50 of the Most Controversial Music Videos Ever Made

Music videos may be more than simply a slick promotional tool for a performer; they can also allow the artist to delve deeper into the meaning of a piece.

However, the “flashing out” can be carried to extremes, resulting in highly contentious videos because they include scant or no clothing.

In light of this, we decided to count down ten of the sexiest, most contentious, and most divisive video songs ever, including those that not even rage will play.

1. “Subterranean Feeling Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, Produced in 1967

The “Blues’ video featuring Bob Dylan is among the most well-known early examples of modern music videos. 

Filmed in an alley outside London’s Savoy Hotel (yep, that’s Bob Neuwirth and Allen Ginsberg scrounging about at a distance), this clip features Dylan casually flipping through a deck of cards on video. 

With numerous lines crammed into a single tune, even Bob Dylan needs help keeping up, and his cue cards only touch at the concluding rhymes of every verse to keep up with his fast-fire lyrics. 

The straightforwardness of Dylan’s idea, filmed by D.A.P., came when The Beatles built an entertainment empire combining film and music. 

Pennebaker’s iconic documentary “Don’t Go Back” encapsulated all that people were to know about the impact music video would have on our minds, forcing us to consider music tracks in a novel visual context.

“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, Produced in 1983

2. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, Produced in 1983

The original video of Michael Jackson’s iconic hit “Billie Jean” is longer and wilder than people remember. Michael Jackson tries to hook up with Billie Jean, who has become an Internet sensation item, in a downtown street when a paparazzo approaches, hoping to take a compromising shot of him. 

Luckily, MJ outwits him by making bedsheets, concrete tiles, and lamp posts glow with his touch. Amazingly, MTV did not want to air the iconic shot of Michael Jackson strolling across the glowing squares. 

The initial few years of MTV’s existence were controlled by white musicians, even though they gave the world many unforgettable moments. CBS Recordings’ president threatened to publicly shame MTV for its blatant racism when he learned that the network had refused to air the song. 

When MTV finally gave in, Jackson became a global superstar, largely thanks to “Billie Jean.” Directed by Stephen Barron, another pioneer of the music video genre, “Billie Jean” represents as groundbreaking a music video as any before or since.

3. “Thriller” (1983) by Michael Jackson

People often consider the “Thriller” music video by Michael Jackson the best. John Landis’ video for “Thriller,” which is admirably epic in scope, portrays Jackson attempting to frighten his fiancée with the song’s verses before arriving in a cemetery full of living dead, bringing the song’s frightful film themes full circle. 

She’s understandably terrified, and it only gets worse when she realises Michael has transformed into one of the walking dead. 

Although the film’s production values and narrative are very high (particularly considering the official clip runs for an unprecedented 13 minutes), the zombie-themed dance sequence is still very effective nearly four decades later. 

We can watch it repeatedly and be equally impressed as the one time because the dancers executed the choreography well and were precise. 

The budget for “Thriller” was as large as any other music video at its release, and its influence on the genre was much more significant.

“Take It On Me” by a-ha, Produced in 1985

4. “Take It On Me” by a-ha, Produced in 1985

In a remarkable display of technical creativity, this song managed to turn around the fortunes of a commercial failure single. 

Although no one paid attention to the initial 1984 remix of this song by a-ha outside of the band’s native Norway, a stellar rerecording of this synthpop tune and a striking live-action and animated mashup video helped it acquire not just a worldwide sensation but also the artist’s signature song. 

The music video, directed by the famous “Billie Jean” creator Steve Barron, featured a-ha vocalist Morten Harkot and performer Bunty Bailey trying to escape a fictional world that appeared drawn by hand together. 

The music video, groundbreaking during its initial release, has inspired countless imitations and parodies. 

Due to the song’s success, Barron directed the music video for their next track song, “The Sun Ever Shines on Television.,” which features a cameo appearance by Harket’s “animation” alter persona. 

The band realised they couldn’t run away from the song’s success, so they embraced it and continued to release new music.

Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, Produced in 1986

5. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, Produced in 1986

Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel is a visual journey de force regularly discussed alongside Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the best music video ever. 

This genuinely bonkers stop-animation adventure, directed and produced by Stephen Johnson and featuring an international who’s whom of generation-defining filmmakers, was accomplished by letting Gabriel lie behind a piece of cut glass for sixteen hours while dozens of designers toiled to get each frame right. 

The visual aspect of “Sledgehammer,” which bursts with style and colour, dramatically altered the public’s impression of Gabriel, that had previously been seen as an art-rock oddball in Genesis and had taken that oddity with him after he moved solo. 

The internet has reinvented him as a weird pop sensation, with “Sledgehammer” fast becoming his lone number one in the United States. “Sledgehammer” continues to hit with the same creative intensity that earned it 9 out of 10 MTV VMAs for which the world recognised the song.

“Fat” by Yankovic “Weird Al” Produced in 1988

6. “Fat” by Yankovic “Weird Al” Produced in 1988

MTV’s egocentricity rose along with its prominence in popular culture. Pop star clowns occasionally made appearances, but when Michael Jackson hired none. 

Still, Martin Scorsese directed the music video for his smash hit “Bad,” the boundary between Hollywood and MTV began to dissolve. 

Fortunately, accordionist Yankovic, “Weird Al,” knew the best way to crush self-aggrandising characters (of course, politely), and his second Michael Jackson music video irony, “Fat,” changed the game. 

Yankovic’s gorgeous and affectionate criticising of Jackson’s leather-clothed persona, directed by his agent Jay Levey alongside a bespoke fat suit built by Kev Yagher, became legendary in the film’s right. At the same time, “Fat Yankovic” often closed his live concerts for years. 

Yankovic had spent the majority of his career life showing that parodies of videos and songs could be financially viable by themselves, imitating every detail from the recording of shots and the many MJ gestures that activate audio effects to Michael Jackson’s overdramatic introduction. 

In arguing that we should avoid taking our pop idols too seriously, Fat Yankovic became a pop sensation in his own right; he, too, had seen the potential of video songs as a form of entertainment.

Rhythm Nation, Produced in 1989 by Janet Jackson

7. Rhythm Nation, Produced in 1989 by Janet Jackson

Some artists have tried to construct mini-movies from their narrative music videos as the medium has developed, which is a bit of a stretch. Meanwhile, some may have emphasised crazy visuals and interesting ideas at the expense of good music. 

Musicians were always allowed to have a breakthrough on the strength of their unedited performance skills, even before the MTV era. Despite the pressure of being born into a family of pop culture legends, Janet Jackson showed she could hold her own as a performer. 

The military-style precision that characterises “Rhythm Nation” represents an accomplishment in itself, while highlights including “The Pleasures Principle” or “Miss You Much” demonstrate her prowess in solo and ensemble choreography. 

Taking over what looks like a steamed-up factory, Janet and the professional dancers produce iconic movements with astounding uniformity in this Dominic Sena–directed, black-and-white short. 

From the stances to the costumes to a ballroom dance recess, Jackson showed that occasionally, all you needed to make an indelible impression on the eyes of the audience is an apparent premise and a few of the finest dancing routines ever recorded.

“Nothing Compares To You,” Produced in 1990 by Sinéad O’Connor.

8. “Nothing Compares To You,” Produced in 1990 by Sinéad O’Connor.

