Music videos usually clock in at four to six minutes on average.
Artists have only that short period of time to make something memorable, of course never forgetting that the audio is the real star of the show. By definition, the visuals play second fiddle to the music. That doesn’t equate to boring – clearly there are many examples of music videos becoming as recognisable as the songs they accompany (think A-ha’s ‘Take On Me,’ or Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ to name a few). The creativity involved in integrating both pieces of content makes music videos fascinating to watch for me.
Even better, with YouTube everyone now has the luxury to watch their favourite videos whenever they want. Hands up who remembers sitting around in front of the TV – be it MTV, Channel V, or Myx – waiting just to catch a glimpse of theirs?
This week I’m writing about creepy music videos.
First things first: ‘Thriller’ isn’t on this list. (Not a hater here: that dance scene in ‘13 Going on 30’ is a personal guilty pleasure to watch.) While Michael Jackson’s video is certainly iconic, there’s something about the dancing undead that just didn’t scream “scary” to me.
Second, I haven’t included anything from Marilyn Manson, Aphex Twin, or anything like that – though some of their videos fall well within the nightmare fuel category. I have nothing against these musicians, I just chose from the universe of music I actually listen to.
Finally, all of the music videos on my personal short list are not shit-your-pants scary. But I vividly remember the first time I saw each of them and all settled uneasily on my mind. Clearly, there they still linger. Here goes.
1) Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden (1994)
Show me a ‘90s kid who didn’t get creeped out by the bug-eyed ever-widening grins of the suburban townspeople in Soundgarden’s music video for Black Hole Sun.
Throw in other Twin Peaks-esque imagery: an eclectic band of doomsayers, that elderly lady applying lipstick while simultaneously ogling a muscled man and exercising with a vibrating belt, and a Barbie melting on the barbecue, and you’ve got yourself one terrified kid.
2) Breathe, The Prodigy (1996)
In The Prodigy’s Breathe the imagery is less subtle and more in-your-face: close-ups of roaches in a dirty sink, millipedes, a loose alligator. Actually, I found the duelling shots of Keith Flint and Maxim more disturbing. It’s probably all those flashing lights.
But man, what a sick beat. I only recently realised I’ve been singing it wrong for over two decades (it’s not “Psychosomatic-atic insane” haha).
3) All Nightmare Long, Metallica (2008)
I don’t know what I was on when I first saw this video, but it didn’t immediately register that I was watching MTV. I thought I was watching some Blair Witch-type illegal Russian documentary. Also, bear in mind that while nowadays zombies are old hat thanks to shows like The Walking Dead, in 2008 they weren’t as commonplace.
In short, the video scared me for a good eight minutes. Also how chilling is that line, “Hunt you down without mercy / Hunt you down all nightmare long”?
Special Mention: Burn The Witch, Radiohead (2016)
I listened to a lot of Radiohead back in the day when I was an angsty teen haha. I only came across this track recently (I didn’t know they were still active!). I have to include it here because I like how cleverly it merges imagery from The Wicker Man with innocuous stop-motion animation reminiscent of Postman Pat.
Could have been creepier without the scene at the end, though.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this short, musical list. Till next week! 👻
Think critically dear readers,