Making a tune is one thing, but how do you elevate that from the studio into the bedrooms of millions? Even before the dawn of MTV, producers across the globe have been trying to crack that very question…
For bands perhaps it is easier, at least you can use the musicians ‘live’ doing their thing – or even just get them to jump around on a few treadmills – but if you’ve ever produced a track yourself, you’ll know that hours of knob tweaks and days spent hunched over a computer don’t make for a great movie.
With video possibly becoming even more important for exposure than we all could have imagined – especially over the past few months – we have taken a retrospective look back at the best dance music videos ever made.
These films don’t include the original artist ‘performing’ as previously mentioned, rather this is a list of the best dance music videos ever made that have used nothing more than the narrative, choreography, or song structure to explode the tune to the next level.
There is a half empty ‘fake’ Paris in China (as if you didn’t know) so where better to film 300 kids with bleached hair running around with an albino guy in a Subaru?
Romain Gavras obviously has ideas that most never will and we are very glad he had this one.
Spike Jonze has had a long and varied career – from skateboarding, to Jackass, to being a fully respected film director, but his music videos are some of his most famous work.
This flick for Fatboy Slim came from him being unable to direct the shoot for The Rockafeller Skank so he sent Norman Cook a video of him solo ‘skanking’ to make up for it.
That led to the Praise You film with Jonze dancing as the lead of the troupe.
It’s a flash mob well before advertising ruined the idea and cost the grand total of $800 to make. Tidy!
Directed by Chris Cunningham – the English auteur of music videos – who has a habit of making something genius and then disappearing again for years.
It’s a great piece of choreography which is taken to another level by the photoshopping of Richard D James’ head on some very scantily dressed female dancers.
I’m sure there were a lot of confused teenage boners when it was originally released.
Filmmaking duo Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) made this belter for DJ Snake.
Apparently they wanted to explore male sexuality and they whipped up an idea where dudes are so pumped up on ‘their own dicks’ — that they want to break shit with ‘their own dicks’.
It fits the tune perfectly, it is ‘incredibly absurd and awesome’ and perhaps might make you want to smash through walls with your ‘own dick’?!
Stress by name, stress by nature.
Another shoot directed by Romain Gavras, this controversial video matched the hard and uncompromising tone of Justice’s song.
Parisian rudeboys are followed by a (fake) documentary team as they tear a line of violence through Paris. Very clever and very raw.
A truly iconic video from Michel Gondry.
Taking the song structure and combining it with charismatic choreography and fantastic production design, makes this the type of creation everyone wishes they had come up with.
So simple and yet so hypnotic.
The film blew Daft Punk’s Homework into the mainstream.
The costumes were later reused in the video for LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Daft Punk is playing at my house’
Jonas Åkerlund made this first person romp for what has been called the ‘most controversial dance song of all time’.
And the movie tries its damn best to back up this accolade – tucking into coke, heroin, violence and hardcore sex all in the space of a few minutes.
The ecstasy excitement is then topped off with a cheeky end twist reveal.
Liam Howlett was quoted at the time for saying “No radio station was gonna play the song, so we thought we’d make a video that no one would play either.”
Michel Gondry is widely appreciated as a master of the music video genre and seeing as this is the second time he’s featured on our list of ‘best dance music videos ever made’ it is easy to see why.
Once again Gondry has understood the musical elements and separated them into beautiful rhythmic repetitiveness.
While it looks so simple, its greatness lies in the genius of matching every beat and sound in the timeline with the repeating structure of the visual.
It is technical gold and must have been a bloody nightmare to make.
So basically, in summary, if you want to make an iconic music film for your latest track then the best bet is to hire a mad French guy and let him go nuts… Good luck with that.
Words Jack McGinity
Jack McGinity is a senior colourist at post-production company Cheat based in London. He has worked on more than 500 music videos and was once thanked by Martina Navratilova for holding a door open for her.
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