The 100 Greatest Pop Videos of All Time, 10 years on

Posted: January 9, 2015 in Music, Television

As part of my most recent thesis research, I’ve been looking at ‘greatest’ lists in music. It’s fascinating to compare the critics’ choices of the greatest albums and songs ever with the general public’s – while the critics of the likes of Rolling Stone and the NME lean towards white rock, the public’s taste is generally broader and more diverse, although women and black performers are still under-represented and recent hits are promoted above where they will probably end up being considered 10-20 years down the line (see ‘Groovejet’ by Spiller being ranked as the 9th-greatest number 1 of all time in a 2001 Channel 4 poll, ahead of anything by Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Rolling Stones – each to their own, I guess).

But alongside those, Channel 4 also did a poll to find the 100 greatest pop music videos, which was eventually revealed in a programme in 2005. Of all the lists I’ve found, I think this is probably the closest music (well, theoretically) list to being bang on that I’ve ever seen.

100. Musical Youth – Pass the Dutchie
99. Supergrass – Pumping On Your Stereo
98. Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
97. Cornershop – Brimful of Asha
96. So Solid Crew – 21 Seconds
95. The Cardigans – My Favourite Game
94. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
93. The Rolling Stones – We Love You
92. Herbie Hancock – Rockit
91. The Specials – Ghost Town

90. The Pet Shop Boys – Go West
89. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
88. Elton John – I Want Love
87. Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime
86. The Streets – Fit But You Know It
85. Sex Pistols – My Way
84. The Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays
83. Shakespear’s Sister – Stay
82. 50 Cent – In Da Club
81. Ultravox – Vienna

80. Radiohead – Just
79. New Order – True Faith
78. Godley and Creme – Cry
77. MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This
76. The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever
75. Duran Duran – Rio
74. Wu-Tang Clan – Gravel Pit
73. Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head at
72. Robert Palmer – Addicted to Love
71. Bjork – All is Full of Love

70. The Police – Every Breath You Take
69. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
68. Madonna – Ray of Light
67. The Beastie Boys – Sabotage
66. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
65. Aphex Twin – Windowlicker
64. Bjork – Human Behaviour
63. George Michael – Outside
62. Blur – Parklife
61. The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up

60. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
59. ABBA – Knowing Me, Knowing You
58. The Cure – Close to Me
57. Meat Loaf – I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)
56. Eminem – Without Me
55. Fatboy Slim – Praise You
54. Daft Punk – Around the World
53. Wham! – Club Tropicana
52. Massive Attack – Teardrop
51. Run-DMC – Walk This Way

50. Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
49. Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity
48. Johnny Cash – Hurt
47. The Prodigy – Firestarter
46. Adam and the Ants – Prince Charming
45. Aerosmith – Crazy
44. Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head
43. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
42. Bjork – It’s Oh So Quiet
41. The Spice Girls – Wannabe

40. Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On
39. Pulp – Common People
38. Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
37. Guns n’ Roses – November Rain
36. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give It Away
35. Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
34. The White Stripes – Fell in Love With a Girl
33. U2 – Sweetest Thing
32. Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
31. Eminem – Stan

30. Weezer – Buddy Holly
29. Electric Six – Gay Bar
28. Foo Fighters – Learn to Fly
27. David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes
26. TLC – Waterfalls
25. Madness – Baggy Trousers
24. Radiohead – No Surprises
23. Britney Spears – Baby One More Time
22. Justin Timberlake – Cry Me a River
21. Queen – I Want to Break Free

20. Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
19. Madonna – Material Girl
18. Beyoncé ft Jay-Z – Crazy in Love
17. Blur – Coffee and TV
16. OutKast – Hey Ya!
15. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
14. Christina Aguilera ft Redman – Dirrty
13. Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
12. Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – Scream
11. Coldplay – The Scientist

10. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
9. Madonna – Vogue
8. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
7. Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
6. Robbie Williams – Rock DJ
5. Madonna – Like a Prayer
4. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
3. a-ha – Take on Me
2. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
1. Michael Jackson – Thriller

I’ve compiled a playlist including all 100 videos. It’s about 7 hours long but it’s good to dip in and out of.

Certainly the top 10 is broadly positive, although Rock DJ would probably be lower if it was re-run today. Any of the top four could legitimately claim to be the greatest. I begun to consider some notable omissions but I really struggled:

Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
Blur – Song 2
The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Destiny’s Child – Survivor
Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
Fugees – Ready or Not
George Michael – Careless Whisper/Faith/Freedom ’90
Manic Street Preachers – A Design for Life/If You Tolerate This…
Michael Jackson – Black or White
No Doubt – Don’t Speak
Oasis – Don’t Look Back in Anger
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
Robbie Williams – Let Me Entertain You/She’s the One
Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

But I think I’m scraping the barrel to an extent. The vast majority of videos on this list are worthy of their place. However, there’s been a decade’s worth of videos released since this that would find their way into this list if a new vote was run, or at least be worth serious consideration:

Beyonce – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Britney Spears – Toxic (technically before the 2005 poll, I know, but it has more of a legacy now)
Gotye ft Kimbra – Somebody That I Used to Know
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
Nicki Minaj – Starships
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Psy – Gangnam Style
Rihanna ft Calvin Harris – We Found Love
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble/We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Obviously this is quite pop-centric, as I’m struggling to think of any big rock videos of the last decade. No doubt what would actually happen is Channel 4 or whoever would fill it with Coldplay and Snow Patrol videos instead. Oh and probably Blurred Lines too (ffs). But the last decade has been pop’s for me, something I don’t really see changing any time soon.

Any other suggestions?


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