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100 Greatest Music Videos

70. Madonna, "Rain" (Mark Romanek). Madonna's "Rain," her first video with director Mark Romanek, is one of the singer's most beautiful. Madonna is primped and positioned on a futuristic Japanese soundstage for the video's shoot-within-a-shoot. The waterlogged clip was a simple and refreshing break from the singer's visually sex-drenched Erotica period. However innocent the video's look, though, it's difficult to separate the images from the song's double entendres.

68. The Cardigans, "My Favorite Game" (Jonas Akerlund) and U.N.K.L.E., "Rabbit in Your Headlight" (Jonathan Glazer). The Cardigans's "My Favorite Game" and U.N.K.L.E.'s "Rabbit in Your Headlight," directed by Jonas Åkerlund and Jonathan Glazer, respectively, perfectly embodied the pre-millennium tension of the late 90s. "My Favorite Game" follows leading Cardigan Nina Persson driving her red beater convertible recklessly through the desert on a crash course to self-annihilation. She seemingly takes control by putting her life (and the lives of others) in her own hands but, alas, her fate is eventually determined by a completely random act. Similarly themed but in a much darker vein is "Rabbit" by U.N.K.L.E. (James Lavelle and DJ Shadow featuring Thom Yorke), in which a mumbling, incoherent man (Beau Travail's Denis Lavant) stumbles through a traffic tunnel while cars dodge and occasionally hit him. Seemingly empowered by the cruel motorists that repeatedly crash into him, the man fabulously and instantaneously allows his body to transform itself into a powerful machine that subsequently lashes back at his enemy.

67. Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Samuel Bayer). Like every aspect of the band's all-too-brief creative output, the worth of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was arguably elevated in the wake of Kurt Cobain's death. In retrospect, however, the clip's twisted pep rally images (anarchist cheerleaders, dancing custodians) have become signposts of the grunge era. Cobain, as always, seems both apathetic and lightly buzzed, the anointed saint of early '90s teen angst.

66. Smashing Pumpkins, "Disarm" (Jake Scott). "[It's] about my childhood and how I turned into an asshole," says Billy Corgan of his song "Disarm," a cut from the Smashing Pumpkins' breakthrough album Siamese Dream. Corgan called director Jake Scott and told him that he wanted to make a video of the band flying through the air. The resulting clip was every bit as haunting and deceptively simple as the song itself. The band does indeed fly through the air, though a bit unconventionally. Above expressionistic storybook backdrops that evoke childhood dreamscapes, the Smashing Pumpkins come to resemble angels lost in time, convening over Corgan's uncomfortably vague recollection of his troubled past. The video's texture is every bit as hazy as memory itself.

65. Annie Lennox, "No More I Love You's" (Annie Lennox and Joe Dyer). Wide-eyed and presumably possessed by her desire, despair and other said demons, Annie Lennox takes center stage at a Moulin Rouge-style brothel in "No More I Love You's." Like many of Lennox's videos, "No More I Love You's" is drunk on high drama and pushes the boundaries of socio-sexual norms. The clip was inspired by the work of 19th century French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; like his piece "At the Moulin Rouge," the video is darkly textured but its characters' faces are lit with the warm glow of life.

64. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Mary Jane's Last Dance" (Kier McFarlane). This video directed by Kier McFarlane gave Tom Petty his biggest hit in years and made him cool to a whole new generation. It also did wonders for Kim Basinger, who—in her best performance to date—appears in the video as a corpse brought home by Petty's mortician for some wining, dining, dancing and possibly some romancing. Far more impressive than the delirious mise en scene is the mournfulness that overwhelms the video. In courting Basinger and setting her adrift in the ocean by his gothic abode, Petty seemingly suggests that he may never light up again.

63. Deee-Lite, "Groove Is in the Heart" (Hiroyuki Nakano). Sprung from NYC's then-thriving club scene, the members of Deee-Lite joined forces with guest artists like Maceo Parker and legendary funkateer Bootsy Collins for "Groove Is in ihe Heart," a retro-visual feast of Laugh-In proportions. Kazoos, fake fur, and Q-Tip, oh my!

62. Guns N' Roses, "Estranged" (Andy Morahan). Andy Morahan collaborated with Guns N' Roses on more than a half dozen videos. "Estranged" was the band's most pretentious and self-involved creation to date. This, though, was part of the video's genius. More so than any other Guns N' Roses video, the evocative "Estranged" was a frank look at Axl Rose's celebrity, his obsessive need for control and a haunting foreshadowing of the band's expiration. Rose's transcendent communication with the video's dolphins suggests that the he was more than aware of his delusions of grandeur and evokes the singer's isolation within his self-imposed spotlight.

61. Live, "Lightning Crashes" (Jake Scott). In the post-Nirvana landscape, Live seemed poised to take the alt-rock crown. Their 1994 album, Throwing Copper, sold 8 million copies, fueled in part by the anthem "Lightning Crashes" and its striking video. A young woman dies during childbirth, leaving a baby to be watched over by a bald, female angel. Silver coins are placed over the eyes of the dead woman, a cross-cultural custom meant to protect the soul of the deceased. Years later, a second woman (the baby perhaps) gives birth without complication, the angel once again presiding over the event. Superstitions aside, its message is a visceral one: the body may cease to exist but the spirit gets a second chance.


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