Many people have called me an “old soul.” I suppose that’s because the idea of living in the 1980s is pure heaven to me, mostly because of the music. The ‘80s showcased some of the greatest musical artists to ever grace our humble planet and they weren’t afraid to strut their stuff on MTV. Yes, they actually used to show music videos. But I do love living in 2022 because I have access to those videos at a moment’s notice.
This was incredibly difficult, but I took about 60 of my favorite music videos of all time and narrowed it down to my top 15. Please note that these are in no particular order and they are not ranked from “best” to “worst” or anything else. They’re just here to be showcased and loved.
1. “Big Time” – Peter Gabriel
If, like me, you find the claymation and puppetry in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” to be both beautiful and charmingly terrifying, this one’s for you. It’s incredibly weird, but that’s what makes it so cool. Plus the song is a total jam.
2. “House of Fun” – Madness
These guys made some of the best videos out there, but this one is particularly excellent. They match strange and specific movements to the beat of the song and change the visual tone of the video when there’s a change in key, all while making you chuckle a few times at their antics.
3. “Buddy Holly” – Weezer
Yes, a ‘90s video. But it goes back to the ‘70s and ‘80s to a show that took place in the ‘50s. In this video, we see old footage of the classic television sitcom “Happy Days” and clip it together with new footage of Weezer to make it look like they’re performing for Richie and the gang at Arnold’s. It’s completely awesome from beginning to end, but there’s nothing like the moment Fonzie swaggers in looking totally fly, as always, and starts doing the kazatsky perfectly to the beat.
4. “Dancing in the Street” – David Bowie and Mick Jagger
I am not particularly a fan of the Rolling Stones, nor do I have anything against them, but when Jagger teams up with Bowie for the ultimate, dancing-bromance duet of the century (besides, of course, the “My Little Buttercup” scene with Steve Martin and Martin Short in “Three Amigos”), I can make an exception. If I’m being honest, which I am, this one looks like it was shot on a drunken whim on some random night that Bowie and Jagger were hanging out together. Their dance moves and facial expressions make so much sense, and their funky outfits do not look tailored. They do look like they’re having the time of their lives and that’s what makes it so special.
5. “Centerfold” – J. Geils Band
This song rocks, and so does the music video. It takes place in a high school classroom with ladies in family-friendly negligees dancing in perfect sync with the band’s members. The lead singer wears a cool, black-and-red ensemble, but I swear I saw P.J. Soles wearing the exact outfit in “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” Not that I’m complaining or picking on them, it’s a neat look.
6. “Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats
What I love about this video is the stark contrast between the music and the visuals. The song is a club-worthy synth-jam, and the video takes place in some kind of weird fantasy setting. It doesn’t seem like it would work, but it does.
7. “I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet” – The Monkees
A ‘60s jam, eh? This one may not have ever made it to MTV, but that’s because we didn’t need MTV when we had “The Monkees” TV show. Every episode, at least as far as I have seen, has featured at least one music video, and often two. This one is my favorite, as it truly captures the band’s playful and silly attitude.
8. “Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.
We all love this song and we love the movie even more, but have you seen the official music video? It gets cooler and cooler every second, with guest stars such as John Candy and Chevy Chase, and maybe a little bit of dancing from the ‘busters themselves.
9. “I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister
These guys were kind of a two-hit wonder with this song and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The videos are very similar, but I think I prefer this one. It exaggerates the “school is for losers” stereotype that teenagers have, plus the down-right evilness of the teacher. It’s completely unrealistic and hilarious, and even teens and high school graduates today could have a good laugh at the absurdity based on some students’ lives in school.
10. “Puss ‘n’ Boots” – Adam Ant
I love this guy. I love this song. I love this video. While every single music video from Ant and his band are totally excellent, this one has something for everyone: fabulous dancing, a pretty woman in a cool outfit, weirdly cute mouse costumes, Ant’s gorgeousness and cheese.
11. “Hot for Teacher” – Van Halen
This is the video that made me fall head over heels for ‘80s music videos. It has a loosely defined “story” about a nerdy kid who’s apprehensive about going back to school. His classmates are wondering what their new teacher is going to look like and, because it’s a Van Halen video, she’s a beautiful woman in a skimpy bikini and a pageant-style sash. It’s absolutely ridiculous and so funny with its tongue-in-cheek humor making fun of bands like themselves.
12. “It’s Tricky” – Run DMC
While these dudes rock on their own, I found out about this video for a very particular reason. Penn & Teller are in it. Get it? “Tricky?” Like magic tricks? This was when their popularity was really starting to escalate and it’s adorable to watch them replicate the DMC guys’ dancing. This video also has a story but it’s much easier to follow than that of “Hot for Teacher.” Be sure to pay attention to when the tides turn for Run DMC and their magical opponents and try not to get distracted by how unbearably cute Teller looks in that hat.
13. “Word Crimes” – “Weird Al” Yankovic
It’s extremely hard not to love Weird Al. In fact, I don’t particularly know anyone who doesn’t. He was a major component of the MTV music video craze in the ‘80s, but this video is from the 2010s. Weird Al himself, unfortunately, does not appear in this video like he typically does but it is made up for by the wonderfully fascinating animated graphics. Not only are the lyrics brilliant, a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” but the visuals make it impossible to look away. They complement the words and their crimes perfectly and in the most fun way possible.
14. “Donna Everywhere” – Too Much Joy
Have you ever heard of these fellas? I hadn’t until I found out that Teller directed this music video. (Have I become predictable?) He and Penn Jillette also make a few cameos, dressed as cops and rockers. This song is so catchy and danceable, I don’t know why I haven’t looked up more of TMJ’s work. The song and video exude pure “party” energy that makes even me want to dance in a crowd.
15. “I Don’t Know What We’re Talking About” – Ninja Sex Party
Clearly, this band is NSFW, as their first album is titled “NSFW,” but I promise you that it’s all in the name of over-the-top comedy and goofiness. They’re total sweethearts who look up to Weird Al and, on Danny Avidan’s part, sing as angelically as Freddie Mercury of Queen. If you watch this video, those two points will become very apparent. You won’t even have to look out for the Queen homage because it automatically gets your attention right away. This video is hilarious, stunning and relatable for my fellow nerds who are laughably terrible at dating. Avidan is my all-time favorite singer and performer (and human) with a literally glittering presence in his shiny, ‘80s-inspired jumpsuits and flawless curls. This might all sound a little crazy, and that’s because it is, but in the best possible way.
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