Whether you prefer Nirvana to Radiohead or The Backstreet Boys to the Spice Girls, there's no denying there was something for everyone among the music of the 1990's. The abundance of talent and arrival of new genres meant that the decade's music wouldn't soon be forgotten, to the point that entire events continue to be dedicated to our ongoing love for the '90s. With music videos a well-established medium for promotional and creative intentions by the start of the decade, the '90s provided us with some of the best and most innovative videos of all time. This week, we share our favourites and reminisce on the stories behind our choices.
Name: Luke Shields
Music Video: 'Joga' - Bjork
One still, stolid Saturday night, I was home alone. I, a man-child in my early 20’s, was still subsisting on the kindness abundant in my parents’ home deep in the beating black heart of the southeastern suburbs. I had, shamefully or not depending on your standpoint, ingested a bottle of red to myself as I sat diligently before the gentle arc of the technological covenant. With a few hours of free-to-air goodness under my belt, I drifted off to a shallow and lackluster sleep. Here’s where it gets surreal.
I sat and slumbered assumedly drooling into my empty glass for what must’ve been a few hours when suddenly my eyelids parted. Not a violent awakening by any stretch, but it was one of the most profoundly beautiful and surprising moments of my life. I awoke just as the lilting strains of string quartet brought to life Bjork’s resplendent and groundbreaking ‘Joga’. I’d heard of the work of Iceland’s greatest export only in the context of people I knew; metalheads mostly, deriding her for being an outsider. Pot kettle black, says I. I was struck dumb, slack jawed and gawking not only at the sheer dizzying swoon of landscape that makes up most of the visual component of the piece, but at the music itself. I had never before opened my ear to anything so sensitive, so subtle and so disarmingly brave as this, and to stumble across it in this way was absolutely the most fitting way to do so. It was in this unguarded moment that guitar music was knocked permanently off its perch for me. ‘Joga’, its film clip and my initiation into this world beyond abject normalcy still brings me to tears every now and again, and I’ve been chasing an experience as narcotic as that ever since.
Name: Will Brewster
Music Video: 'Come To Daddy' - Aphex Twin
Forget Nirvana, forget Tupac, forget PJ Harvey - Aphex Twin is undeniably the best artist of the ‘90s. Although it’s unfair that this is the track he’s associated with the most, the music video for ‘Come To Daddy’ is an unforgettable experience that I’m sure haunts many unsuspecting viewers. I think I saw this for the first time at 3am on rage after a big night out, and despite my state, I very clearly remember being simultaneously absolutely terrified and utterly enthralled. Literally everything about the video is beyond crazy – the grungy location, the little girls with Aphex Twin’s faced superimposed on them, and especially the weird monster at the end screaming into the face of the old lady – it’s unsettlingly iconic. It’s also got an absolutely ridiculous drum ‘n bass breakbeat throughout that never fails to get me going. What a genius.
Name: Eddy Lim
Music Video: 'Karma Police' - Radiohead
This was the first music video I saw from Radiohead, before I became a fan of the band. I honestly don’t think they could have shot a more appropriate video for this iconic track – it was and still is incredibly chilling to this day. Being almost entirely shot from the driver’s point of view, there’s an unshakeable feeling of being complicit in a higher power that we have no control over. We can feel the rising panic in the man’s chest as he flees from us, and his exhaustion as he eventually keels over onto the asphalt, with our car menacingly rolling forward towards him. Everything about this video is perfection – from the extremely minimal and nonchalant camera work, through to the twist at the very end. Bonus: Radiohead’s 2017 remastered release of OK Computer for its 20th anniversary included a whole heap of unreleased tracks, a standout being ‘Man Of War’. The track was launched with its own incredible video, and paid more than a bit of homage in both cinematography and imagery to its undeniable predecessor, Karma Police.
Name: Nicholas Simonsen
Music Video: 'Virtual Insanity' - Jamiroquai
There are countless Jamiroquai videos that come to mind when listing my favourites, but ‘Virtual Insanity’ takes the cake. I would go as far to say it’s my favourite music video of all time. Jay Kay is the smoothest frontman around, and this video is a prime example of just how captivating he is. The video suits the upbeat funk of the track so well and for a video that is almost a single shot of the same room the entire time, it never gets boring in the slightest.
Music Video: 'Coffee And TV' - Blur
Who doesn’t remember the story of the little milk carton that could? Even before I became a Blur fan, I used to watch this video whenever it came on TV because I loved the concept and the journey the little guy goes through. It’s the first non-performance based music video I can recall seeing, and it taught me a lot about the ability to take the listener/viewer on a journey with a great narrative. Whenever I listen to the song, I can’t help but envision the joyous look on the carton’s face when he finally finds Graham Coxon jamming out with the rest of the band.
Name: David James Young
Music Video: 'Virtual Insanity' - Jamiroquai
Is he moving? Is the floor moving? Are the walls moving? The most inertia-inducing video of the decade, ‘Virtual Insanity’ has confounded viewers since it arrived around halfway into the ‘90s. It's a simple execution – Google it if you want to see the magician's trick – that has stood the test of time as a groundbreaking, innovative force for the medium. Jay Kay's now-iconic look is rivalled only by his masterful footwork and breathtaking commitment to choreography, making it impossible to look away for even a second. Even after over 20 years, there's still new things to pick up every time you watch – and, truth be told, there's only a handful of music videos you can honestly say that about. Jamiroquai would go on to have a whole other mess of great clips – particularly ‘Canned Heat’ – but the future would forever live in the shadow of ‘Virtual Insanity’.
Music Video: 'Together Again' - Janet Jackson
The most famous video Janet Jackson was a part of in the ‘90s was also on record at the time as the most expensive video ever made – ‘Scream’, her collaboration with older brother Michael. It's a fascinating look at the indulgence and power MJ held in the realm of the music video medium, even at a time when he was past his peak of stardom. For what it's worth, however, Janet's best video from the decade arrived a few years later. Although not a particularly massive hit, ‘Together Again’ is accentuated by the sheer beauty of the location shots that make up its video. Filmed in Tanzania, Jackson is surrounded by locals and a myriad of wildlife. What better way to assert yourself as a part of the Jackson family dynasty than riding a goddamn elephant? A beautiful and criminally underrated clip from a beautiful and criminally underrated performer.