By the time MTV had reached its debut decade, the video song concept had already seen innumerable iterations, to the extent that labels were allocating funds specifically for video productions, and some up-and-coming acts were automatically written off as “MTV acts” because of the emphasis placed on their graphics rather than their music. 

Sinéad O’Connor, a previously unrecognised Irish singer who rose to fame on the strength of her striking good looks and angelic voice alone, became an overnight sensation because of the contrast provided by her song “Nothing Compares To You.” 

John Maybury’s cinematography gives O’Connor’s rendition of among Prince’s best beside the dramatic graphic treatment it deserves, cutting between views of her strolling through Parisian gardens and close-ups of her face facing a black background. 

She gives it all her energy throughout Prince’s melodramatic ballad until the end, when she starts crying. As MTV neared its first decade’s end, the ” Nothing ” commercial stood out because it had no camera gimmicks, disclaimers, or other action. 

The song became a worldwide hit thanks partly to its catchy melody and video, which won an award from Video Musical Award as Best Music Video. Many have tried to replicate its success but have yet to come close.

Vogue, Produced in 1990 by Madonna.

9. Vogue, Produced in 1990 by Madonna.

Madonna and Michael Jackson were two performers that excelled in presenting their music visually throughout the MTV heyday. 

Madonna became an undisputed provocateur, frequently stretching the boundaries of acceptable and profitable music videos, while Michael Jackson focused on big sets and extravagant production numbers.

 (When the racy music video for “Justifying Our Love” was deemed inappropriate for broadcast on video platforms, she killed off the single on VHS. Even though she has made several memorable videos, “Vogue” is widely considered to be her best. 

In “Vogue,” she plays the role of an iconic blonde bombshell, hinting that her beauty and sexiness are timeless, while filmmaker David Fincher shoots the film in stark black and white, giving it a “classical film” gloss of the 1920s and 1930s. 

After Madonna’s “Vogue” introduced the world to ballroom dancing and sparked a worldwide dance craze, other imitators have tried and failed to top the icon’s groundbreaking work.

“Smells Like Teenage Spirit” by Nirvana, Produced in 1991.

10. “Smells Like Teenage Spirit” by Nirvana, Produced in 1991.

Samuel Bayer’s low-budget video for Nirvana’s debut song with a major label is relatively straightforward: a high school assembly turns into an outdoor party with barbecue areas and dancing janitors. 

What “Smells Like Teenage Spirit” conveys best, with its excessive slow-motion and fuzzy, washed-out colourful palette, isn’t so much a visual portrayal of the track than the mindset of a whole age. 

For a generation of youths who felt ignored by the music stars in spandex wear and of locks metal, seeing guys in blouses buttoned down, Kurt Cobain standing out in his split sweatshirt and shaggy hair, while Krist Novoselic dancing and partying in skinny blue jeans and without shoes gave them optimism. 

This appeared to be a legit band, and when combined with the rock rhythm as infectious as “Teenage Spirit,” they disrupted the market and made all of the hair metal scenes look silly. 

Both the song and the music video became instant classics; the band’s look and that of the background actors became the de facto uniform of the then-emerging grunge scene. Seattle, Washington, is home to the Center of modern music Culture, where you can see the guitar Kurt Cobain used in the music video on display. 

To discover what made Nirvana unique from any other artist before them, check out their song video for “Smells Like Teenage Spirit,” which no one thought would turn into a generation-defining success.

11. Loser, by Beck, Produced in 1993

After the 1980s saw a resurgence of high-budget major motion pictures, the 1990s saw a renaissance of independent filmmaking in America. As the price of cameras dropped, many individuals could afford to dabble in filming in their leisure time. 

Beck Hansen’s first album, Colors, was notable for its haphazard cut-and-paste manner, merging genres unexpectedly. This approach later characterised much of the alternative music of the ’90s. 

The music video for Beck’s first single, “Loser,” created by his friend Steve Hanft, was just as out-there as the song itself. The song fused hip-hop rhythms with country guitars, whiteboy rapping, and sitar to produce an aesthetic no one had ever heard. 

With a reported budget of under 15 thousand dollars, Hanft depended on outlandish concepts to come up with an unforgettable visual, including negative-image recordings of two ladies doing aerobic exercise in a graveyard, the ominous reaper soaking a blood squeeze on a vehicle’s windshield, a casket moving across the town; and Beck playing an acoustic guitar and setting it on a blaze. 

It’s as low-budget as it gets, completely absurd, yet it inspired a new wave of filmmakers. A sight like this, complete with a hazy helmet, seems possible only because MTV exists. 

The unexpected combination of wild sights proved to be a moment to serve as a benchmark for future generations. Loser demonstrated that a film’s success depends on its ideas rather than budget.

12. “Prison Sex” by Tools Produced in 1993

Tool’s “Prison Sex” music video is unsettling in every aspect since it deals with the distressing subject of the exploitation of children through eerie stop-motion puppets. 

A shattered porcelain doll passes out whenever a giant shadowy figure comes near it. After the character has acted on the porcelain doll several times, it begins acting out the same behaviours on itself, perpetuating the cycle of horrific abuse. 

After the song was released, its video was banned and heavily criticised. However, Adam Jones, a guitarist with a profession in Hollywood special effects, was behind the camera for all of the band’s visual output. Jones isn’t just a talented musician; he’s also a true artist who gets Maynard Keenan Jame’s words and everything they mean. 

Therefore, the band’s optical apex is “Prison Sex,” which employs macabre visuals to depict a similarly macabre situation. 

The meticulous attention to detail in every area of the video clip’s production not only established the band to be a formidable metal force but also advanced the medium of the music video by giving it a narrative more typical of a horror film. 

Although all of Tool’s videos are pioneering in their own right, few have subsequently matched “Prison Sex” for unsettling effect.

Sabotage by the Beastie Boys, Produced in 1994

13. Sabotage by the Beastie Boys, Produced in 1994

The world of music has locked some names from inclusion in the Great Room of Musical and Video Directors: Chris Milk, Hype Williams, DSohie Miller, Mark Romanek, Melina Matsoukas, Diane Martel, etc. 

And before he was an eccentric Oscar winner, Spike Jonze was known for helming groundbreaking videos like several of the ones included below. 

This boy band’s “Sabotage” is an exciting, hard rock tune that sounds like it could be the score of a movie. Leave it to Spike Jonze to transform it into the three-minute opening theme to a 1970s cop show, complete with the Beasties wearing fake facial hair to portray absurd caricatures. 

Action, dummies being hurled from bridges by people, and a man tackling someone into a pool are just a few of the top-tier clichés presented here with frenzied comic energy. 

The boy band was popular because they never performed in just one crowd. Still, the secret to the success of “Sabotage” was how enthusiastically they embraced every outlandish video concept. It’s “Sabotage,” and you should all listen.

Closer by Nine Inches Nail (1994)

14. Closer by Nine Inches Nail (1994)

The original version of Nine Inches Nail’s breakout track, which features the lyric “I would love to fuck you as an animal,” is inappropriate for airplay. 

Trent Reznor’s desire to make a video that could not air on the typical musical video networks resounded strongly with filmmaker Mark Romanek when he began working with Reznor on a concept. 

The track and its accompanying video, “Closer,” were instrumental in popularising industrial music, which originated in a disturbing dream. 

