Ah, the music video. No other medium to date can offer such a wide range of creativity or egotism (or, if you’re Kanye West, both) or fall flat on its face while trying for both. Some videos are great. Some aren’t so great.
And then some are overstuffed disasters that become hilarious with the passage of time. So guess which ones I’m gonna talk about!
#6. The Smashing Pumpkins – Ava Adore
A lot of people argue about The Smashing Pumpkins’ quality, but the one thing everyone can agree on is they made some crazy awesome music videos. And “Ava Adore”, lead single from their 1998 album Adore, is not one of those videos. In some bad attempt at the whole “goth” look, frontman Billy Corgan walks around while wearing what I assume are rejected designs of Harry Potter dress robes.
And it doesn’t go away. The whole freaking video is Corgan walking against some fantastically dated CGI background. If it was any one or two of these elements (the weird arm thing, the staggering walk, the awkward-not-seductive singing, or the “Marilyn Manson’s make-up artist had some free time” facejob) I’d let it slide, but this is just bad. And the rest of the band jumps in later, and it doesn’t make things better.
#5. Europe – Carrie
I could have made this list out of just songs from the 1980s. But one still gets me every time, and that’s Europe’s smash hit “The Final Countdown” “Carrie”. Every frame of the video is one cliche or another, but the real seller is Joey Tempest’s total misfire of a sad face. It comes off more threatening than anything else.
And when I say every shot is a cliche, I mean every shot. There’s the grand piano that somehow sounds like a synth, the dark background with the band drenched in light, the drummer rocking out on his own, and of course the flamboyant frontman. You can tell everyone here is putting every ounce of emotion into the song…which just makes “Carrie” that much funnier.
#4: My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay
Oh yes, modern music, you have your share of bad videos too. When I got the idea for this list, I just knew I had to include MCR, but the competition between “Helena” and “I’m Not Okay” was so hard I had to enlist outside help. And talking to those people led me to the following conclusion: “I’m Not Okay” is a lesser and way lamer video than “Helena”.
As they pointed out, “Helena”, despite the rather high lame factor, is actually a pretty well put together video. Some good choreography, pretty decent as a narrative, and it does have a pretty epic feel. Even if Gerard Way wears more makeup than a prom date.
Meanwhile, “I’m Not Okay” is a bunch of dorks trying way too hard without any substance to back them up. And I think they’re trying to be silly here, like Blink-182’s younger brother that found his sister’s jeans and makeup, but the video’s faux-trailer approach with the subtitles makes me think otherwise. Yeah, 10 years down the road, I’d be embarrassed to be in “Helena”, but at least it’s not a high school revenge trip done by guys who are a decade out of high school. Speaking of which…
#3. 30 Seconds to Mars – Closer to the Edge
So, speaking of lame hits from the present day, look what we have here. The first thing you’ll notice is we don’t get to see the band, instead, we have to watch a few awkward as hell teenagers talk into the camera. Now, I’ll get to the band proper in a moment, but the main source of lame in this video has to be the fan shots. You get great lines like, “I just wish there was no such thing as fighting. That the world could just be like, perfect, and everybody could get along…but obviously that can’t happen.” delivered over pictures of kids not quite looking at the camera like they were just told 30 Seconds to Mars killed their dog before filming started.
But I can’t just blame the fans for this, especially when the band adds so much to the entertainment factor. To be fair, most of the performance shots are pretty decent, and show a dedication to the fanbase not seen that much these days. However, the video also has as many slow-mo shots as New Moon did, and plays into the modern version of the “Alone in the dark” cliche that plagued “Carrie”. The other part of the problem is that the shots taken specifically for the video reek of overambition, like the guys in 30 Seconds to Mars forgot that they were in 30 Seconds to Mars.
Then there’s Jared Leto, our ice blue contacted, blond and pink mohawked protagonist. The first couple times I saw the video, I didn’t really mind him all that much, but I did some research. Turns out, he’s 38. No, I didn’t make a typo and mean to say 28, I mean that in two years, he will be 40. I ragged on Billy Corgan and Gerard Way for playing dress up, but being as old as your fans’ parents and still going around writing songs and dressing like that is just a cry for help.
#2. Lady Gaga – Telephone
Oh yes, I went there. When I started this list, I made sure to avoid cheaply made videos; the ones that came off as embarrassingly bad just because of a lack of budget or someone giving a damn. And for Gaga, nothing but the best can bring you the worst.
“Telephone” enters into a whole different realm of lame music video with the sheer excessiveness of it all. It’s a 9 and a half minute video for a song that doesn’t even crack the four minute mark. Before we get to any music, we’re “treated” to Gaga getting stripped, making out with another chick, and a random catfight, because this that’s what happens at a women’s prison: fanservice!
As Beyonce says, “this is a disaster!”. After being sprung from prison by Beyonce (just go with it, ok?), the two of them go to a diner where they end up poisoning everybody and there’s this “Let’s Make a Sandwich!” scene with tons of product placement, and just…yeah.
It doesn’t matter if someone says, “You don’t get it, they’re acting like that on purpose!” the point is, “Telephone” is still there. The lame factor here comes from how mindlessly over the top and messy the whole video is, the kind of mess that could only be made with complete control and a big budget. And on that note…
#1. Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
There are very few bands that are democratic, but few had the dictatorship that Axl Rose had on the classic Guns lineup. Axl’s vice grip on the direction of the band was so strong it inspired awe in despots and politicians everywhere, and you can’t find a better case of Axl’s control than the video for “November Rain”. Pick your place to laugh: Axl in full rock band gear sitting at the piano in front of an orchestra? The barn church transforming into plains while Axl plays? The glammed out other members of the band awkwardly chilling on stage?
Or maybe, and it’s my favorite part of the video (start at 3:03), where Slash discovers that he misplaced the ring, and has to rely on a backup. And it includes a hilariously hammed up “Oh no!” face on the priest’s part.
Speaking of the other members, it is so clear this wasn’t their idea. The most prominent member who doesn’t have “Rose” in his name is Slash, and even that might just be because he has the solo. The others huddle together from place to place (the stage, the table at the wedding reception) without doing much to stand out. And it ends with a funeral, which is either for Axl’s woman or for any integrity held by the band, I can’t tell which.
Well, this has been fun! See you later!