Pearl Jam, “Jeremy” (Mark Pellington)
Long before Bowling for Columbine, Pearl Jam and director Mark Pellington explored the “evil” stirring within America’s youth. The song “Jeremy” was the more direct, sober sibling of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but the video smacked with equally potent, if not more indelible imagery. Questioning “science vs. emotion” and “nature vs. nurture,” the clip all but discards theories of environmental stress and hereditary factors and places explicit blame on the negligence of Jeremy’s parents, presented here theatrically and abstractly (giant photographs of a man’s suit and a woman’s dress) as the gluttonous Adam and Eve of parenting.
The Human League, “Don’t You Want Me” (Steve Barron)
A brunette being pursued by a gun-toting thug rides a sleek automobile along a twisty highway and ends up inside a hillside mansion. This isn’t Mulholland Drive but rather Steve Barron’s film-within-a-film-within-a-video for the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” the band’s classic ode to love gone bad. Superior to No Doubt’s similarly themed “Don’t Speak,” this heady video explores the band’s sticky on-set romances and pent-up hostilities with nary a hint of self-indulgence. Barron’s camera constantly unravels a new layer beneath the collection of stone-faced glances and suggests that nothing can ever be taken at face value.
Pat Benatar, “Love Is a Battlefield” (Bob Giraldi)
One of the first music videos to include spoken dialogue (“If you leave this house, you can just forget about coming back!” Pat Benatar’s father shouts as the troubled teen storms out of the house in a gargantuan huff), “Love Is a Battlefield” was a youth-empowerment mini-musical of operatic proportions. Benatar flees for the city to pursue her dream of sleeping with men for money. She writes home to her younger brother, who pines for his sister and struggles to hide his secret desire of becoming a hustler. Benatar’s pimp mistreats her, inspiring her to form a troupe of angry, dancing hookers who take on the night like a bunch of Raggedy Annes with a suspicious amount of choreography experience under their torn belts. They dance off into the trashy sunset and Benatar hops on a Greyhound bus home. In short, a classic.
Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure” (David Mallet and Andy Morahan)
A symphony of images cued to Queen and David Bowie’s now-classic anthem “Under Pressure.” This socially conscious slideshow is pieced together entirely from silent film and documentary stock footage. Stinging yet hopeful, the clip celebrates the pressure-cooker mentality of a culture willing to wage war against political machines. This is propaganda worthy of Sergei Eisenstein, the unofficial father of the music video and whose Battleship Potemkin is a main source of inspiration here.
Hole, “Violet” (Mark Seigler and Fred Woodward)
Imagine a group of gentleman from the Moulin Rouge era enjoying a night on the town inside your daughter’s favorite music box. Striving for the same vintage look that made Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer” video a hit one year earlier, photographer Mark Seliger and designer Fred Woodward evoked a bygone era of prostitution with a whorish Courtney Love as a wailer of female pain. The clip’s jaw-dropping visuals are trumped only by Love’s ability to turn make-up smearing into an art form.