The genuine beating heart on the seat is just the beginning of the distorted film reel’s promotional visuals, including a monkey on a cross, a fat pig’s head spinning, and a microphone with a lady’s nipple on end, into which Reznor sings. 

In its ability to unnerve without being repulsive, “Closer” is reminiscent of a breathing, living work of Bosch’s painting. The clip received praise and criticism for including female exotic and nudity equipment. 

Before airing on MTV, editors had to cut out some scenes due to their graphic nature, and the producer substituted them with title cards reading “Scene Missing.” 

The song had an unexpected success. It launched Reznor’s career as a provocateur by demonstrating that portraying an awful idea in fine art can assist it in entering the mainstream. Some people build their identities on this type of video.

Buddy Holly – Weezer Produced in 1994

15. Buddy Holly – Weezer Produced in 1994

Regarding technology, “Buddy Holly” is so groundbreaking it is hard to imagine Bully Holly released this song more than two and a half decades ago. 

Spike Jonze’s “Happy Days” commercial featured the then-unpopular musical band Weezer performing on a set recreation of the show’s iconic diner, the drive-Inn owned by Arnold, a nod to the era’s particular name drops throughout the chorus. 

Using a combination of fresh cameos, old episodes, and composite pictures of the musical band and their original television stars, “Buddy Holly” has always been very creative, silly, and a type of watercooler modern music culture event that was impossible to miss. 

As a result of this and Jonze’s similarly hilarious slow-mo video for ” (The Famous Sweater Song) Undone,” Weezer developed a reputation as a film stylist and shot to popularity so fast that they instituted a policy prohibiting visually exciting video clips that distracted from their performances. 

Regarding technology, “Buddy Holly” represents a new artistic peak for the medium of the music video.

16. Tonight, Tonight was Produced in 1995 by the Pumpkins.

The music band combined the self-seriousness of alt-rock with magnificent creative temperaments, resulting in a slew of visually breathtaking (if only slightly controversial) music videos. 

“Tonight*2,” a gorgeous reworking mute masterwork by Georges Méliè produced in 1902, “A Journey to see the Moon,” stands head and shoulders above the rest. 

Filmmakers Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (who also directed the Smashing Pumpkins video produced in 1979 and the subsequent video “Little Misses Sunshine”). They worked with actor Tom Kenny (who later voiced SpongeBob SquarePants) and employed a wide range of cinematic devices to visualise Billy Corgan’s orchestral rock numbers by Billy Corgan. 

Blending the film’s rich history with what proved as the breakthrough of rock music, “Tonight, Tonight” provides nothing less of an aesthetic feast, with a full “silent” narrative and featuring the band members as angelic creatures in the propped stars. It had been a risky move, but the payoff is an artistic endeavour practically portrait-worthy in every shot.

Drop by The Pharcyde, Produced in 1995.

17. Drop by The Pharcyde, Produced in 1995.

Musical video clips with innovative plots can do much of the heavy work required to transform an average performer into a bona fide star. But occasionally, the brilliance of a music video will outlast the band’s career that inspired it. 

There will always be a place for the Pharcyde and their 1993 smash hit “Passing Me By,” but the video directed by Spike Jonze video for “Drop” produced in 1995 is undeniably stunning. 

The four MCs in this delightfully entertaining reverse-motion commercial can effectively spit their lyrics in reverse as they perform acrobatic stunts like jumping off buildings, rolling up a staircase, and sending water to lift the blue sky. 

Although the producers used the reverse style method to shoot the video, it has become somewhat cliché; the sheer visual creativity demonstrated here truly enhances it to glory. 

A linguist also assisted the band in learning how to articulate all their complicated phrases backward so that they appeared to be singing and rapping in chronological order at the end song. 

The video “Drop” by Pharcyde’s proved that rap bands were not required to stick to a single visual style to communicate their message. The Pharcyde employed their innovative video to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as gangster-style rap became popular in ‘93 and remained popular for years.

Björk ‘Oh, the Silence’ Produced in 1995

18. Björk ‘Oh, the Silence’ Produced in 1995

Even though Björk never achieved the commercial success of high end -budget pop artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson, her finished video production rivals (and perhaps some might say the best) those artists concerning legendary imagery. Her solo career began after her chart-topping success with the sugar cubes, her school rock band. 

Björk worked with virtually every prominent video director of the ’90s, but Spike Jonze is the only one who could have done justice to an out-of-the-ordinary song such as “It’s Very Quiet.” The track is a brass-like version of a jazz standard from the 1950s; it begins with some soft, romantic touches from the orchestra and then explodes into high-pitched, horn-driven choruses. 

Extremely slow-motion, Björk traverses an urban area with dreamy eyes. Still, when the rhythm picks up, everything around her starts dancing, from the workers at a tire shop to a mailbox to business people doing backflips. 

Taking cues from the French musical 1962, “The Umbrella by Cherbourg,” Jonze and Björk executed the brief to perfection, redesigning Björk as a quirky pop-altering oddball who did not release the same music twice and among the premier song and video creators of her the generation with a can’t-take-your-eyes-away attitude for a stubbornly out-of-trend song.

19. “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai Produced in 1996

The music video “Virtual Insanity” has been that uncommon breed: a cultural touchstone that came to symbolise a whole band. Jay Kay, Jamiroquai’s lead vocalist, and songwriter, dances about a lounge-like, futuristic setting in this well-imagined clip from Jonathan Glazer. 

Wherever he goes, the furniture moves. The chair is stationary, but the sofa moves. The world watched the clip and wondered, “How did you achieve that?” Kay’s physical collaborations with the furniture seem like an updated rendition of an Astaire Fred performance, and the special effects are jaw-dropping. 

At the same time, ominous undertones (ravens, bugs, pooling blood) suggest a more evil aesthetic at work here. 

Kay was jumping across proceeding runways set up on the main stage at the Video Music Awards like she was reconstructing the music video live, making “Virtual Insanity” an indispensable event after it dropped and catapulting Jamiroquai to stardom. 

Glazer’s video’s influence is so pervasive that the band has never been able to shake its association with it, no matter how hard they try (or how many other kinds of crazy hats Kay wears). But that’s the price you pay for creating among the more visually stunning clips ever.

20. “Sugar Water” by Cibo Matto, Produced in 1996

Cibo Matto, a Shibuya-Kei alternate pop-culture group, is the least well-known of all the acts here. But that doesn’t diminish the breathtaking genius of the video directed by Michel Gondry for their song “Sugar Water.” 

This incredible split-screen clip features members Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori hanging around and passing the time when one side starts moving forward in time while the other is in reverse, the two storylines meeting in the middle of the ongoing take. 

Half-eyed candy, half “How exactly did they achieve this?”, “Sugar Water” was a hallmark of Michel Gondry’s eccentric style. For example, getting a cat to jump in the opposite direction into a post office box on a single timeline and then pop into another in flawless harmony is a thought-about miracle that only came about through intense organising and execution. 

A few more music videos in the past ten years are as bold or gratifying as the song “Sugar Water,” a visual accompaniment to Cibo Matto’s inherently opaque form of dance-pop.

21. “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls Produced in1996.

When promoting a pop band, it’s crucial that fans quickly recognise each member’s unique characteristics. In the less than four minutes it took to watch the video for the Spiced Gals’ first hit, “Wannabe,” you discovered everything there was to understand about Baby, Sporty, Posh, and Ginger. 

They go up to a fancy hotel party wearing clothes that would come to characterise their careers and go ahead to sow chaos by, among other things, grabbing glasses and hats and doing reverse flips on dining tables. 

The gorgeously choreographed mayhem of “Wannabe” combined well because of the instant slap of the chorus performed by a piano, and it was all performed as just one take (though expertly spliced from two separate performances). 

While it was my first exposure to Spice Gals, it was easy to believe that the band had performed together for years. Their infectious energy radiated off the television screen, and they quickly became the most popular girl band in history. 

The music was fantastic, but the video was so effective at grabbing attention that very few bands could replicate its overnight fame.

22. The Prodigy’s “Smack My B*tch Up” Produced in 1997.

Since we knew no radio network would broadcast the song, we created a music video almost no media house would air. The lead singer of The Prodigy, Liam Howlett, summed up the reasons why the song “Smack My B*tch Up” sparked so much debate with those words. 

A Londoner from the rave culture goes to clubs, fights around the party floor, and probably commits the crime of fleeing while attempting to go to bed with a prostitute in this incredibly sexual promo shot by the legendary Jonas Kerlund.

 “Smack My Btch Up” was divisive because it occasionally resembled the Gaspar Noé video instead of a pop aesthetic piece of amusement. 

While people criticised its informal assault and demeaning depiction of women, the video’s unexpected reveal that we had been witnessing it through a lady’s lens indicated a unique twist. 

This showed that even in a place dominated by men like solid core techno genres, women could also be messy players; the final shot of her appearing empty in her house mirror troubles all our presumptions up until that juncture. 

Banned from numerous video-sharing websites but not forgotten, “Smacked My B*tch Up” demonstrated the distinction between being “controversial” and being “tasteless” since people disregarded the artist’s ideas. In contrast, people only consider controversial ideas if they have some merit. We are still talking about it after more than two decades.

23. A.P.H.E.X. TWIN, Produced in 1997, “Came to Daddy.”

Chris Cunningham remains among the best music video filmmakers because he combines technical expertise with a gloomy vision, turning even the least commercial tracks into cultural touchstones. (Even Madonna enlisted his services to direct the music video for her song “Frozen.”) 

Aphex Twin, a pioneering songwriter and techno firebrand who has never met a digital platform he could not attack without feverish passion, is Cunningham’s most significant musical collaborator. Distorted vocals chanting “I’ll eat ur soul / want your soul” amid blazing hardcore electronics make “Came to Daddy” as savage a drill and bass track as you can imagine. 

The classic video clip shows a group of children terrorising an urban neighbourhood while wearing eerie masks of the musician’s mastermind Richard James’ visage before a grotesque creature appears out of an abandoned TV to screech at an older woman. 

The unnerving nature of “Came to Daddy” makes it successful, and the track’s movie-quality production elements make it almost tolerable despite its lack of gore and horrific visuals. The demonic turmoil in this video clip that played for six minutes is comparable to that of many longer horror films.

24. ‘Got ‘Until It’s Gone,’ by Janet Jackson, was Produced in 1997.

Some people complained about the stereotypical depiction of Black women in rap and hip-hop music videos as the genres became more popular in the ’90s. 

Usually, they were just half-naked dancers who the mostly male rappers used as a means to an end (by throwing money at them or spraying champagne on them). 

Although not universal to hip-hop music, this visual motif was pervasive enough to establish a stereotype. Jackson and filmmaker Mark Romanek set out to provide a complete counterpoint to that tale with the music video for “Got It Until It’s Gone,” a very simple track from Jackson’s classic “The Velvet’s Rope” album.

In “Got it Until It’s Gone,” the focus was on honouring Black culture, particularly on the excitement of celebrations within South African towns during which everyone with everyday aesthetics commemorated in perfect unity, which was motivated by the era of Apartheid South African Drumming Magazine and the beautiful slice-of-life photographing as captured by Jürgen Schadeberg. 

Jackson starts singing, but his lack of makeup and sweat are obvious. It’s a slow-motion showering scene, yet the women aren’t objectified. When males get playful, they come out as dorky because of things like looking like they have injured eyes that have swollen shut or standing in their underpants. 

It’s a gorgeous and humanising depiction of the Black culture at its greatest, and the short ends with an image of a whiskey bottle shattering, leaving us to wonder if the celebration has gone too far. Considering that “Got It Until It’s Gone” is an exemplary and still an undervalued classic, maybe it is for the best that we remain unsure.

25. Criminal, by Fiona Apple, Produced in 1997

Music videos changed course in the latter part of the nineties, becoming more engaged in probing sexuality and less preoccupied with erotic objectification. The music video for”Criminal” by Fiona Apple caused a firestorm since it was ambiguous and left room for interpretation. 

Mark Romanek’s camera captures the aftermath of a chaotic party in the “Criminal” video clip. The entire “Criminal” footage, lit by one light mounted atop the camera, gives off a voyeuristic vibe as if the audience is snooping on something they shouldn’t be.

There was a lot of sexual energy in “Criminal,” and it wasn’t afraid to show it. There was phallic imagery, scantly dressed figures on floors with carpets, and a suggestive sight of the artist in the bathtub with two muscular feet moving around the head. 

Despite the video’s attention, Apple reportedly was not pleased with the almost exploitative final product, and she remained angry with Romanek over the years before claiming during a 2005 documentary that she had come to appreciate the movie’s artistic intentions. She would agree to produce another song and video with the artist. 

This has not occurred to date, but there is no need for concern; “Criminal” remains a paradigm-shifting game-changer regardless of perspective.

26. “Baby One Last Time” by Britney Spears, Produced in 1998

The music video for Nigel Dck’s “…Baby One Last Time” isn’t the most technically impressive or artistically daring on this list. 

Still, “Smells Like Teenage Spirit,” Britney Spears’ first single shot to cultural icon status almost overnight. To appeal to the preteens watching “Total Requests Live” on MTV, “…Baby One Last Time” was based on the premise that it was primarily Spears’ invention and explored provocative Catholic schoolgirl dreams without getting too overt or passionate. 

But as soon as those recognisable piano pounds begin to play, Spears takes centre stage, dazzling audiences with her personality, dance skills, and on-screen sass. 

Spears also chose to wear her shirt tied. It became among her most recognisable outfits and would remain so for decades (along with the action-packed flight attendant costume in “Toxic” or her red costume from the song “Oops!…I Have Done It Again”). 

In addition, the surprisingly polished “…Baby One Last Time” was her debut music video, marking the beginning of the teen pop “music movement revolution”. It helps to have instant recognition if your goal is to achieve iconic status.

27. Fatboy Slim Song “Praise You,” Produced in 1998

There were various sites with video players where clips would become “viral” before YouTube became popular. Regardless of where you viewed it, Spike Jonze’s 1998 flashmob with a dancing company set with the rhythm of the song by Fatboy Slim’s song “Praise You” became unforgettable. 

Jonze (together with the co-director named Roman Coppola) & a made-up cast of amateur performers perform social theatre-style choreographed dance view of a sceptical audience in the movie theatre line, all while being filmed with small cameras and afterwards edited together in true guerilla fashion. 

