12:01 am, 1 August 1981. MTV launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock n’ roll.” Soon after, video killed the radio star. Throughout the decade MTV was eulogized more than Reagan’s victory in cold war. Unlike most immigrants who live in the US for the superiority of the dollar, I chose to live in the US for its rock culture that MTV showcased in my formative years.

In the 90s, Beavis and Butthead advocated aberrant behavior to redeem MTV shirt sales, and later with “The Real World,” the M in MTV stood for “Most anything than music.” The first 10 years of the new millennium, monolithic video outlets died. But even if MTV and VH-1 have become derelict in the new millennium, music video democracy was at an all-time high with scores of websites: YouTube, Vimeo, and Daily Motion. Internet killed the video star.

This page commemorates the thirty most brilliant music videos that this paradigm-shifting thirty years gave mankind

Artist: Tyler, the Creator
Video for: “Yonkers”
Directed by: Wolf Haley
Label: Odd Future
To a certain mindset, this is the best video of all time

Artist: Liars
Video for: “Scissors”
Directed by: Andy bruntel
Label: Mute
Majestically disturbing

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Video for: “Watching the Planets”
Directed by: Wayne Coyne and George Salisbury
Label: Warner Bros.
Transformative chaos captured extravagantly on video

Artist: Björk
Video for: “Wanderlust”
Directed by: Encyclopedia Pictura
Label: Downtown
God bless for its spectacular allegorical struggle of wonder vs. worry

Artist: Grizzly Bear
Video for: “Knife”
Directed by: Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch (Encyclopedia Pictura)
Label: Warp records
Symbolic representations of interaction with matter, medicine, and magic

Artist: The Pipettes
Video for: “Your Kisses are Wasted on me”
Directed by: Benchmark Productions
Label: Naive
Sometimes it is the audience that propels a low-budget video into an authentic novelty

Artist: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy/Matt Sweeney
Video for: “I gave you”
Directed by: Michael Piscitelli
Label: Palace/Drag City
The emptiness of the video evaporates once the frame captures the baseball bat doused in human blood

Artist: Madvillian
Video for: “All Caps”
Directed by: James Reitano
Label: Stones Throw
The only cool comic strip

Artist: Johnny Cash
Video for: “Hurt”
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Label: Universal
There could never have been a better way to close the piano lid of the great American’s career

Artist: Royksopp
Video for: “Remind me”
Directed by: Ludovic Houplan and Herve de Crecy
Label: Wall of Sound
Toneless everyday British monotony in the glory of computer graphics

Artist: The White Stripes
Video for: “Fell in Love with a Girl”
Directed by: Michael Gondry
Label: V2 Records
If you can watch this and not love The White Stripes, you have a heart made of lego

Artist: The Avalanches
Video for: “Since I Left you”
Directed by: Rob Leggat and Leigh Marling (Blue Source)
Label: XL
New and refreshing with heart of surrealism

Artist: Squarepusher
Video for: “Come on my Selector”
Directed by: Chris Cunningham
Label: Nothing (USA) and Warp (UK)
Pure technical brilliance

Artist: Alex Gopher
Video for: “The Child”
Directed by: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
Label: Solid
A wild font party

Artist: Foo Fighters
Video for: “Everlong”
Directed by: Michael Gondry
Label: Virgin
Ultimately a video changed the perception of labeling them a Nirvana spin-off

Artist: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Video for: “Tha Crossroads”
Directed by: Michael Martin
Label: Ruthless
Inspired by Yama, the Hindu God of Death, the video is infernal when he takes the baby

Artist: Radiohead
Video for: “Just”
Directed by: Jamie Thraves
Label: Capitol
“If you lay down here, you could see the band playing up there”

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Video for: “Closer”
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Label: Nothing
Sadomasochist art illusions in sepia-tinged, dysmorphic film-grain sensationalizing morbidity

Artist: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Video for: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
Directed by: Rick Rubin
Label: MCA
With some songs it seems like there’s only one video that could possibly have been made for it

Artist: Nirvana
Video for: “In Bloom”
Directed by: Kevin Kerslake
Label: Mobile Fidelity
Fake Ed Sullivan shindig adds a lot of weight to this mock clip

Artist: REM
Video for: “Losing my Religion”
Directed by: Tarsem Singh Dhandwar
Label: Warner Bros.
Just to throw off the real intent, the music video is laden with religious imageries of St. Sebastian and Hindu deities

Artist: Sinead O’Connor
Video for: “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Directed by: John Maybury
Label: Ensign/Chrysalis
When the teardrop falls everyone absolves her for the SNL Pope incident, alleged lesbianism, and “All Apologies” cover

Artist: Joy Division
Video for: “Atmospheres”
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Label: London
Ian Curtis’ funeral in decayed black and white cinematography that hauntingly captures Britain’s post-industrial wasteland


Artist: Ministry
Video for: “Stigmata”
Directed by: Hypo Luxa
Label: Sire
Can’t think of any better film to be placed in the MOMA’s permanent collection

Artist: Genesis
Video for: “Land of Confusion”
Directed by: Jim Yukich
Label: Atlantic
Terrorism replaced cold war and Bush replaced Reagan, but still remains the demented world we live

Artist: The Replacements
Video for: “Bastards of Young”
Directed by: The Replacements
Label: Sire
Never before as the power of alternative music writ large on the accompanying music video

Artist: Coil
Video for: “Tainted Love”
Directed by: Peter Christopherson
Label: Threshold House
A pop music video that runs at quarter speed of the original version that can make you cry

Artist: Bronski Beat
Video for: “Small Town Boy”
Directed by: Michael Piscitelli
Label: Polygram
Puissant vignette about the vagaries of life of a homosexual

Artist: Michael Jackson
Video for: “Thriller”
Directed by: John Landis
Label: Warner Bros.
It is general consensus that this was the grandest epic ever made for MTV

Artist: Peter Gabriel
Video for: “Shock the Monkey”
Directed by: Brian Grant
Label: Geffen
Ahead of its times that only Peter Gabriel is capable of

Artist: Human League
Video for: “Don’t you want me?”
Directed by: Steve Barron
Label: A&M
All actors in the video look the viewer in the eye in this archetypal 80s new pop detective for Saturday morning TV kids


About Sudio Sudarsan

Sudio Sudarsan helps companies and startups drive demand and impact through more effective use of their brand, marketing, design, digital, and innovation assets. He teaches advanced courses in marketing to MBA students at premier b-schools in three continents around the world. You can follow him on Twitter @iSudio; view some of his retired presentations at www.SlideShare.net/SudioSudarsan View all posts by Sudio Sudarsan

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