The music industry was given one hell of shake up with the arrival of MTV in 1981. Once everyone found out the biggest radio station in the world was the TV, the birth of the music video changed the game for the more photogenic rock stars out there. That’s not to say that all of them have aged particularly well.
Let’s face it… every era of the music video has some weapons-grade cheese hidden in its offerings. While there have been many that have withstood the test of time, these are the kind of videos that make us a lot more confused nowadays than impressed.
It’s not all ‘80s fluff either. Throughout every generation, you always have to deal with something questionable coming across your screen whenever your favorite song plays. Because as many times as you get a video like Metallica's “Enter Sandman,” there’s a video like “In the End” by Linkin Park with bad effects, over the top camp, or — in the worst cases — both.
That said, here’s just a peek at some songs with music videos that have aged about as well as the leftovers in the back of your fridge.
Metallica, "I Disappear" (2000)
Metallica have been known for making some of the best music videos in the business, with “One” being an all time classic. This soundtrack song for Mission: Impossible II, though, is a bit all over the place with the scenic shots in the desert being as over the top as this entry in the movie series. Yeah, James...you drive that getaway car that you are clearly not photoshopped into (?). For the Lars haters though, you do get to see him throw himself out of the window of a building. Kudos?
Foo Fighters, "Big Me" (1996)
This is probably the most chipper Foo Fighters song you will ever hear. Who are we kidding? Dave Grohl’s charm is half the reason it works. The director of this video only had one question: You ever seen those Mentos commercials? And the result was this: a rock video carried solely on Dave’s dopey grin. For those of you growing up between ‘90-’96, this is the kind of nostalgia trip that no one wants to relive.
Panic! at the Disco, "Lying Is the Most Fun..." (2006)
The ‘00s emo scene tended to be a glorious trainwreck at the best of times. While the music itself kicked ass, you’d always get videos like these that were weird just for the sake of being weird. Why are their heads in fish tanks? I dunno...it looks cool. Why is everyone in formal attire? Because...emo classiness? For as much as this was everybody’s jam back in the day, for the love of God, do not think about this one too hard. Trust me — your brain will collapse.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication" (1999)
Anyone even remotely familiar with RHCP knows to expect something weird when looking at their music videos (case in point, “Give It Away”). This was the late ‘90s though, which meant they spent all their money on graphics for a Chili Peppers video game that no one really wanted. Seriously, this is the weird editing that was poor even by the standards of the Tony Hawk video games. There’s a resolution setting on this video, but this is the kind of thing that you only watch in the lowest res possible while you’re setting up your controller.
Rush, "Time Stand Still" (1987)
Rush were never really known for their music videos. Even though the performance clips of “Tom Sawyer” have become iconic, they are just playing the song and not much else. This was the late ‘80s, though, and guess who just got a brand new green screen? Yeah, throughout most of the video, the guys basically float through the air like this is their first time using editing software. You’ve got Alex Lifeson with his Flock of Seagulls hair, Neil looking confused and Geddy Lee twirling and desperately trying to make things work. This is objectively terrible editing, but how can you hate something this dorky?
Genesis, "Land of Confusion" (1987)
Compared to the rest of this list, there’s a school of thought for this being the best Genesis video. It’s certainly their most ambitious, making puppets of themselves and other famous figures of history — such as President Reagan and the Pope — and having them all dance along to this song about a dystopian present. This is absolute nightmare fodder with some of the most grotesque images of Phil Collins ever conceived. Just let these faces burrow into your skull one more time. Sweet dreams, everyone.
Queen, "Calling All Girls" (1982)
If there’s any '70s band that was on the pulse of the music video format, it should have been Queen. I mean, Freddie Mercury was practically born for this kind of medium. And yet, the video for “Calling All Girls” doesn’t seem to make any damn sense when paired with the song. When you think of a song about calling out to all the girls around the world, the first thing that springs to mind is not necessarily the members of Queen trying to dodge robots out to terminate them. Since most of the band doesn’t really care for Hot Space, there’s more of a potential reason why they’re not exactly giving it their all.
Styx, "Music Time" (1983)
Despite the critics apparently hating them, Styx have always been known for being a touch over the top. While “Mr. Roboto” is definitely...unique for what it is, this is the kind of video that feels like it was made up in a fever dream by Dennis DeYoung. From the weird animatronics to the dorky theatrical behavior, this feels like Styx are trying to make their case to have their own children’s show made about them. Ladies and gentlemen, we no longer need acid because watching this probably gives you the same sensation.
Cinderella, "Don't Know What You Got Til It's Gone" (1988)
Come on, you knew that we needed to fit at least some form of hair metal in here. And why not go completely over the top? As far as power ballads go, this is the music video to end all music videos. It’s complete with Tom Keifer playing guitar in the middle of a desert landscape with so much hair product that his hairdo probably cost more than most people’s cars are worth. As cornballed as some of the lyrics might be, this is still great if only because The Darkness probably got their entire schtick from this video alone.
Def Leppard, "Let's Get Rocked" (1992)
What’s this? An actual hair metal song that did well past 1991? Yep, and the video editing feels like it’s lifted directly out of a homemade video game. The guys look great dancing on the platform, but this “average ordinary kid” is one of the most unwatchable things to ever be associated with the ‘90s. You can give them kudos for trying to evolve with the times, but when your animation has the exact same effect as Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, you’ve royally screwed up.