A theatre employee eventually walks past and switches off a boom box where the music is coming from because they are so disturbed by the impromptu performance. 

They regain control and finish the song, but the excitement of witnessing a dance flash mob before an unwary audience makes “Praise You” unforgettable. 

Fatboy Slim’s only Top Forty hit song in the United States came from the video’s considerable play on the entertainment networks. That is a good return for an advertisement that costs only 800 dollars.

28. She is a B*tch” by Missy Elliott, Produced in 1999

Knowing that Missy Elliott’s music video will be amazing is all the information you need. Elliott’s music videos like “Get Your Freak On” or “Lose Control” solidified Missy as a fashion and musical trailblazer, and she has teamed up with legends such as Paul Hunter and Dave Meyers to create captivating, surreal visuals. 

However, her earliest videos feature among her most memorable imagery; while the black and puffy suit from “The Rain, the (Super Duper Fly)” will remain indelible in our minds, we think “She is a Btch” took even more significant risks.

In “She’s a Btch,” Missy appears in a setting depicting her future thanks to the direction of Hype Williams, the master of music video production design. 

An enormous “M” structure goes up through a blackened ocean accompanied by spiked extra dancers, making it apparent that the artist was performing on a different level that few other musical rappers were not even near to grabbing at their time. 

Missy is completely bald one moment, within a lighted-up techno cubic structure the after that, then performing in a science-fiction cowboy getup afterwards. Okay, let’s restate that The artist Missy Elliott is still invincible.

29. The single by the Chreleased Chemical’s Brothers called “Let Forever B.” in 1999

The Chemical Brothers were, without a doubt, among the most underestimated individuals in the history of outstanding music and video makers, with aesthetically stimulating and, in many cases, perfectly fitting music videos for songs like “Midnight Madness,” “Star Guitar,” “Out of my Control,” and “The Gold Path.”

Although they’re somewhat of a cultic band in the States, they’re a commercial powerhouse in the United Kingdoms, and “Let Forever B” has received universal praise for its trippy psychedelia. 

Noel Gallagher lends his vocals, and the ever-creative Michel Gondry directs this clip about a woman who wakes up for a day of work in a shopping mall, but the artist has plagued the song with distorted perceptions of reality.

Arguably the best-set designs and more stunning “how the fuck did they manage that?” editing we have ever seen can be found in “Let Forever B,” which uses handheld camera footage to construct giant setups for fields of doppelganger dancers.

By encapsulating the best aspects of the track and then pushing them to their absurd extremes, the track “Let Forever B” was setting the industry on fire unlike any other, demonstrating that the limited format of a music video clip can also be fertile ground for creative exploration.

30. All is Ful of Love, by Björk, Produced in 1999

Björk has released a plethora of excellent music videos, including the stunningly straightforward “Hunter,” the hilariously meta “Bachelorette,” the warped action of the “Armies of Me,” and the endlessly exciting “Hyerballad,” including others. Among her most wrenching songs, “Al is Ful of Love” may have the best video of her career. 

The promotional video for “Al is Ful of Love,” created by Chris Cunningham, is a visual feast, depicting the musician as a robotic being pieced together while she sings heartbreak ballads. They start kissing as soon as a different android joins the scene while robots continue to build and fine-tune them from the background. 

The video’s portrayal is haunting and raises issues reminiscent of novels by Philip K. Dck and Isaac Asimov. Can robots love? I’m curious about what A.I.’s version of a romantic relationship would be like. 

The short commercial just lasts four minutes, yet the profound issues it raises will remain unforgettable. “Al is Ful of Love” successfully elevates the technique to new aesthetic heights.

31. Coffee Plus TV Produced in 1999 by Blur.

Many bands vied for attention during the ’90s’ famous Britpop revolution, yet only a few (like Pulp and Oasis) established themselves as industry mainstays. Unfortunately, many of the videos were dull and mainly consisted of video clips that were entertaining to watch but didn’t leave much of an impression. 

However, everything changed when Blur released its now-iconic advertisement for “Coffee Plus TV.” Graham Coxon, a guitarist, wrote and performed this meandering ballad about a personified milk carton that had a “Missing” poster for him. 

The cow’s milk carton wanders about town in search of him while his distraught loved ones can’t move from their sofas. 

Hammer and Tongs (aka Garth Jennings) directs this cartoonish tale, which bursts with real sweetness when the cow’s milk carton tracks down Coxon during band practice and persuades him to return home to his loved ones before he drinks the liquid milk and flies away to the Milk celestial realm. 

The video for “Coffee Plus TV,” which features the use of puppets and a sharp sense of fashion, quickly became among the most enduring visuals of Blur and the best video clips from the British pop era.

32. D’Angelo single “Untitled Called(How Did It Feel)” Produced in 2000

D’Angelo’s music journey has proved almost brazenly non-linear, veering from sugar-sweet soul to incisive political activity and many years, or decades, passing between albums. 

However, in preparation for the debut of his critically acclaimed second album, “Voodoo,” The musician’s manager insisted on a change in his public figure, which resulted in him spending months in the gym and looking incredibly fit. 

When deciding on the music track, the notion was simple: from what point of view would we see someone becoming romantic with D’Angelo? (the very Prince-like “Untitled single  (How Did It Feel)”). The Paul Hunter-directed video consists largely of close-ups of D’Angelo’s perspiring physique. 

The camera looks friendly and open as it examines D’Angelo’s rippling muscles. The tape signalled a shift in gender discourse in mainstream music; it was voyeuristic, sexually charged, and turned the masculine gaze back on itself. 

It also generated widespread fascination with D’Angelo’s career, prompting debate about whether and how it could have been censored (since the camera hovers seductively near his body). Despite being widely praised, argued over, and mocked, “Untitled” makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

34. Artist: Robbie Williams Year: 2000 Song: “Rock DJ”

North Americans might or might not be aware that Robbie Williams, a former member of a popular boy band, has embarked on a successful solo career. 

Robbie Williams was a worldwide phenomenon, as you undoubtedly already know if you hail from any other area of the planet. Williams’ undeniable appeal and charisma got a video clip as ridiculous as “DJ Rock” onto the radio, even if his commercial break and artistic peak have passed. 

Under the direction of his frequent partner Vaughan Arnell, Williams enters the space full of fashionable rollerskating women who circle a raised platform from which he confidently exits. He becomes increasingly aware that nobody is staring at him as he dances to his disco-loud pop music. 

He removes his shirt, jeans, and underwear, which makes no difference. Completely ignored, he resolves to take things to the next level by peeling off the skin on his body. 

Everyone’s looking after Robbie. Who thought ripping your skin could score your success? It’s hideous, hysterical, and shockingly dark—an unheralded treasure.

34. Fatboy Slim With The 2001 Song “Weapons of Choice”

Christopher Walken is in charge here. Dancing. The next step is to take to the air. Really, what more could you ask for? Despite Bootsy Collins’s great vocal contribution, “Weapons of Choice” was hardly Fatboy Slim’s best work. 

However, Spike Jonze’s creative, funny, and unexpected music video for the track catapulted the track to a new level. 

According to conversations with the music crew, Walken introduced some of his minimal growth to the dancing as he takes control of the void hotel he’s seated in. Walken started as a choreographer in musical performances before becoming an Oscar-winning movie actor. 

