Time Magazine has a great list of the best music videos in the first three decades of MTV. It’s hard to believe now that MTV’s arrival was controversial because some people thought it would take away from the purity of audio-only enjoyment of music. It was more appropriately controversial because, incredibly, MTV overlooked black performers in its early days. But videos from the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, became among the most popular ever and its “Yo! MTV Raps” program was influential in the genre’s early days.
I’ve been watching MTV long enough to remember when their “we’ll try anything” attitude had them playing Madonna’s “True Blue” for 24 hours straight (as the VJ noted, it could have been worse — it could have been “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida“). That means I remember the days when it really was “music television” with music videos back-to-back.
Music videos have turned out to be as creative and boundary-shattering as the music that inspires them. Time has some of my favorites, including “A-Ha’s” great “Take On Me,” Peter Gabriel’s amazing “Sledgehammer,” Jamiroquai’s mind-bending “Virtual Insanity,” Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” featuring a sensational dance performance from Christopher Walken, OK Go’s treadmill dance number in “Here It Goes Again,” and, of course, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” probably the two most famous videos of all time.
Here are a few of my favorites they missed: