Music videos have been an event since the dawn of MTV, which, my fair readers, did once indeed show actual music videos in the majority of their programming. (Now, get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers!) Beyonce doesn't just release a music video; she drops a visual album. When someone tries to leak her music, Beyonce releases the "7/11" music video, an anarchistic vid that looks like it was shot on an iPhone — and everyone loses their minds over it. Taylor Swift promoted the music video for "Bad Blood" with two weeks worth of teaser posters. It was given the same gravitas as a summer blockbuster, which, in many ways, it is. What would Lady Gaga be without her visual operas that say more about her as an artist than her actual music? Music videos tell stories, and they also build brands.
When it comes to telling the stories of the songs or the artists, not all music videos are terrilbly literal. For every firework exploding out of Katy Perry's bosom for the aptly titled "Firework," there are a dozen music videos that will leave you wondering, "Whuh?" Just look up Die Antwoord, I dare you. Sia completely stepped out of her music videos and let young dancer Maddie Ziegler (and sometimes Shia LaBeouf) do all the communicating for her.
"I Want it That Way" — Backstreet Boys
The lyrics in and of themselves are cloaked in mystery. What IS that way, and why do they want it!? Nevertheless, the song mentions nothing of airplanes or screaming fans... but who cares? It's BSB in their prime. All choreographed finger snaps and harmonies.
"No Scrubs" — TLC
We know that scrub is a guy who think's he's fly and is also known as buster, but what that has to do with outer space... well, we'll just leave that to the '90s to explain.
"Conversation 16" — The National
They got the heartache right, but lyrics, like "I was afraid I'd eat your brains," don't exactly scream Kristen Schaal and John Slattery in the White House. But, hey, you won't hear me complaining, this video cracks me up every single time.
"Hopeless Wanderer" — Mumford and Sons
This was just an excuse for Jason Bateman, Ed Helms, Jason Sudeikis, and Will Forte to do a Mumford and Sons impression, and it is spot on.
"Hit Me Baby One More Time" — Britney Spears
I think we were all too distracted by the video to ever pay much attention to the lyrics, but, in any case, there are about two seconds of some dude we're supposed to think is the love interest... right? The walkaway here is school girl outfits and high kicks.
"Steal My Girl" — One Direction
"The Whole World" — Outkast
Outkast can do whatever they want in their music videos — they're always stunning, whether they make complete sense or not.
"Get Ur Freak On" — Missy Elliott
Whatever is going on here in Missy Elliott's creepy underworld is certainly freaky, but that's as far as the connections go. Nevertheless, it's still one of the most legendary hip hop music videos of all time.
"Pumped Up Kicks" — Foster the People
Ah, Foster the People, the kings of hiding dark lyrics behind upbeat grooves and sunny music videos.
"Weapon of Choice" — Fatboy Slim
It's Christopher Walken dancing in a hotel lobby. Isn't that everyone's weapon of choice?
"White Knuckles" — OK Go
THERE ARE PUPPIES. EVERYTHING IS GREAT. OK Go just might be the greatest musical visual artists of their time. From choreographed treadmill dances to mind blowing writings on the wall, their videos will melt your mind even if they don't have much to do with the actual lyrics.