The success of this video spawned a slew of imitators in which famous actors and actresses lip-synced to the songs of lesser-known artists. 

Among these imitators was Elton John, who tried twice to top himself with the videos for”I Want Love” and “These Trains Don’t Stap There Anymore,” featuring Justin Timberlake. “Weapons of Choice” is still an instant shot of happiness, even 20 years after its initial release.

35. “Fell in Loves with Girls,” by The White Stripped, Produced in 2002

The artist’s first single was under two minutes long. Thus, the accompanying music video had to be captivating right away. Fortunately, according to producer Michel Gondry, its end product is among the best music videos ever made. 

This animated video clip to produce  “Fell in Like with a Gal” was based on actual video footage that the director captured of Meg and Jack. However, with extravagantly overdone concealer, every frame would “convert” when transformed into Lego pieces, blocks that are restrictive to detail. 

The result appears amazing, whether the built-in block structure of a swirling drum symbol or the uncanny accuracy with which Jack and Meg White mouthed the song’s lyrics. 

In an age when videos for songs increasingly depend on computer-generated imagery and artificially generated effects for telling their stories, it’s refreshing to see a concept recognisable and as unfamiliar as Legos utilised to build this illusion. 

An essential commercial, the music artist’s meteoric rise to fame and insanity after the release of the viral video is a testament to the power of viral content. (Dead Flowers on a Dirty Ground,” another Gondry/Stripes collaboration, makes great use of projections.)

36. Hurt (2003 Single) – by Johnny Cash

Mark Romanek decided he wanted to do a music video for Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt” by Nine Inches Nail as soon as he heard it. He was one of history’s most acclaimed music and video directors. However, he had to plead with Johnny Cash for permission to shoot a video concept. 

After much persuasion, Cash agreed to feature in the music video alongside June Carter. Romanek’s crew could access Cash’s extensive video vault, which included all from home footage to his film parts while shooting at the Residence of Cash exhibition. 

After Romaneks’ editors put up a rough version of the footage featuring Cash now, they included an episode of Cash when he was a kid, and the differences between the two were unsettling.

The visual element of the song “Hurt” is truly moving, especially when combined with Cash’s depiction of the extremely dramatic amount, as an old hero looks at his entire existence and recalls every good and bad moment before realising where he currently is: at the brink of death. Among the most moving video clips, “Hurt” possesses an otherworldly strength. 

The dramatic advertisement exploded potently, exposing Cash to a new audience of fans by condensing a great deal of emotional and spiritual intensity into a relatively brief space. 

While he appreciated the MTV VMA nomination, he, alongside June Carter, lost their lives the same year. This video is integral to a larger canon that will live on in indelible memory.

37. Toxic (2004), a song by Britney Spears

At this juncture in the article, we have discussed DIY musical videos made on a shoestring budget that pack in enormous concepts, innovative visual edits, and fresh takes on the music video genre. However, there are times when nothing but smooth pop culture escapism would do. 

The “Toxic” music video is beneficial in this regard. Spears stars in “Toxic,” a music video directed by Khan Joseph (the man to see if you want a big-budget phenomenon in under four minutes) became a significant success.

Here, she plays a seductive spy who utilises masks and her fantastic skills to get into a facility and acquire a unique toxin to murder her ex-boyfriend. Khan spends over one million bucks on “Toxic,” and he doesn’t waste a second of it. 

Spears has the confidence of a seductress who knows her strength in all her ensembles. 

Naturally, everything revolves around one of her greatest dance-pop successes, and Khan was the ideal choice to bring this video to life. The level of excess in “Toxic” is almost Godlike, and sometimes you simply want your favourite popstars to let out the wildest pleasures.

38. Song: “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, Produced in 2004

Jay-Z’s strength as a rapper comes from his ability to present himself to an entirely new audience with each album. While he didn’t quite retire with  “The Blacks Album” in 2003, he certainly went out on an impressive bang. 

He was unsatisfied with the music video for his subsequent song, “Dirt Off Ur Shoulders,” so he worked with rap-rock wizard Mark Romanek to create “99 Problems,” featuring some of the greatest rap videos ever.

White and Black shot mainly in slow-motion, the video weaves together disparate elements such as dog fights, motorbike stunt nightclubs, and even funeral directors so that you can feel every one of Jay’s ripped bars. 

While Jay Z fully illustrates certain lyrics, others are left open to critical examination. However, the scene where Jay-Z is shot dead is the most horrifying part, and some video networks even put up a warning before showing it. 

According to Romanek, the film quality they took was excellent, but the editing never achieved the desired rhythm or emotional impact. 

He had three editors try their hand at it, but he was still dissatisfied. Since the video funding had run dry at this juncture, Romanek solicited the free services of Robert Duffy, an editor he had relied on. 

The final version received VMAs for best director, editor, cinematography, and outstanding rap video. This makes perfect sense, given its impact has remained strong with time.

39. Here It Goes Again” by OK GO, Produced in 2006.

It’s no coincidence that the day Google released YouTube was also when OK Go’s “A Million Way” song and video were released. 

The clip, which showed the four-person band in vocalist Damien Kulash’s garden doing an impressively complex dance routine, went viral and propelled the band toward a new level of internet notoriety. 

With “Here It Goes Again,” the 5th and final song from their second album, the band opted to revisit the “viral choreographic” strategy. 

While most follow-ups to popular online videos bomb, OK Go surpassed even their high standards. 

The quartet has greater faith in their performance thanks to the elaborate staging on eight wonderfully robust treadmills; they use the movable platforms and charisma to give the upbeat guitar romp “Here It Goes Again” to life. 

Kulash, sister to Trish Sie, was behind the creative direction, choreography, and editing of the music video for “Here It Goes Again,” which helped propel the track to the Top 40 charts and earn the Grammy Award for Outstanding Short Form Musical Video. 

It would be easy to write off a band as fad-driven after two unusual viral video clips in succession. Still, instead, they embraced the label and kept testing the limits of the musical video formats.

It employs every detail, from Rube Goldberg-style machines to visual illusions, to create highly memorable clips. The band may seem gimmicky to some, but it requires serious skill to perform in this way consistently.

40. Dani California by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers Produced in 2006, 

Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band that can bring the house down whenever they perform, regardless of the setting. 

Their music videos frequently depict the untamed spirit of Flea Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, plus whoever is playing the guitar for them at that point, and their performances on stage are bursting with frenetic, funky energy. 

Their video for their late-career hit “Dani California” features work from a who’s who of music video directors, including Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Anton Corbijn, Gus Van Sant, and the great Stéphane Sednaoui.

Each of the four members in the band is willing to get up on stage in an array of ridiculous attire while performing their tracks in a range of recorded styles.

Ranging from the black-and-white Brit Invasion to the MTV Unplugged acoustics, to the metal of the spandex-clad lock, to the robotic industrial, and so forth, It nails the particulars of each age in an approach that combines ridiculing and loving, and it does so in a way that is both lighthearted and surprisingly precise. 

And yet, the video’s crowning achievement is when the band, having performed every one of these looks showcasing the contemporary age, indicates that their most modern “era” of music is themselves.

Kiedis, who wears shorts with a tie, Flea performs shirtless. Chad Smith performs sleeveless, while John Frusciante just looks like an ordinary individual you’d come across on the streets. 

