Essential Music Videos: The Story of O.J. by Jay-Z

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.”, from his 2017 album 4:44, is an absolute masterpiece on every level, a song that scathingly explores racial politics, and the accompanying video is every bit a perfect match to the content.

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Essential Music Videos: Wyclef Jean by Young Thug

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

Young Thug’s “Wyclef Jean”, as directed by Ryan Staake, is one of the more fascinating music videos in recent memory, an almost nightmarish surrealist statement. The video simultaneously details and depicts the result of a typical hip hop music video shoot, replete with images of scantily clad women dancing sexually and opulence, tempered through the idiosyncratic vision of rapper Young Thug, who ultimately never showed up for the shoot. Watching “Wyclef Jean” is akin to watching a slow motion car wreck.

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Essential Music Videos: Sabotage by the Beastie Boys

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

Ill Communication is not the Beastie Boys best album (that title goes either to their debut, Licensed to Ill, or their sophomore album, Paul’s Boutique); but it does feature their best single song, and its accompanying iconic music video. Directed by a 25 year-old Spike Jonze, the video features the members of the Beastie Boys appearing in the opening credits of a police show in homage to 1970s TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O and Starsky and Hutch.

Seeing the Beastie Boys appear with 1970s era mustaches and hairstyles, with the accompanying action, all filmed in a style reminiscent of the 1970s – it just works. It’s a crime that “Sabotage” didn’t win the MTV Video Award for Best Music Video, just a crime. This isn’t the only great music video directed by Spike Jonze, but it’s certainly the most memorable.

Essential Music Videos: Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

Most DJs sample two or three pieces of source music at a time when creating their own music; Australian band The Avalanches use 100-200 source samples, so to say that The Avalanches aren’t much like most other bands is a bit of an understatement. Released in 2000, The Avalanches debut album Since I Left You is a simply fantastic album, and the song, Frontier Psychiatrist, and its accompanying video, make for one of the most absurd, yet musically satisfying, combinations in memory. It’s also, perhaps, the only song that can be said to have a parrot solo, so thank god for that.

Because the song itself is unlike most of modern music, it’s only natural that the video itself would also be unlike anything else. The video features small visual cues, meant to replicate various moments from the song, looped over and over as the audio cues play through. There’s not much of a story to the video, but that’s fine because there’s not much of a story to the song either.

Thankfully for all of us, after a 16 year hiatus, The Avalanches finally released their follow-up to Since I Left YouWildflower, last year; while it didn’t quite live up to the standard of their debut, it’s a wholly satisfying album in its own right.

Essential Music Videos: [I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction by Devo

The Essential Music Video series features different music videos, both new and old, that are great or historically relevant in some respect

This is a relatively early music video for the 1977 Devo cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Obviously the original song is one of the most iconic of music history, but Devo manages to stamp their version as uniquely their own, with a frenetic energy.

The video itself does a great job matching the frenetic energy of the music, with fast-paced edits and repetitive cuts matching moments from the song. It brings to mind future music videos by bands such as OK Go and The Avalanches. While it maybe doesn’t tell a coherent story as we sometimes expect music videos to do, it’s very visually interesting, especially with Devo’s signature yellow jump suits.