After a first review of the videos that marked the golden age of MTV, now we offer you the second part, which reviews the clips that had the biggest impact on the American channel in the 90s, just before it switched over and became a channel for series and reality shows.
A week ago, we offered you a selection of the videos that marked the decade of the 80s according to Craig Marks and Rob Tannebaum, authors of “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story Of The Music Video Revolution”. Now we’ll show you the changes that took place in the 90s, a decade that started off marked by excess and ended up with the imposition of censorship and discontent.
1. Cher: “If I Could Turn Back Time” (1989)
When Cher decided to go back to the world of music, she knew she had to first triumph on MTV. She hired Marty Callner, and asked him what clothes she should wear. “Wear something spectacular”, he told her… and Cher appeared on a Marine ship wearing the famous lace bodysuit that we all remember. The officials didn’t want her to be dressed like that, but they didn’t dare stand up to her. That was the last time a video was allowed to be filmed on a battleship. No one doubts that the video set Cher’s career afloat again.
2. Madonna: “Justify My Love” (1990)
The song that Lenny Kravitz, Ingrid Chávez and Madonna herself composed for the diva’s greatest hits album came out with a video clip directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino; but MTV considered it to be too erotically charged for broadcast. It was the first time that MTV emphatically refused to show a Madonna video… although today it remains one of the artist’s best clips.
3. Sinéad O’Connor: “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
Without a doubt one of the simplest videos – yet one of the best from 1990 - was Sinéad O’Connor’s: a simple black and white close-up in which the singer spontaneously cried while recording, remembering her deceased mother. “The close-up of me singing was supposed to be only one part of the video” says O’Connor in the book. The video won several awards that year at the Video Music Awards, among them, Video of the Year.
4. Billy Idol: “Cradle Of Love” (1990)
Before David Fincher shot to fame with films like “Se7en”, the director started out making video clips. Fincher shot this video starring a “Lolita” in such a way that we can only see Billy Idol through screens and from the waist up; the singer was injured and could barely move.
5. MC Hammer: “U Can’t Touch This” (1990)
In spite of Hammer’s impossibly baggy trousers, this is one of the video clips that has best withstood the test of time. The key? MC Hammer’s dancing - a mixture of classic steps, street elements and breakdancing. Hammer wanted a simple video, where dancing would come first. The director introduced minimal variations on the rapper’s idea: although he was sceptical at first, MC Hammer ended up loving the clip.
6. R.E.M.: “Losing My Religion” (1991)
The first video in which Michael Stipe agreed to synchronise the movement of his lips to the words of the song (inspired by O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”) and probably one of the group’s kitschiest videos. It was directed by Tarsem Singh, who was so nervous during the filming that he couldn’t stop throwing up. Singh asked Stipe to pose like Bollywood dancers, until the singer rebelled and asked him to let him do things his own way.
7. Guns N’ Roses: “November Rain” (1991)
One of the most expensive video clips in history: 1.25 million dollars for a shoot with no lack of inside arguments. This was the period when they kicked Steven Adler out for partying too much, Axl didn’t show up for shoots or systematically came late, Slash insisted on going to New Mexico to film his guitar solo … and the cost of the shoot doubled. In spite of the problems, the squandering of money wasn’t over: the sequel came with “Don’t Cry”, for which they cut off traffic in the centre of Los Angeles and used two helicopters.
8. Nirvana: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
Almost everything has been analysed about the Nirvana video directed by Sam Bayer: the cheerleaders who ended up being played by strippers through a casting mistake, the janitor, the real destruction of the set… Clean aesthetics, preciousness, and good manners ended with Nirvana. So did big budgets, hairspray, fans, and decorative girls. A new kind of video clip was born. And with it came the end of the golden age of MTV: only a year later the channel would premiere “The Real World” and video clips became a less relevant part of their programming.
9. Van Halen: “Right Now” (1992)
Sammy Hagar, Van Halen’s vocalist, was horrified by the idea of someone putting messages in the video of the song. When they tried to convince him that it was going to be one of the best videos in history, his response was “it stinks”. He hated the idea so much that he refused to synchronise his lips to the rhythm of the lyrics, and the slam of the door at the end of the clip is real: he was pissed-off. “I don’t think “Right Now” is a great video at all”, he says in the book. In spite of everything, they won the award for the Best Video of the Year: but the director, Mark Fenkse, didn’t go up to receive the award.
10. Pearl Jam: “Jeremy” (1992)
Another of the videos that was hit by the strict censorship that MTV imposed starting in the 90s: Eddie Vedder didn’t want to act and decided on a conceptual video in which the star, a teenager, shoots himself in front of his classmates. When the video landed at MTV, they told them that they would never broadcast something like that, so they cut out the scene in which the boy commits suicide. After the cut, it looks like Jeremy is really shooting at the rest of the class. After all of this, Pearl Jam said they didn’t want to film any more video clips… until 1998, when they chose to do an animated one for “Do The Evolution”.