When we heard FACT were planning an ultra-special exhibition dedicated to pop videos this year, we were kinda-sorta-very excited. Music videos have gone through varying states of flux – from MTV’s glory years, with 24/7 music video programming, to the on-demand streaming of YouTube, but they’ve always been one thing: relentlessly creative. These short bursts of pop promo were often more boundary-pushing and thrilling than full-length movies, experimenting with new ways of expression and new technologies. ‘The Art of Pop Video’, kicking off at the Wood Street multimedia centre from this week, features a slew of the best and most interesting videos, and shows a gradual shift in the way we consume and produce moving image.
To celebrate the exhibition’s opening, we’ve come up with seven of our favourite videos ever – from the 70s to the present day. We’ve had to miss out loads. Leave a comment below with some of your favourites.
Bjork – All Is Full Of Love
To be honest, Bjork could fill all seven of these slots – from her relationship problems with a cat to surfing rivers with massive puppet buffalo to a surreal song ‘n’ dance epic, she’s got an uncanny knack for working with creative and visionary directors. ‘All Is Full Of Love’ is her classic, though – directed by Chris Cunningham, its tender love story between two (Bjork-faced) robots fits perfectly with the song’s juddering, haunting beauty. Unforgettable.
ABBA – The Winner Takes It All
It’s easy to carp at the 70s aesthetic now, but ABBA’s videos (directed by the great Lasse Halstrom) really did push the art form forward, and somehow managed to walk the line between bitter and sweet in that way only Scandinavians can. Take ‘The Winner Takes It All’ – it’s the perfect mini soap opera, all wistful flashbacks, Bergman-esque isolation and meaningful middle-distance stares. Agnetha never looked more vulnerable than when she implored ‘tell me, does he kiss/like I used to kiss you?’. Bjorn, it might be a mini masterpiece, but you’re such a cruel bastard.
Daft Punk – Da Funk
Few videos have that ‘I remember where I was when I saw it’ vibe. This sublime Spike Jonze canine caper did. And how. Charles the dog, your place in dance music history is, probably, more secure than that little fella in the HMV logo. New York never looked scuzzier. Or sexier. Spike Jonze is responsible for many mini epics, from Weezer’s Buddy Holly to the aforementioned ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ by Bjork. But the dog, well, he gets the bone.
MIA – Bad Girls
This visually rich promo for MIA’s ‘Bad Girls’ last year quickly notched up millions of YouTube hits – and it’s easy to see why. MIA and collaborator Romain Gavras use Morocco’s street racers, with drivers doing doughnuts and drifting, and colourfully adorned women clutching AK47s, as a powerful visual accompaniment to ‘Bad Girls’ and its syncopated world-town hip hop. It’s an onslaught of great, iconic imagery: the scene where MIA nonchalantly files her nails on top of a drifting car is one of the most badass bits in any music video, ever.
Kate Bush – Cloudbusting
Arguably Kate Bush’s best, this Julian Doyle-directed video features Donald Sutherland playing famous psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, with Bush as his eager, energetic son. Doing justice to the stratospheric-sized song, it’s a totally epic bit of filmmaking – more like a short film than a music promo, which snowballs to a dramatic climax.
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
Yes, we know we could’ve put the riotous ‘Sabotage’ in here. It’s been in every Greatest Music Video ever list since it premiered. But for us, there’s just something about ‘Intergalactic’ – it’s looks, energy and fun – that still feels utterly fresh over a decade on. The Beastie Boys always knew how to marry visuals with their music, and this borderline surreal trip around Tokyo, with nods to Japanese movie monsters, rides perfectly with their future-thinking superhero hip hop.
Weezer – Buddy Holly
Yet another Spike Jonze classic (his others, including Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’, are an exercise in smart music video making), this video for powerpop heroes Weezer was one of the most memorable of the 90s. The band, in preppy 50s getup, are cleverly superimposed into an episode of Happy Days, with the show’s best characters interacting around them. It’s a snappy, hilarious spark of genius, and one of the greatest vids of the MTV generation.
The Art of Pop Video
FACT, Wood St, Liverpool
Thursday 14 March – Sunday 26 May 2013