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Greatest Music Videos of All Time

Using music and video together as a medium to tell a story can be a very powerful tool for communicating a message. Today filmmakers and musicians add Hollywood visual effects and other fancy tricks to make music videos have impact, but the pioneers of the format used their imaginations to push music videos to all new heights:

Artist: Bob Dylan
Song: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965/1967)

Bob Dylan, the Voice of His Generation, trying not to look bored in the groundbreaking music video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” (The bearded guy to the left is poet Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat classic “Howl.”)

How It Changed Music Videos: It was the first modern music video built around an artistic concept. The primitive black-and-white film was made to promote the song – the video was initially created for the 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary “Don’t Look Back,” which shadowed Dylan as he toured England during 1965.

It’s a pretty simple idea really, but one that has struck a chord with several generations of rock audiences. A guy stands in an alley holding a stack of cue cards. The audio from a rambunctious folk rock song starts to blast, each line of which is a non-stop barrage of hipster verbiage (example: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement thinking about the government”).

As the video progresses, the guy in it, rock poet Bob Dylan, drops each cue card after its corresponding piece of lyric has been sung in the audio. Dylan does not sing or perform the song. In fact, he shows no particular emotion, except mild irritation and boredom. When he runs out of cue cards, he just walks out of the camera frame, leaving puzzled audiences to try and figure out what it all meant.

Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: “Thriller” (1984)

With Quincy Jones-produced rhythms and Michael Jackson as a zombie, “Thriller” proved to be a genuine media event.

How It Changed Music Videos: By 1984, MTV had taken over control of the music industry; at this point, a new album or single had to have a top-notch video. Michael Jackson took the challenge and ran with it, making this first single song video epic from what would become the decade’s biggest album.

Jackson brought on film director John Landis to oversee the project. Landis was already a Hollywood power-player, having directed “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Trading Places,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “An American Werewolf in London” before tackling “Thriller.” For the video he was given a half-million dollar budget.

Jackson made multiple music videos to promote several tracks, but the “Thriller” music video was more than just a regular video, adding eight minutes of additional narrative to the song’s six-minute length. Thematically, “Thriller” was a G-rated creep show with a disco beat and which featured a vocal cameo by Hollywood horror legend Vincent Price.

The video was so popular that MTV was eventually airing the 14-minute video twice per hour. Jackson was hailed as a creative genius for his own remarkable dancing, as well as arranging the zombie choreography.

The video helped propel sales of the “Thriller” album to 110 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling album of all time. Never again would either Jackson or the music video be so big.

Artist: Nirvana
Song: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

Grunge started here…with deliberately low production standards.

How It Changed Music Videos: As the 80s progressed, video production techniques improved. Inspired by the massive success of “Thriller,” the trend toward lavishly produced videos continued. But not every musical act wanted to create an ultra-slick music video. Enter Seattle’s Nirvana in the early 90s, with a Punk-like desire to avoid seeming to be “corporate.”

So when the first Grunge band of note got ready to produce a music video for the breakout hit from its powerhouse album Nevermind, it had definite ideas about what it wanted. For its director, the band selected first-timer Samuel Bayer…specifically because he didn’t have much experience. Kurt Cobain (accurately) assumed Bayer would be technically inept and the resulting footage would have a raw, undisciplined quality.

The song became a major Alternative anthem and the music video a smashing success. Nirvana won numerous MTV Music Awards in 1992 and the Guinness Book of Records considers the video the most played music video on MTV Europe. In 2001, VH1 named it the fourth-greatest music video of all time.

Artist: Beastie Boys
Song: “Sabotage” (1994)

“Sabotage,” a loud and abrasive triumph of threat-screaming rage, was paired with the hilarious visual concept of the opening credits of a (fake) 70s police show.

How It Changed Music Videos: Part cop-show homage, part rock/rap blaster, the Beastie Boys’ greatest video was 100 percent pure fun.

