As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are contributing editor Guillaume Gendron‘s choices. He can be followed on Twitter at @GGendron20.
3. ‘Flashing Lights’ – Kanye West (Spike Jonze, Kanye West, 2007)
The first of three collaborations between Spike Jonze – one third of the holy trinity of wünder directors that defined the nineties (along with Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry) – and Kanye West, the past decade’s most disruptive rap star, ‘Flashing Lights’ is also their best. At the time I waxed a little too lyrically about Yeezy reinventing the whole rap aesthetic – in fact he just raised it from bling to haute-couture – but this clip remains flawless. With its post-Lynchian vibe, ‘Flashing Lights’ challenges the rulebook form-wise (the abrupt cut) but also in substance, with the revenge of the video vixen and the end of the traditional notion of the rap star’s invulnerable masculinity.
* * * * *
2. ‘November Rain’ – Guns n’ Roses (Andrew Morahan, 1992)
Guitar heroes soloing on top of grand pianos, helicopter shots in the desert, people jumping through wedding cakes, an incomprehensible narrative, a millon dollar budget. Quite probably the most overwrought video of all time, ‘November Rain’ remains the exhaustive compilation of cock rock totems. Pretty much an archaeological document, the testimony of the decadent opulence of the MTV era at its peak, prior to the full bloom of the Nirvana inspired grunge revolution and the music industry’s economic crisis. Its preposterousness still inspires though, from Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey.
* * * * *
1. ‘Stress’ – Justice (Romain Gavras, 2009)
The breakthrough moment for French rascal Romain Gavras (the man behind MIA’s ‘Bad Girls‘) – it’s A Clockwork Orange meets La Haine with a slyly subversive sprinkling of Man Bites Dog thrown in for good measure. Following a gang of ghetto kids causing havoc in the bourgeois center of Paris, the notorious video came only a few years after the 2005 urban riots which caused controversy in France and abroad, reigniting the old, rather boring debate on life imitating art and vice versa when it comes to on-screen violence. The video looked very timely once again in the wake of last summer’s British riots. Neither social commentary nor plain glorification of social evils, ‘Stress’ is above all an assured piece of gut-wrenching cinematography.
* * * * *
[….and because he’s handsome and French, Guillaume gets a bonus]
‘It Was A Good Day’/’Check Yo Self’ – Ice Cube (F. Gary Gray, 1993)
The Chronicles of Compton, Tome I and II. Ice Cube’s diptych defined (or rather refined) the aesthetics of West Coast gangsta rap; influencing the whole perception of the era and the place, from films (Training Day) to video games (Rockstar’s GTA San Andreas) and beyond.
* * * * *
Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.