"The Art of The Music Video" or "1997 in Sound and Vision"

Remember the 90's? That was a time when the music video was king. A time when the MTV (Music Television) channel was a global phenomenon and a primary source for music for a whole lot of people. To get noticed in music you had to have a video to go with the track and television was the media where it all happened. The music video is still important but today it's a different landscape. The internet and the state of today's music industry means a different set of rules.

When the age of the music video dawned one criticism was that the videos were a commercial enterprise that removed the focus away from the music, since music primarily ought to be an auditory experience. That never made any sense though, since music has always had a visual dimension. Before the grammophone was invented in the late 1800's and became a widely used technology in the 20th century, the musical experience depended on performance and therefore the auditory experience could not be separated from the visual experience. In order to hear music you had to see and hear someone perform it live. Recording technology and the grammophone only caused a temporary separation between the eyes and ears. A separation that lasted some 100 years. With television, MTV, multimedia, the internet and all the technologies that will be introduced in the future, eyes and ears have been "joined together" again. Once again, music is both a visual and an auditory experience, as it used to be.

So back to the 90's. A time when record companies actually had some control and quite a lot of money as well. Big name artists had big budget videos made for their tracks and the art of music video directing even spawned a few stars of its own. Well, if not stars, then definitely some notable names.

For this post I've collected a bunch of music videos from 1997; the year when I really started watching a lot of MTV. Before that it was an on/off thing but that year I really got into the whole music video thing.

So join me on a journey through 1997 in sound and vision. A year when Mtv definitely was my primary source for music. I was sixteen at the time (turned seventeen in may that year). We moved from Denmark back to the Faroes in january 1997. There was one particular track that was being played over and over again during that time;

U2: Pop "Discotéque" (dir: Stéphane Sednaoui)
The Pop album came out in march 1997 and the first single, "Discotéque", came out in january. I didn't get it at first but I soon became a fan of both the track and the album and shortly afterwards this developed into a fully fledged U2 fandom that still holds a certain sway. From what I understand U2 aren't satisfied with the Pop album these days. And also it "only" sold 8 million copies (!)
The video for "Discotéque" is directed by french director Stéphane Sednaoui who also worked with U2 on other videos ("Mysterious Ways" amongst others). The video is a wonderful play with irony, complete with disco colours and imagery.

Depeche Mode: Ultra "Barrel of a Gun" (dir: Anton Corbijn)
This came out around the same time as "Discotéque". A very dark track/video that fascinated me. I became a fan of Depeche Mode around the same time and Ultra was my first album. Anton Corbijn is a famed photographer and video artist with a distinct style.

Daft Punk: Homework "Around The World" (dir: Michel Gondry)
I remember thinking how incredibly annoying and repetitive this track appeared to be. I didn't get dance music back then, I didn't get dancing either :) Thankfully I got wiser. In retrospect this is so amazing. The Homework album is a classic in electronic dance music and "Around The World" is probably it's zenith. Michel Gondry is a french star director. I love how all the different elements in the video fit the different elements in the song.

David Bowie: Earthling "Little Wonder" (dir: Floria Sigismondi)
David Bowie had an interesting, eclectic and sometimes weird period in his career in the mid 90's. Maybe because he turned 50 around the time? :) Floria Sigismondi, she later worked with Sigur Rós. Cool visuals. It's all very 90's somehow...

Radiohead: OK Computer "Paranoid Android" (dir: Magnus Carlsson)
This band made such a huge impression. What a track, what an album, what a video. We used to watch "Robin" (the cartoon that features in this video) on the TV1000 channel. The show was funny. Sarcastic but warm somehow. Radiohead were fans too and they got Magnus Carlsson, the creator of the show, to make an episode for this track. The main character in the video is Robin.

Aphex Twin: Come to Daddy EP "Come to Daddy, Pappy Mix" (dir: Chris Cunningham)
This was the freakiest thing I ever saw. Chris Cunningham really made a name of himself. First time I saw it it was late at night and I had no idea. I was scared watching it. Later I learned that the music was a parody of The Prodigy (the track "Breathe" in particular) which is pretty funny, but at the time it was just alien and creepy. Still is.

Björk: Homogenic "Bachelorette" (dir: Michel Gondry)
Homogenic is my favourite Björk album. Edgy, otherwordly and beautiful. This is a wonderfully composed track with the always inventive Michel Gondry again in the directors seat for the video.

