Monday, February 22, 2016

The Five Best Music Videos of the 1980s

Guest blogger Emily Anderson lists her picks for the five best classic music videos. What are yours?

Michael Jackson with ghoulish friend.
1. Thriller by Michael Jackson. I remember staying up until midnight at 11 years-old, anxiously awaiting my first viewing of Michael Jackson dancing as a zombie. It was well worth it! This video changed the way music videos were perceived. They were no longer just about music, but were seen as art.

2. Take on Me by A-ha. Without this video, I do not believe this song would be mentioned when discussing 1980s music. This is a prime example of video overpowering song. The mixture of animation and live action is so real that there are times when they are seamless.

The clay Gabriel with big hammer.
3. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. The early days of music videos consisted of performances. As they advanced, videos told stories. Although neither of these formats, Sledgehammer is fascinating. With a clay Peter Gabriel and dancing chickens, there is little this video does not offer.

4. Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi. There are no gimmicks, flashy dance moves, or animation tricks in this video. It's raw and gritty. The life of top rockers can be rough and the black and white footage adds a nice touch.

The animated Money for Nothing.
5. Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. I wanted my MTV and got it just as this video became popular. At the time, the animation was unique and seemed like a video game instead of a music video. Combined with Dire Straits performing, it had many unsubtle subtleties (like heavy rotation). Complete with singing dog, it is quite amusing.

Honorable Mentions

Story videos: Don't Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; Land of Confusion by Genesis; and You Might Think by The Cars.

Performance videos: Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer; Every Breath You Take by The Police; and Walk This Way by Run-DMC.


  1. It's hard to argue with your picks, Emily. The first three are truly iconic. I'm undoubtedly in the minority, but I would have slotted "Take on Me" at No. 1. In the 4 and 5 positions, I would have had Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" (one of the best "story videos" and a terrific song, too) and U2 's "Where the Streets Have No Name." My honorable mentions include "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Papa Don't Preach," "Like a Virgin" (without the video and her MTV performance, Madonna wouldn't have become a superstar), the bizarre "Whip It" by Devo, and "Our House" by Madness. This was a highly entertaining post. Thanks for writing it!

  2. "Cry" by Godley & Creme. Their morphing faces video was landmark and used by others.

  3. "Big Time" was almost as good as "Sledgehammer" but agree that one Gabriel video is enough. I don't remember if it was still the 80's but I also liked the Janet Jackson single take video. I'm not sure of the song but think it was "When I Think of You." I am a classic movie fan which means I need to mention the Marilyn Monroe homage "Material Girl."

  4. Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" is such a clever, quirky video. Sometimes I have that song on repeat while I'm trying to combat writer's block.

    Love your picks for these 1980s videos! There are a couple I haven't seen, so I'll be checking 'em out on YouTube.

  5. Loved the article! Sorry I didn't watch more music videos so I could comment intelligently on them.

  6. Great list, Emily! My favorite would have to be Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time." This was such a fun blast from the past!

  7. Don't forget Lou Reed's "No Money Down". The video was directed by Godley and Creme and followed on the heels of their classic ground breaking release "Cry". I could not include anything by Jackson in a list of best videos simply because they were all too commercial and overexposed on MTV.

  8. Same thing I've said about Take On Me for years. The song really sucks in my opinion, but it was a really cool video. The lack of heavy metal songs on your list was a little disconcerting though. I think the Twisted Sister video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" featuring Mark "Doug Neidermeyer" Metcalf is one of the best.