Last weekend, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite music videos of all time. We received an enormous number of votes, and after counting every one, we now present the results. (And remember, you did the voting; we just announce the winners — even if they are exclusively videos by male artists.)
Pearl Jam haven't made a lot of music videos — they famously refused to release any at all for the three albums that followed their massively successful debut, Ten — but the clips they did create are extremely memorable. "Jeremy," the band's best-known video, does a great job of dramatizing Eddie Vedder's lyrics, depicting the struggles of the song's troubled protagonist until the poor kid offs himself in a classroom at its conclusion.
Everything about Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," from its "I want to fuck you like an animal!" chorus to Mark Romanek's stylish yet perverse music video, runs counter to anyone's idea of mainstream entertainment, but it was a massive hit anyway. Romanek's arty, transgressive clip was instrumental to the song's success — it made Trent Reznor look sexy, cool and different from every other rock star on the planet.
Howard Greenhalgh's video for "Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden's biggest hit, presents the suburbs as a surreal horror zone full of grotesque housewives, creepy grandpas and demonic children. No matter how apocalyptic the imagery gets, the band members themselves play their instruments off in the distance, seemingly indifferent to the weirdness that surrounds them.
The Foo Fighters are best known for their silly, cheerfully ironic music videos, and "Learn to Fly" may be the best of the bunch, with the Foos acting as both themselves and several other memorable passengers. In this clip, the band is forced to land an airplane after two boneheaded mechanics, played by Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass, attempt to smuggle a sleeping drug in the flight's coffee supply.
Spike Jonze has made some of the most famous videos of all time — he's responsible for the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet" and Daft Punk's "Da Funk," just to name a few — but his clip for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" gets to the essence of his playful spirit. The video is simply four minutes of Christopher Walken dancing around a hotel in a suit. It might not be that impressive on a conceptual level, but Walken's performance is mesmerizing and unforgettable.
Andy Morahan's video for Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" is just as epic and cinematic as the song itself. It's an expensive, lavishly produced clip, but every penny spent was worth it, as it remains the band's greatest achievement in the medium. Who can ever forget the wedding scene, or the image of Slash wailing away on his guitar outside a chapel?
With its imaginative high concept and stylish mix of live action and rotoscoped pencil animation, Steve Barron's video for a-ha's "Take on Me" is one of the most iconic clips of the Eighties. Barron also made Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing," the Human League's "Don't You Want Me," Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," making him one of the most influential video directors of all time.
Samuel Bayer's music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was just as radical and widely imitated as Nirvana's song itself. The clip pretty much invented the visual lexicon of grunge, with a bunch of dudes in ratty clothing wilding out at what appears to be a pep rally for a high school full of burnouts and gutter punks. After years of glossy pretty-boy rockers and video vixens, Bayer and Nirvana came out of nowhere to give a brand-new look to mainstream rock music.
Stephen R. Johnson's 1986 clip for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was considered a groundbreaking video upon its release for its innovative use of claymation, pixilation and stop-motion animation. But today, long after digital technologies have made this once cutting-edge video look relatively quaint, it's still impressive for its goofy, surreal sense of humor.
John Landis' 1983 short film for the title song from Michael Jackson's record-setting album is so iconic and influential that it's not exactly a surprise that it won this poll by a landslide. So much more than a promo clip for a song, this mini-movie practically invented the notion of the music video as a major cultural event, and it opened up a world of possibilities for the medium that artists are still exploring today.