They are writing themselves into musical legends, and the video almost makes you think they deserve to be there. As Mark Romanek appeared unavailable, “American History” filmmaker Tony Kaye shot the music video for “Dani,” which helped break the song in the States. 

The song was among the top ten and nominated for many Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award. It was a career-high point late in their run for the lads, and it’s still a solid video.

41. Put a Rin’ on It (Single Ladies) by Beyoncé, Produced in 2008

There aren’t any B-sides now as there used to be. Since (nearly) anything is accessible for streaming, pop musicians rarely include additional tracks on the B-sides of singles. 

Her company opted to release two singles for her third studio record, “I’m… Sasha Fierce,” also giving the audience a sort of A-side and B-side introduction to the music album. 

The dramatic song “If I Was a Boy” stood out, and director Jake Nava gave it a dramatic, high-budget music video. Nava would afterwards say that the production costs for “Boy” were so high that they left no money to promote their “B-side” track, which featured Sasha Fierce, “Single Ladies’ (Put a Rin’ On It). 

“Single Ladies,” directed by Alan Menken and Frank Gatson Junior in choreography with JaQuel Knight, features Beyoncé with her backup dancers, Ashley Everett, and Ebony Williams, posing on a white picture set. 

The camera pans and zooms, and the setting shifts, but all we care about are the groundbreaking dance movements that Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Destiny’s Child perform. 

While “Boy” was the album’s initial promotional focal point, “Single Ladies” swiftly became not just a chart-topper by Queen B but also among her most popular songs, surpassing “Boy” in popularity. 

Still a terrific song thanks to its dynamic video, “If I Was a Boy,” loses out against a video with a brilliant premise and even superior execution, especially when the individual executing it becomes as legendary as Queen Bey, no matter how much money you throw at it.

42. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, Produced in 2009.

Some in the music industry first dismissed Lady Gaga’s success with her first song, “Just Dance,” because they believed it to be a fluke. 

However, more and more of her songs and videos revealed Lady Gaga as a true weirdo who embraced the illogical fringe of contemporary musical excess. 

Her self-assurance developed with the years, and while her first album was a genre-bending, label-pleasing collection of songs, her sophomore effort, “Bad Romance,” marked the beginning of an era in which she was the only creative force behind her music, her image, and her entire character.

Frances Lawrence’s “Bad Romance” was a mind-blowing visual spectacle that told the story of being an actor in a business where you must perform for the best price. Production-wise, “Bad Romance” resembled nothing in the other films then. Intriguing visuals? 

The crab dress, the expanded bathtub gazes, the nods to “Thriller” in the choreography, the guy with a gold chain, a stop-motion lens spin through the descending diamonds, the sparkling bra; this was the type of clips where your senses would be delighted regardless of whether you had no idea what was taking place. 

In addition to becoming among YouTube’s most popular videos, “Shallow” was a major factor in Gaga earning a first-ever Diamond-certified song, setting her record for a record number of Video Music Award wins in one season, and winning the Grammy Award for Best Short Format Musical Video. 

It was a watershed event in the entertainment world, giving Gaga the confidence to take her act to even greater and stranger heights.

43. Gangnam Style by Psy Produced in 2012.

The music video for “Gangnam Style” is largely responsible for the song’s unprecedented cultural impact. It’s true that Psy’s dance music confection, unlike most previous singles, is instant, joyful, and incredibly catchy; nevertheless, the fact that it is performed primarily in Korean meant that it was initially a tough sell in the United States. 

The music and video for the song Gangnam Style were primarily responsible for the song’s global success, as humour transcends cultural barriers. Cho Soo-Hyun’s “Gangnam Style” is a montage of visual jokes, and Psy appears willing to look goofy at any time. 

It’s clear that Psy wanted to pack as much comedy and absurdity into the music video as possible, from the aesthetic gag of him lounging on a stretch of coastline (which is a kid’s sandbox) and performing an incredible “horse dance” involving him doing extensive diving in the hot tub to the random actions movie explosions and the video is nonstop silliness. 

Psy’s dedication to the role and self-assured goofiness helped “Gangnam Style” become an international phenomenon.

Meme-ready appeal enabled “Gangnam Style” to acquire traction on foreign radio, where it peaked at number one in nearly every nation and achieved the then-unprecedented achievement of peaking at number two in the US. 

The music video was essential in breaking down language boundaries, especially in the United States, where non-English speaking songs rarely get airplay. Since then, songs primarily in Spanish, such as “Despacito,” and a new crop of K-pop musicians have broken into the Western music scene in ways that were previously unimaginable. T

o this day, despite some strong competition, “Gangnam Style” is still the most-watched Korean pop video in history.

44. “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, Produced in 2013.

It’s practically predictable that an ex-Disney Television star who moves into music will wish to enter a “mature” career phase at some point. There are many examples; however, Miley Cyrus’s flop single “Can’t B Tamed” from 2010 stands out as one of the funniest. 

The video, including the album’s major hit, depicted her as a seductive dancing birdy thing, a feeble attempt to appear mature and responsible. Cyrus, no doubt aware of the reaction, cleverly made a turn with the 2013 “hit song,” a boisterous party hit that acquainted the public with the twerking, tongue-out Miley. 

Cyrus’s flair for the dramatic propelled her beyond the “Disney kid” label and into mainstream music stardom. This era’s aesthetics were breathtaking, especially for a pop diva who is now authoring her rulebook.

While her collaboration with infamous director and photographer Terry Richardson on the single “Wrecking Ball” astonished the globe, the “We cannot Stop” trailer by Diane Martel was a stunning, outrageous, and bizarre home party. The video’s central idea—Cyrus nakedly riding a real wrecking ball—is immediately apparent. 

There’s a lot of buildup to that point (plus a Sinéad O’Connor–inspired opening with Cyrus screaming into the lens while wiping away tears). This scandalous scene showcased the mature, sexualised Miley to the public. Other notable images in the video include her licking a sledgehammer. 

The video prompted numerous discussions on the boundaries of acceptable popular culture. There are certainly sexier video clips in music out there, but without Miley Cyrus’ name on it, it’s unlikely that something so obviously sexual would reach as many people. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the “Wrecking Ball,” you can’t ignore its impact on the globe.

45. Chandelier, by Sia, Produced in 2014

Sia’s musical journey has taken unexpected turns, from independent singer to songwriter to pop star’s favourite guest vocalist and co-writer on massive Top Forty hits. She was hardly unknown until she wore a wig that concealed her facial features and released the song “Chandelier.” 

It’s hard to deny that this dreamy, yearning pop song, full of musical histrionics, could succeed with any video. Sia’s instincts paid off, though, and she based a music video on Maddie Ziegler, the 11-year-old breakout star of “Dance Moms.”

Ryan Heffington choreographed the song, Daniel Askill directed, and Sia made the video, which takes place in a rundown, abandoned apartment, an attraction to behold. 

Ziegler seems to be engaged in typical home motions without her parents present, mimicking behaviors she may have observed at her friends’ or neighbors’ homes. These behaviors range from wiggling her fingers and hammering on the dining table to get food to a creepy curtsy at the end of the song video. 

The dance has a lot of symbolic meaning, but without Ziegler’s passionate performance and incredible agility, it wouldn’t mean anything. With Ziegler’s dramatic motions amplified by the flowing Sia wig on the top of her head, the video contains dynamic intensity that is difficult to define. 