Chemical Brothers: Dig Your Own Hole "Block Rockin' Beats"
This was so energetic and cool. A bass line to die for. I finally saw them live at Roskilde 2008. Great.

Supergrass: In It For The Money "Richard III"
Great rock 'n' roll track. I remember loving how the keyboard/theremin player wasn't really "in" the band but was in the TV set, like he was an extra dimension to the band.

Foo Fighters: The Colour And The Shape "Everlong" (dir: Michel Gondry)
Funny video. Never been a big Foo Fighters fan but they had some catchy tunes. Mr Gondry again creates some surreal visuals.

Faith No More: Album Of The Year "Ashes To Ashes"
Pretty cool this. Don't know who directed the video.

Ben Harper: The Will To Live "Faded"
Definitely NOT something I saw on Mtv. Ben Harper was never on TV or radio. He made his name via word of mouth and he did well at that. But he also did music videos and this came out in 1997. Great track, great album.

The Prodigy: The Fat of The Land "Smack My Bitch Up" (dir: Jonas Åkerlund)
The oh so controversial video of the year. Saw them live last year here in Copenhagen. It was an ok good show. Good but not great.

Primal Scream: Vanishing Point "Kowalski" (scripted by Irvine Welsh)
Pretty cool video from a pretty cool band (ok, amazing band...at times).

The Dandy Warhols: ...The Dandy Warhols Come Down "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth"
This was a hit back then. I remember liking the laidback bohemia-ness (that's not a word but who cares) of it all. Something they repeated to great effect with "Bohemian Like You" (ha-ha).

Backstreet Boys: Backstreet's Back "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" (dir: Joseph Kahn)
So yeah. I had very ambiguous feelings about Backstreet Boys back then. On the one hand it was a boy band for Pete's sake! On the other hand the main riff of this song was really cool...pop music is pop music. It can be fun.

Aqua: Aquarium "Barbie Girl" (dir: Peder Pedersen)
This was just all over the place.

Busta Rhymes: When Disaster Strikes "Fire It Up (12" only release)" 
Busta was one of the first hip hop artists I remember actually liking and even digging. This 12" only track makes great sampling use of the theme from Knight Rider and Busta's rapping is tight!

The Verve: Urban Hymns "Bittersweet Symphony"
This was also a big hit of the year but truth be told I didn't like it, nor the album. The best album by The Verve is their very first album A Storm In Heaven, from when they were just called Verve. That's actually a really really good album with some healthy doses of shoegazy guitar psychedelia. This video is good though in all its simplicity.

Portishead: Portishead "Only You" (dir: Chris Cunningham)
Chris "Creepy" Cunningham again. Striking visuals here for the amazing Portishead whose sophomore album came out in 1997. Amazing band, great track, great video.

LL Cool J: Phenomenon "Phenomenon" 
Pretty cool. The line "something like a phenomenon" must be inspired by the Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five track "White Lines (Don't Do It)" since the same line with the same melody also appears in that track.

Deftones: Around The Fur "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" (dir: Frank W. Ockenfels III)
A great track from a great rock album. "My Own Summer (Shove It)" was the first single but the director on the video for "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" has such an epic name that has to be acknowledged; "Frank W. Ockenfels III". Whoa! Also this is a great track.

Nine Inch Nails: Lost Highway OST "The Perfect Drug" (Mark Romanek)
AMAZING song! From the soundtrack to the masterful Lost Highway by David Lynch. A film that made a huge impression on me even though I had no idea what was going on. Later on I got a liking to Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor is an interesting character. This video is pretty cool. It's kinda goth but that's ok. Mark Romanek is also a bit of a "name" in the music video biz.

Reef: Glow "Place Your Hands"
1997 was also the year when I began listening to contemporary bands and artists. Before that I was into 60's stuff like The Beatles, The Doors & Jimi Hendrix. Nirvana was probably the "newest" band I was listening to. But 1997 changed all that. Reef were in there somewhere. Mostly because they had a "retro" sound that sounded a bit like the 60's. And also because their music was fun and energetic. Glow is still a pretty good rock album.

So that's it for now. If a video is left out I either forgot it or didn't like it enough to include it :) This was a fun journey through 1997 in sound and vision. Hopefully you had as much fun as I had. Until next time. Over and out.


  1. Wow!
    So many memories.
    Almost brought tears to my eyes.

    Thanks for sharing (or re-sharing?)
    -and reminding me that MTV used to have music videos


  2. You're welcome man! :) And yes, it must be RE-sharing since we used to watch a lot of these together. Good times.