The Beastie Boys were always highly creative when it came to making music videos. But the group’s signature music-video moment was directed by genius director Spike Jonze, who took a one-chord shouter from the “Ill Communication” album and turned it into music-video gold.

An instant classic upon release, the “Sabotage” music video was nominated in five different categories at the 1994 MTV Music Awards, yet took home no awards. However, fifteen years later, when the new category of “Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)” was introduced, the very first recipient was “Sabotage.”

Artist: Johnny Cash
Song: “Hurt” (2003)

“Hurt” is a song about reaching conclusions and sifting through all of what has come before.

How It Changed Music Videos: Plenty of “serious” music videos have attempted to make a statement, but none more powerful than this stark goodbye from the Man in Black. Nobody expected the most powerful music video of its year to feature the great Johnny Cash, then working in his sixth decade as a recording artist. But then, nobody had expected Cash to make one of the biggest musical comebacks of all time during the 90s, suddenly becoming wildly popular with fans young enough to be his grandchildren.

For the music video, director Mark Romanek used extensive footage and photographs from throughout Cash’s life, which were contrasted with footage of the 71-year-old man. Cash was weak and facing a range of health problems at the time.

The combination of music and visual images made the “Hurt” video one of the most powerful music-video experiences ever. The video received the 2004 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video and was listed as CMT’s top video for 2003 as well as the Number One greatest country music video for the following year.

In July 2011 New Music Express named it the best video of all time. Sadly, Cash himself didn’t get to see the video’s massive success; the Man in Black passed away seven months after the video was produced.

Make Your Own Landmark Videos
Music videos represent a perfect intersection between two wonderful art forms – but bringing the two together requires talent to create a quality video. It takes training, too, and learning how to make a music video is the perfect place to start. If you want to learn music & video production you need hands-on training in digital audio, music and beat production, and filmmaking skills, too. Once you have a good grasp of those things, you can take your idea and turn it into an award-winning and groundbreaking music video.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Music Production,Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

The Greatest Back-to-School Movies of All Time

Headed back to school? Looking for a movie to get you in the mood, or bring you closer together with your new class or roommates? No worries, we’ve rounded up the best “back-to-school” films of all time:

Election (1999)

What’s It About? A student and teacher go head-to-head for control of an Omaha High School.

Why It’s Great: The film stars two great actors – Matthew Broderick plays Jim McAllister, a level-headed high school history teacher while Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a human dynamo with ambition to burn – and features some of the funniest high school moments you’ll ever see on screen. Ranked by critics and entertainment publications alike as one of the funniest film based around high school, it’s perfect for back-to-school. The story? Tracy Flick is running unopposed for the high school student election. McAllister, who wants to see Tracy face a challenger (and then some), talks popular varsity football player into running against her. The rest of the film follows Flick and McAllister as they go head-to-head, again and again.

Trivia: Look for the Apples, which foreshadow major events. Matthew Broderick’s role reversal; in Election he plays a teacher while Broderick skipped school as a student on the lam in the 1986 film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Back to School (1986)

What’s It About? A millionaire goes back to college and ends up teaching the students and teachers a thing or two.

Why It’s Great
Iron Man’s Robert Downy, Jr. stars as a New Waver with a multi-colored “Flock of Seagulls” haircut. But what really makes Back-to-School great: Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon, a successful clothing store chain owner. Upon a visit to his son’s university, Melon begins worrying that junior is bombing out, so Thorton decides to enroll. Want to shake up your university? Then watch how it’s done, by a pro.


“Yeah, I took out an English teacher. That didn’t work out at all. I sent her a love letter… She corrected it!” BMOC (Big Millionaire on Campus) Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) talks with fellow classmates.

Dangerfield turns the entire university system upside-down. He hires NASA scientists to help him with his Astronomy homework, he gets help from author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (who makes an actual cameo) with a book report. From renovating his dorm room into a luxury pad to the epic parties he throws, Thornton Melon is a master at work. Dangerfield, who was one of stand-up comedy’s all-time greats, also co-wrote the story for Back to School, which ensures the one-liners never stop.

