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Published on January 31st, 2014 | by Clint Davis

Top 10: Spike Jonze Music Videos

Music videos were a huge reason why I became so interested in both film and music in my formative years. I used to sit and watch MTV all morning long, remembering the director’s names at the very bottom of the credits. This was the golden age of music videos and my favorite were directors like Hype Williams, Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze–three names that meant you were in for something you likely hadn’t seen before.

When I reviewed Her, Jonze’s latest film, it made me want to revisit some of my childhood favorite videos of his and check out some of the newer ones I had missed along the way. After spending hours on YouTube, I came away with my Top 10 Spike Jonze Music Videos. A couple of great ones didn’t make the list (the Man/Dog lost in NYC in Daft Punk’s “Da Funk” and Bjork’s romance with an overbearing cat in “Triumph of a Heart”) but if you want to see what 5 minutes and some creativity can get you, give these a watch.

#10: Bjork “It’s Oh So Quiet” [1995]

 

Jonze did several great videos for Bjork (whose work I would never know if she hadn’t had so many great music video directors at her beck and call in the ’90s), and this was one of his early triumphs. Using a lot of slow motion was nothing new for Jonze but the extravagant choreography and gorgeous set design in this video takes you back to the studio musicals of the 1960s. The ending shot is also one of the all-time great closers.

#9: Jay-Z and Kanye West (feat. Otis Redding) “Otis” [2011]

 

Rap videos have always been a spectacle, with most directors going HUGE to match the exaggerated personalities in the genre. Jonze worked with some of the titans of rap in the ’90s and continues to be a go-to guy for the best MCs today. This 2011 video, the newest on this countdown, shows Jay-Z and Kanye West dismantling a Maybach 57 (MSRP: $376,000) and cruising around an empty lot with some scantily-clad models in the backseat. The pair are basically just having fun and being badasses–spitting their verses in front of a giant American flag. Is it excessive? Certainly but before you get pissed, a title card at the end reveals the car was later auctioned benefiting the East African Drought Disaster relief fund.

 #8: Fatboy Slim “Weapon of Choice” [2001]

 

Even if you’ve never seen this video, you’ve probably seen clips from it and wondered what in the hell they were from. Christopher Walken dancing in a barren hotel result in 5 minutes and 30 seconds of bliss. This classic won Jonze a Grammy and a handful of VMAs and showed everyone how much of an enigmatic badass Walken is…as if we needed any reminder.

#7: Kanye West (feat. Dwele) “Flashing Lights” [2008]

 

The first time I saw this video, I didn’t even know Jonze directed it and upon several watches, it still doesn’t look like one of his but it’s one of my favorites of the 2000s. Co-directed by Kanye West, this is a very shot (cutting more than a minute from the song), very dark and sexy effort. Cut in slow mostion, a woman with a ridiculous body commits a brutal act of violence against the song’s artist, and are only left to guess that she was likely justified. An instant classic!

#6: LCD Soundsystem “Drunk Girls” [2010]

 

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is one of the most inventive musicians of the last decade, re-inventing the wheel of electronic dance music, so why not work with one of the guys that constantly pushes the creative envelope of music videos? This video is complete chaos acted out in a nondescript studio room. Murphy and two bandmates are humiliated and assaulted by a sadistic gang of people dressed like pandas. That’s pretty much all I can say, just watch the thing.

#5: Weezer “Buddy Holly” [1994]

 

One of the all-time classics in music video history, “Buddy Holly” made Happy Days cool with Gen-Xers and further showed Jonze’s smarts for connecting a song seamlessly with images. Weezer takes the stage at Arnold’s Drive-In for a video that won a ton of VMAs, including “Breakthrough Video of the Year”…man I miss when the VMAs were actually cool.

#4: Notorious B.I.G. (feat. 112) “Sky’s the Limit” [1997]

 

First off, it doesn’t get any cooler than the smooth combination of Biggie’s verses, 112’s hook and Clark Kent’s production on this track but the video takes it to the next level. Replacing Biggie, Puffy and even Busta Rhymes with children makes for a disorienting watch but Jonze made himself the hip-hop Anne Geddes with this video. The kids are all cool as hell and the costumes are spot-on, although it is a little uncomfortable when the girls are wearing Lil Kim-esque lipstick and tiny bikinis while dancing beside the pool.

#3: The Chemical Brothers “Elektrobank” [1997]

 

Who knew a high school gymnastics competition could be so fraught with tension and intensity? Jonze’s ex-wife Sophia Coppola stars in this dramatic video, as a gymnast performing the floor exercise of her life in order to beat the evil blonde chick from her rival school (we know she’s evil because she’s blonde and wearing all black!). The electro-beat of The Chemical Brothers makes this seem like the most awesome tumbling routine ever performed.

#2: Fatboy Slim “Praise You” [1999]

 

The first time I saw this guerrilla dance video, I was 11 years old and didn’t know what the hell I was watching, I just knew It. Was. Awesome. Credited as “The Torrance Community Dance Group”, Jonze and group of dancers unleashed their amateurish choreography onto an unsuspecting group of folks waiting in line at a movie theater, while several handheld cameras shoot the performance from around the crowd. Jonze is a longtime collaborator with the stars of Jackass and this video shows why he gets along with those guys so well. “Praise You” is one of the greatest things you’ll ever see.

#1: Beastie Boys “Sabotage” [1994]

 

In my humble opinion, maybe the greatest music video of all-time. Jonze’s clip for this Beastie Boys’ pissed-off classic has it all–comedy, action, porn ‘stashes and attitude to spare. The opening sequence of a ’70s cop show that never aired, “Sabotage” is a video that will never get old or boring and it just gets better every time you sit through it. It was nominated for five VMAs in 1994, but didn’t win a single one–prompting MTV to eat crow in 2009, awarding it the first-ever “Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)” trophy.

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at TheClintDavis@gmail.com.



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