It’s a funny thing for me to be encouraging people to watch music videos.
Unlike just about everybody else my age, I wasn’t a big fan of them when they came out. But after years of shunning them and not being into popular music, I found myself in the ironic position of working at MTV, VH1 and MTV2. Despite my initial resistance, working at those music networks was an eye-opener for me. I started in 1991 and was exposed to a whole new world I’d been avoiding for all the wrong reasons. My cynicism faded enough to recognize that when you get that perfect combination of director and musician, it is possible to end up with four minutes of art. Everyone else reminisces about the 1980s, but it was in the 1990s when the music video really evolved into something worth holding on to, for so much more than nostalgic reasons.
Leaving out Michael Jackson and Madonna, who could fill endless top 10 lists on their own, here, in no particular order, are 10 music videos worth remembering from the 1990s and 2000s. I hope they jog your memory too.
1. Lauryn Hill ‘Everything Is Everything,’ directed by Sanji (1998)
The needle drops, and New York City becomes the ultimate turntable. I still have that romantic vision of New York City, so this video really spoke to me.
2. Soundgarden ‘Black Hole Sun,’ directed by Howard Greenhalgh (1994)
I was working at MTV when this came out, and people were gathered in the hallways and ushered into the office of one of the music programmers to watch the video. It was one of the moments that probably doesn’t happen over there anymore, but it was glorious.
3. Fatboy Slim ‘Weapon of Choice,’ directed by Spike Jonze (2001)
I was working at MTV2 at the time, and we were expected to have the channel on all day long in our office. No matter how many times this played, we never got sick of it, and we had music videos going all day long. It was like a present every time it came on.
4. Blur ‘Coffee & TV,’ directed by Hammer & Tongs (1999)
I fell in love with this video, hard. I was at MTV2, where we could play quirkier stuff, and this one captivated me. My sister-in-law is an artist, and she hand-painted a T-shirt with the little milk carton on it for me because I loved the video so much.
5. OK Go ‘Here It Goes Again,’ directed by Trish Sie and OK Go (2006)
This was a hard choice. Do I include “A Million Ways” because it was the first of the OK Go videos (and was made for about $200), shot in one of the band members’ backyards, and stopped us in our tracks no matter what we were working on? Almost. But then they added treadmills and blew my mind all over again. Do not try this at home, but do sit your kids down in front of this one, because they’ll love it.
6. Smashing Pumpkins ‘Tonight, Tonight,’ directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (1996)
My friends all loved the Smashing Pumpkins, but I found Billy Corgan’s voice just a little squeaky for my taste. But I had to admit that the video kicked ass. Watching it again today makes me realize that the song was pretty good too.
7. Björk ‘It’s Oh So Quiet,’ directed by Spike Jonze (1995)
Say what you want about Björk, the woman knows what to do with a music video. She always loved pairing up with visionary directors, and this video pays tribute to old-school musicals, which makes it even more fun because Björk is as un-old school as you can get.
8. Jamiroquai ‘Virtual Insanity,’ directed by Jonathan Glazer (1996)
The hat, the moving couch, the creepy bugs, the dancing…try not to let this video cheer you up. You’ll fail. No matter what everyone’s musical tastes were at the time, we all loved this one. (By the way, it’s a video game now.)
9. Weezer ‘Keep Fishin’,’ directed by Marcos Siega (2002)
Weezer + Muppets = amazingness. Plus the video was directed by Marcos Siega, whom I worked with on a game show at MTV. He was in charge of getting audiences for the show every day, which was a lot harder than you’d think. He was good at it, but he always talked about wanting to direct, and unlike so many other people who have said that, he actually succeeded. Plus he got to meet the Muppets! He did a whole lot of music videos and is now directing TV shows and movies. He realized his dream, which I have nothing but admiration for, and he was a nice guy so he deserves it. Also, for anyone who loved The Muppet Show, this video is hilarious.
And after my stint at those networks, I spent seven years at Fuse. I still can’t believe I was the girl who used to hate music videos, and i got paid to watch them for over a decade.