After the video went viral, the song became a worldwide phenomenon, and Sia became so enamored with his director Ziegler that they worked together often over the subsequent years. However, one could argue that their best work came from when their skills collided.

46. “Alright”  by Kendrick Lamar Produced in 2015

With his willingness to take chances with his craft and sneak in the rare radio-friendly guest verses, the rapper Kendrick Lamar rose quickly to become arguably the finest MCs working today. “To Pimp the Butterfly,” his third recording project, was a deep, aggressive work about racial tensions in the United States. 

The track wasn’t his most successful album commercially but among the best rap albums of the 2000s. Kendrick grew more assured as an artist, and his images reflected that. But his rousing hymn “Alright” really stuck with us, not his crazy run of representation and creativity in the music video “Humble.”

This black-and-white effect, created by Colin Tilley & The Little Homies, features seemingly unconnected situations and arrangements. 

Still, they all revolve around the relationship between black citizens and white law enforcement personnel. In the opening scene, Kendrick drives a car without any wheels, and the camera pans down to reveal that the police are holding up all the car’s axles, emperor-style. 

Once the song goes, Kendrick becomes almost ghostly as he floats through the streets, dances on streetlamps, floats upside down above his crew, and throws out wads of cash while donuts around police cars. The ending is bizarre, gorgeous, and dramatic, but a cop spots Kendrick poised on a streetlamp in broad daylight and guns him with his bare fingers. 

Kendrick took a long fall to the earth, leaving a bleeding exit wound, before repeating his favorite phrase: “I recall you were conflicted.” Using your power inappropriately. That’s how I was at times, too. 

The song formed a rallying cry during protests against police brutality in 2015, and the promotional video for it is still shocking, uplifting, and potent today. Despite all the terrible things happening in the world, the final photo of Kendrick smiling gives us hope that everything will be okay.

47. “Wyclef Jean,” by Young Thug Produced in 2017. 

To cover our bases, we’ll state that this is the one video that readers are least likely to have seen. The initial spending limit for the soundtrack video for Wyclef Jean by Young Thug was 100 thousand dollars. The song was a moderate success on the music charts. The main issue was that the rapper Young Thug was always absent from the shoots. 

Music video producer Ryan Staake’s “Wyclef Jean” features a sequence of title cards that explain the process of making the music video rather than the track itself. 

This was among the best music videos produced to date, “Wyclef Jean” manages to be hilarious despite the presence of yelling label executives, Young Thug’s requests for certain visuals, plus the actuality that the rapper wasn’t there throughout the filming of his segments. 

The text bumps written by Staake are amusing and self-absorbed, full of amusements, witty remarks, and an authentic look at the process of making music videos (in particular, when the main character fails to show, you may as well record some ridiculous B-roll featuring the models). 

Towards the end of the video, Staake mentions that one of his concepts for the clip was to cancel the production budgetary constraints, but that’s irrelevant anymore. 

However, it was not for nothing because we were still watching after the song edits. In what way? Staake took home the award for outstanding editing at the Video Music Awards, and we can’t stop cracking up over how this meta video made it to the public.

48. 2017’s “The Story by O.J.” by Jay-Z

A unique late-career album, “4:44,” saw Jay-Z apologizing, making atonement, and reflecting on his previous deeds after many years of bold rhymes and exhilarating braggadocio. 

Jova and Mark Romanek, the video’s co-directors, animated the song “The Story by O.J.” in a style reminiscent of early Warner Bros. cartoons, notably one from which negative stereotypes of African Americans were common. 

“O.J.” adopts that technique by giving Jay the character of “Jaybo,” who strolls through different settings while remarking on our Black experiences to a beat inspired by a beautiful Nina Simone clip. 

The resulting video is disturbing, as it moves passengers on slave ships and boats to the cotton fields while using animations to drive home unpalatable metaphors, such as the fact that each of the cotton bundles carried into the Cotton Mill via conveyor belts spewed out only hooded members of the KKK. 

We first watch Jaybo ostentatiously counting piles of cash, and then we see him killed at the end of the clip. The clip’s animation technique and the actions depict conflict with one another, creating a tense atmosphere that never lets up. 

Extremely divisive when it came out, “The Story by O.J.” was an inflammatory film that makes no apologies for its perspective. Jay-Z has reached a moment in his music career where he is less interested in producing hits than he is in starting a conversation about culture. Whatever your opinion of “The Story of O.J.,” undoubtedly, it continues to spark lively debate.

49. This Is America” by Childish Gambino, Produced in 2018

After Donald Glover finished hosting “Saturday Night Live” for the week, he released the video for Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” which caught everyone off guard. 

In an array of extended, carefully orchestrated takes staged in a massive warehouse slowly degenerating into apocalyptic anarchy, the shirtless Gambino performs several viral meme-worthy stances with a cast of young children. 

Glover shoots an instrument player in his head with a handgun before attacking an entire backing choir with an assault weapon while cars are under fire, folks collapse from the roof rafters, and horses are racing by. With its graphic depiction of violence and sardonic undercurrent, “This is America” immediately became a hot topic after its premiere. 

This advertisement (produced by Glover’s longtime partner Hiro Murai) raises an important question concerning the proliferation of firearms in the United States: why aren’t guns treated with greater care than human bodies? Who are the last-minute pursuers of Glover? For what reason does the mayhem cease when he lights up a cigarette? 

A true global sensation, “This is America” propelled the unexpected track to the heights of the music charts and ultimately won every Grammy award for which the public recognized it. 

Then, when the time came to release his 4th studio album, “This is America,” he had been removed from the tracklist, resulting in a stratospheric, one-off release. Listening to this track is next to impossible without picturing this clip.

50. “Cellophane” by FKA Twigs Produced in 2019.

FKA Twigs, inspired by the work of a pioneer in the music video genre like Björk, approaches each new promotional video as an opportunity to surpass her previous work and surprise us with something completely new. 

After the trauma of having fibroids tumors removed, FKA Twigs sought solace in pole dancing to recover her figure and its physicality. 

She enlisted Andrew Thomas Huang, a longtime Björk collaborator, to help create a clip for her mournful song of unrequited affection, “Cellophane,” which is both sultry and heartbreakingly beautiful. FKA Twigs wears skimpy costumes and high heels, befitting a stripper to show off their toned physique for an anonymous audience. 

Her flexibility is off-the-charts, and during her pole sequence, she encounters a multi-headed celestial creature, puts her right foot in its throat, and then spirals down to the underworld, where masked locals bury her in mud. 

It sounds strange on paper, but when married to her heartbreaking audio, “Cellophane” proves haunting and gutting, poetic and pointed, proving that sexy and sad can simultaneously exist within one’s self. 

The song proved to be a critical breakthrough for Twigs, with the video even netting a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video. In 2021, Lil Nas X released his comic and controversial clip for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” which had a sequence in which he, too, rides a stripper pole down to hell. He, FKA Twigs, and Huang shared social media posts acknowledging the clear inspiration line between “Cellophane” and “Montero.” 

Both clips challenged conventions while proving to be iconic in the process. “Didn’t I do it for you?” Twigs pleads in her melody, but after watching “Cellophane,” it’s clear that she did it for us.