Trivia: Dangerfield helped mentor young comics, like Sam Kinison who plays Professor Terguson – but up-and-coming Jim Carrey, also was considered for the role. He was ultimately considered too young by casting directors.

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

What’s It About: A college fraternity stirs up trouble at college.

Why It’s Great: It features one of the greatest all-time comedy scripts and director John Landis’ Animal House still slays audiences whenever it plays. It is the ultimate college comedy – just as Caddyshack is the ultimate golf comedy.


John Belushi plays Bluto. Belushi flew between Oregon (where Animal House was shot) and New York during filming, as he was still a key player on Saturday Night Live.

The story? It’s 1962 at Faber University and fraternity rush is in session. But this year, university dean Vernon Wormer wants to shut down the loudest, most obnoxious frat house on campus: Delta house. However, the Deltas won’t go quietly or without a fight, even after the evil dean places the house on “double-secret probation.” John Belushi achieved instant screen immortality as “Bluto” Blutarsky, the loudest and most obnoxious Delta of them all. More classic comic moments than can be inventoried in an entire blog. “This situation requires a really stupid and futile gesture,” says Otter (Tim Matheson). Bluto: “And we’re just the guys to do it.” Boy, are they ever.

Trivia: Harold Ramis (Egon from Ghostbusters), co-wrote the film, and based many of the jokes on his own college experiences. When it debuted, this early National Lampoon-branded feature broke the bank (earning $141 million). It was made for only $2.7 million.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

What’s It About: Napoleon Dynamite, what’d you think it was about? Gosh!

Why It’s Great: Long before Glee started making high school misfits feel warm and understood, this film celebrated the King Kong of nerds. Preston (Idaho) High School student Napoleon Dynamite…his name all the funnier because it sounds like it should belong to a double agent out of a James Bond film…oozes nerdiness from every pore.


A nerd for the ages: Napoleon Dynamite has skills. “You know, like nunchuku skills, bow-hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.”

With his perpetually dulled expression, monotone voice and must-have school accessories (Trapper-Keeper notebook, a pants pocket full of cafeteria tater tots and the action figures he dangles from a string off the back of his school bus), Jon Heder was born to play this role. As Napoleon Dynamite progresses, it’s revealed that he’s surrounded (both at home and at high school) by others who are just as goofy, although sometimes in different ways. It’s incredibly quotable (“I’ve caught you a delicious bass,” “Pedro offers you his protection”) and has a unique Rogue’s Gallery of wigged-out characters. And just when you think Napoleon has been out-nerded by his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), then his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) appears and the competition really begins.

Trivia: Napoleon Dynamite showed nerds have box office muscle; this modest $400,000 film earned $46 million.

Grease (1978)

What’s It About: A pair of students who fell in love over the summer come to grips with seeing each other daily in school.

Why It’s Great: Grease is the original high school musical. And must be considered among the best back-to-school movies, because it’s set during one complete school year in 1959, starting with the end of summer vacation and plowing forward until graduation in late spring. Beyond that, Grease remains a blast of pure energy, still fun to watch more than three decades after its massive box office run.


Audiences continue to bond with Grease, the Grease Sing-A-Long is now a yearly standard at many outdoor music festivals.

The story? Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton John) fall in love during summer vacation, then find each other attending Rydell High that fall. Will Danny and Sandy stay together? Few expected the screen version of the hit Broadway musical (which ran for nine consecutive years and numerous revivals) to hold up as well as it has, but director Randal Kleiser’s movie perfectly captured the show’s infectious energy and all the cameo appearances from actors and actresses who were actually TV and movie stars during the movie’s time period are a hoot.

Trivia: At least three money-making hit songs came from the catchy soundtrack, including Frankie Valli’s title song.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments