What are the greatest conceptual music videos ever made, and where can I download them?
January 11, 2006 4:35 PM   Subscribe

What are the greatest conceptual music videos ever made, and where can I download them?

So I'm listening to R.E.M. today, "Everybody Hurts," and I'm thinking about the wonderful video created for the song. You remember, the one where the band is stuck in traffic, and we read the "thought balloons" of everyone stuck in the same traffic jam, and at the crescendo of the song, everyone gets out of their cars and simply walks away.

Brilliant little nugget of audio-visual goodness, really. I believe Spike Jonez directed it.

So I ask you: What are the greatest conceptual music videos ever made? By conceptual, I mean videos that are more than just video recordings of the band performing the song, concert-style. I mean videos that appear to tell a story that may or may not be associated with the lyrics of the song itself.

Bonus question: Where can I download these taste-treat sensations?
posted by frogan to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Paranoid Android by Radiohead springs to mind (you can try navigating their site... good luck).
posted by Steve Simpson at 4:44 PM on January 11, 2006

The one that comes to mind for me is Dave Matthews Band's Everyday. I'd explain it, but it's really something you need to watch on your own.
posted by charmston at 4:44 PM on January 11, 2006

An early video: a-ha's 'Take On Me' [video].
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2006

I should note that launch.com is an excellent resource for online music videos, however it needs to be viewed in IE.
posted by charmston at 4:47 PM on January 11, 2006

Tool's Sober.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:52 PM on January 11, 2006

Radiohead's Just will blow your mind.
posted by Jimbob at 4:52 PM on January 11, 2006

Smashing Pumpkins, Tonight Tonight (no link, sorry). It was modeled off of one of the first sci-fi movies.

There's a bad version of it on this site. Last row of the videos.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:53 PM on January 11, 2006

"Just" by Radiohead. Review/summary.
posted by IvyMike at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2006

Damnit, I've been straining my brain to think of filmclips that don't involve Thom Yorke somehow, but damnit I just couldn't. U.N.K.L.E - Rabbit in your Headlights. Check it.
posted by Jimbob at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2006

Check out the Director's Label series of DVD's. The best video film-makers are represented with their best works. It is an awesome collection of the best out there. A personal favorite is the Bjork video by Chris Cunningham, "All is Full of Love". I even saw it as part of an art exhibit in the Telefonica art collection in Madrid.
posted by JJ86 at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2006

While it was tremendously overplayed, and not as "abstract" as many other videos, I quite liked Pearl Jam's video for Jeremy.

Other great videos ranging from awesome artsy to moving concepts:
- Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice (Christopher Walken !!!)
- Metallica - One (overdone? cheesy? I dunno, I loved it)
- Tool - all of their videos, really, but I most liked Sober
- KMFDM - A Drug Against War
- Hurt - Johnny Cash (covering Nine Inch Nails)
- Bjork - Human Behaviour
- Aphex Twin - Come To Daddy (prepare to be disturbed)
- Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up (banned...)
- A-ha - Take On Me (definitely have to second it.. classic)
- Fatboy Slim - Praise You (for its sheer hilarity)
- Jamiroquai - Virtual Insanity (no "concept" so much as really cool effects)

Sorry, I'm drawing a blank on the more emotional concept videos a'la Everybody Hurts right now... but the above are suggestions of some great videos (some concept.. some not so much...)
posted by twiggy at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2006

First for Sabatoge - Beastie Boys?
posted by birdie birdington at 5:04 PM on January 11, 2006

Chemical Brothers, Star Guitar - directed by Michel Gondry.

It was the music video I dreamed about for years as a teenager, and then finally saw it and just flipped out.
posted by Remy at 5:04 PM on January 11, 2006

Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer
posted by Rothko at 5:04 PM on January 11, 2006

twiggys got it:

- Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice (Christopher Walken !!!)
posted by quin at 5:06 PM on January 11, 2006

Nearly every single Bjork video.

Nearly every single Michel Gondry video.
posted by wackybrit at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2006

And on closer look twiggy has it again:

- KMFDM - A Drug Against War

Though i will add

- Fluke - Atom Bomb (WipeoutXL baby!)
posted by quin at 5:07 PM on January 11, 2006

This Decemberists video for 16 Military Wives is pretty awesome.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2006

Not sure about downloading but check out the Director's Label Series Boxed Set - The Works of Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry. You won't find a better collection of music videos, all three directors are outstanding artists. All three are quite varied, with great imagination and story-telling.

Of those three, my particular favourites from Cunningham are 'Come to Daddy' - Aphex Twin (with infamous screaming monster), and 'All is Full of Love' - Bjork. Both are incredibly transporting and full of mood, though in very different ways.

Gondry's Radiohead videos are incredible dream-like stories.

But the winner has to be: Spike Jonze with 'Sabotage'
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:11 PM on January 11, 2006

Almost anything by Michel Gondry, but especially Star Guitar as mentioned above, and also Come into my World by Kylie.
posted by fire&wings at 5:13 PM on January 11, 2006

What about "Thriller"?
posted by elisabeth r at 5:13 PM on January 11, 2006

What about "Thriller"?
Strangely, one of Jacko's better make-up moments.
posted by Jimbob at 5:16 PM on January 11, 2006

Michel Gondry's video for Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water" is probably the greatest video ever made. Go out and buy (at least) his Director's Label DVD. But Jonze and Cunninghams are also worth the price if you dig music videos.
posted by Gortuk at 5:22 PM on January 11, 2006

REM's "Losing My Religion." Oh, the colors. The decadence.
posted by Jeanne at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2006

Michel Gondry's video for Daft Punk's "Around the World" is a classic in the medium.
posted by soiled cowboy at 5:40 PM on January 11, 2006

Bright Eyes' At the Bottom of Everything (which is on MTV's site) features both a plane crash and Terrence Stamp, which makes it cool in my book.

Also, check out this Metafilter thread.
posted by amarynth at 5:43 PM on January 11, 2006

Back to the roots: Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues
posted by Neiltupper at 5:45 PM on January 11, 2006

Dave Meyers is the American equal of Michel Gondry. His videos for Missy Elliot and Outkast are wildly creative, with a surreal sense of humor that works perfectly with those artists.
posted by soiled cowboy at 5:51 PM on January 11, 2006

I remember when I first saw the video for "Weapon of Choice". I thought that nobody had to ever make another music video.

Looking at the recent Directors Label releases recently, Mark Romanek's are worth checking out, esp "Hurt" (mentioned already) and "Closer". Jonathon Glazer's includes the afore-mentioned "Rabbit In Your Headlights" video (which loses some of its impact when you realise the apparently mentally challenged chap in it is also the guy from one of Glazer's Stella Artois advertisements).

Anyway, the video for "Everybody Hurts" is a little too earnest to be directed by Spike Jonze. It was actually directed by Jake Scott.
posted by John Shaft at 5:56 PM on January 11, 2006

Trans Am's 'Futureworld'. Thread can now be closed.
(You can find it here)
posted by tristero at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2006

An early video: a-ha's 'Take On Me'

Seeing this play before Back to the Future in 1985 almost singlehandedly launched my interest in pop music. And it would have done the same thing with my interest in music videos, except for the fact I was disappointed in almost 90% of what I watched after that.
posted by weston at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2006

Pick up or rent "7 Television commercials" by Radiohead. Just, Paranoid Android, High and Dry and the visually stunning Street Spirit are some of the most amazing videos ever made.
posted by any major dude at 6:25 PM on January 11, 2006

Green Day, "Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life)"
Blind Melon, "No Rain"
Soul Asylum, "Runaway Train"
and nth for A-ha "Take On Me"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:43 PM on January 11, 2006

Best Radiohead video EVER: No Surprises. Music videos don't often blow me away. That one did.
posted by Decani at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2006

"Midnight Creeper" by the Eagles of Death Metal is creepy, extremely violent, quite graphic, and will stick in your mind for a long time after watching it. (Quicktime movie)
posted by justonegirl at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2006

"Doesn't Remind Me" by Audioslave.
posted by danwalker at 6:50 PM on January 11, 2006

Ladytron - destroy everything you touch. (WMV link)

Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar. (nothing special, until you notice the link between the audio and the video, Autechre's gantz graf video really takes this sort of thing to the next level, but is hard to find)

Pharcyde - Drop (all filmed in reverse, so all the lipsynching is done is reverse)
posted by subtle-t at 6:50 PM on January 11, 2006

FWIW, my fave music video of 2005 was OK Go's "A Million Ways". It's not a "performance" in the typical sense, and has some good music-to-dance synchronization. It's watchable online (I saved it to a QuickTime .mov, but YMMV).
posted by wackybrit at 6:57 PM on January 11, 2006

I'm not sure this quite qualifies as conceptual, but since this thread has acquired an unofficial sub-heading of "tell us your favorite Michel Gondry video" I'll say "Fell in Love with a Girl" by White Stripes.

I don't think I've ever been so taken by something I saw on TV (or computer actually) as that whole video rendered in LEGO. Every once in a while I'll see something so stunning, and surprising, and perfect that it makes me laugh out loud for joy. That video did that for me.

