 AM on October 3, 2013

Late to the thread, I know, but you can't have iconic 80s without Huey Lewis:
I Want a New Drug
Heart and Soul
Heart of Rock and Roll
Power of Love
Hip to be Square

And David Bowie's Modern Love was the one that kept me glued to the TV set. Loved the bow tie.
posted by underthehat at 6:15 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Herbie Hancock - Rockit

Also, Thomas Dolby's She Blinded Me With Science is a classic video from the 80s but I can't seem to find an official video of it you YouTube.
posted by Gev at 7:52 AM on October 3, 2013

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