I also bought the "White Blood Cells" CD on the strength of that song alone, and while I was disappointed that more of the songs weren't like (crunchy-punky), I fell in love with it nonetheless.
posted by hwestiii at 7:00 PM on January 11, 2006

The most vivid memory of a video that blew me away was Peter Gabrielle - Sledgehammer.

I agree with previous post re Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham.

Also think the Gorillaz stuff is good.

The Warp vision DVD is good, has some interesting stuff including early vids (Such as Aphex Twin - On) directed by Javis Cocker.
posted by richtea at 7:01 PM on January 11, 2006

I was most blown away by the entirety of Daft Punk's Discovery being put to original anime in Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. Without dialogue, the music and the visuals still manage to come together perfectly in terms of mood and what's going on in the plot. Throw in a (admittedly, heavy-handed) critique of the record industry, alien pop bands, an intergalactic rescue missions, and a great sense of humor, and you've got a classic!
posted by themadjuggler at 7:01 PM on January 11, 2006

Radiohead's Just will blow your mind.

Look what I found!
posted by knave at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2006

Can't totally vouch for the high concept aspect, but several of Busta Rhymes's early videos (like "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See") had some absolutely stunning visuals and bizarre flow, and (to my mind) represent some of the all time best videos, hip hop or otherwise, ever made.
posted by saladin at 7:29 PM on January 11, 2006

My favorite is Blur's Coffee & TV
posted by JeffL at 7:44 PM on January 11, 2006

Savage Garden's "Crash And Burn" is beautiful and showcases different aspects of communication very nicely.
posted by divabat at 7:51 PM on January 11, 2006

KLF -Justified And Ancient. With added Tammy Wynnette goodness.
posted by Joeforking at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2006

i can't remember the name of the band or the song but i saw the video 15 years ago on mtv

it was punk rock music and the video consisted solely of a shot of a pair of speakers

it doesn't get any more conceptual than that, folks
posted by pyramid termite at 9:04 PM on January 11, 2006

That one's "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements.
posted by furiousthought at 9:07 PM on January 11, 2006

Actually, Gondry's video for Bjork's "Bachelorette" is the best one. It's also on the Director's Label Series DVD. You can find it online here, but the small-ness of the online video kind of sucks.
posted by sad_otter at 9:38 PM on January 11, 2006

"Since I Left You" and "Frontier Psychiatrist", both by The Avalanches.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:29 PM on January 11, 2006

Rilo Kiley's "Portions For Foxes" (available on their website) features a strange taxidermy contest and is otherwise awesome.
posted by rafter at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2006

Another vote for Just by Radiohead. The best concept video EVER by far.
Drop by Pharcyde as previously mentioned.
Toes Across the Floor by Blind Melon. Not sure they released it, it was right when Shannon Hoon died.

An unreleased video that was amazing wa Beasie Boys Get It Together from Ill Communication. I interned at the Capitol Records Music Video dep't in 1996 and saw this video byt they couldn't get clearance for all the old school kung fu clips it contained. Wish I had a copy, it was amazing.

Also, how about Nine Inch Nails Closer?
posted by Chuck Cheeze at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2006

Really old, but really good: Money for Nothing.
posted by paulsc at 5:50 PM on January 12, 2006

Personal recommendations:

Snow Patrol: Chocolate has the usual apocalyptic doom-laden countdown scenario - but with a great pay-off.

Faithless: We Become One - for the juxtaposition of the singer's serenity and the rage of the police/fans around him.

George Michael: Fast Love - for the ultimate in the stupidity of depicting virtual reality on a linear medium. Plus George Michael kung-fu dancing in the rain.

For visual FX, I do love the feel behind the Pet Shop Boys: You only tell me you love me when you're drunk.

Also, a namecheck for Sugar Water, Just and All Is Full of Love.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 5:01 PM on January 13, 2006

this is on the Jonze Director's Series DVD (which I highly recommend, along with the Gondry), but I'll point it out anyway: the video for Wax's California is incredible.

another good collection of music videos is the Stones Throw 101 CD/DVD. X-files parody, comic books, and some nice hippety-hop to boot.
posted by carsonb at 6:32 PM on January 13, 2006

Another vote for Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer.

I was just thinking about the REM* video Everybody Hurts last night. It was filmed in San Antonio along I-10 just northwest of the downtown area. I used to drive that route regularly.

*Genre: acronym rock, along with U2, UB40, etc.
posted by neuron at 8:41 PM on January 13, 2006

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