Animated music videos sometimes are incredibly fascinating. They are able to open new world, perspectives and messages impossible to display with real images. And it’s an interesting artistic product also technically, a category that includes techniques and visual styles very different from each other. Moreover, it’s a path that over the years has offered little masterpieces that are worth not forgetting.
You may find in the web several selections of animated music video, but each of them limits the range of action to a certain genre/style, and you find yourself with lists of classic videos that forget more modern masterpieces, or lists of rock/pop videos that skip certain wonders that have been made in the electronic & dance music.
The following list tries to cover everything. Twenty unmissable music videos that have made use of the animation techniques, divided into four categories that are usually covered separately. Because visual art is a universal discipline, and we should be able to appreciate the best combinations between sound and animated image for any kind of music. And who knows, maybe you will also discover something new on music that usually do not listen. Reading guided by curiosity: the best way to stay up to date.
Category rockers. In the attitude, not in the strict use guitars. The five videos that follow are rock in the bones, irreverence and energy, including those with the alternative vision. And among them there is also something immortal.
Korn – Freak on a Leash
1999, the children running on the edge of the cliff went in hot rotation on MTV (and multiplied the sales of Korn’s Follow the Leader). The video uses different techniques, animated and real, and the holed room is the time when it releases the energy. An energy that will identify Korn for long time. Directed by Todd McFarlane.
Radiohead – Paranoid Android
1997, one of the most famous video ever bursts as OK Computer‘s first single and represented a shock: strong, caustic images, mixed with post-modern malice with a song considered by many Radiohead’s stylistic peak. Directed by Magnus Carlsson.
Queens of the Stone Age – Go with the Flow
2003, a red blood video with a cursed atmosphere, accentuated by the dark figures of the members of the band. It’s a small masterpiece, for the way music amplifies image and viceversa. Winner of best special effects at the MTV Music Awards of that year. Directed by the London collective Shynola (who also worked for Radiohead, U.N.K.L.E., Blur and many others – we will meet them again later).
The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
2002, the famous 2-minutes video with Legos. He helped to consolidate The White Stripes fame as a group capable of producing videos that will remain in the hearts of fans (confirmed by singles such as Hardest button to button and Seven Nation Army). Directed probably by the best music video director ever: Michel Gondry.
Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now
1999, the attitude is rock even if Fatboy Slim fits more in the electronic category: it is one of those border cases (they called it Big Beat) and the video is a beautiful animation of the evolution of living species from 350 billion years ago to today, with even a time marker in the lower part. Directed by Hammer & Tongs.
Classic doesn’t mean old. The classic takes life when the artistic product, in this case the animation video, has such an impact on the scene and on the history that makes it an essential step, and this can happen even for more recent releases. The following videos are classics of animation applied to music video and include both historical material and more recent productions.
Michael Jackson – Leave Me Alone
1989, Michael Jackson adds another piece to a story of successful pop singles, expensive video productions and manic attention to the image that made his fame. Obviously he’s in the video, the only non-animated element of the vision. Directed by Jim Blashfield.
Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract
1989, another pop hit whose success is driven by the video, the real added value to generate buzz (we were in the golden days of MTV). The technique here presents the real figure of Paula Abdul, who flirts with the animated feline character, MC Skat Kat. A pleasant mood that you will always watch it again with pleasure. Directed by the couple Candace Reckinger/Michael Patterson (we will find one of them later again).
Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
2001, this exclusively animated band comes out of nowhere, and it’s announced as something that will never have a physical presence. You know that behind those there are Blur’s Damon Albarn and the cartoonist Jamie Hewlett. Clint Eastwood was the first single and started all the buzz around them. Directed by Hewlett together with Pete Candeland.
Air – Sexy Boy
1997, the French duo in New York streets and the famous monkey that floats in the space. Sexy Boy was one of those electronic songs that bypass any kind of barrier and was appreciated by everyone, especially for that perfect suspended harmony given by the video. Directed by Mike Mills (director and visual artist who has collaborated with Moby, Pulp, Blonde Redhead and others).
A-ha – Take on Me
1985, one of the most important hits of the 80s in the famous video that brings to life the black and white comic. Thirty years later it’s still nice to see reality and fantasy that cross through the mirror, each with the vision on their side. Directed by Steve Barron, one that often made history (he directed among others Money For Nothing, Billie Jean and Don’t You Want Me).
Dance is typically the category that is excluded if you do a review on the videos for a popular audience. So it happens often that an animated video char includes Queens of the Stone Age and excludes the videos you see below. Videos that represent some of the most memorable results of the category, although they were perhaps less famous than the others. Let’s give to the beauty what it deserves.
Daft Punk – One More Time
2000, the first single of the album Discovery is launched on tv and the fictional manga becomes part of Daft Punk World. One More Time was one of the biggest hit of that decade and represented only the debut in television channels: the complete product is in fact Interstella 5555, in which the entire album flows on animated images designed by the Japanese artist Leiji Matsumoto.
Junior Senior – Move Your Feet
2003, the fascination of 8-bit graphics takes over of music TVs through the cheerfulness brought by this unknown Danish duo. The song is one of the most positive and pleasant things that came out the past decade and the video renders the spirit perfectly. Directed by Shynola (the same of Queens of the Stone Age video before).
Bamboo – Bamboogie
1998, from the British acid house underground ends up on TV an antique-flavored video, which slides images of black and white cartoons from another era. The song has a killer mood, with the sample of KC and the Sunshine Band, it stays impressed in your mind from the very first listening. Directed by the many designers who created the basis of modern cartoons in the 1950s.
The Supermen Lovers – Starlight
2001, France is the nation that most enjoyed dance material and the video-cartoon. Another example of wonderful dance between ’90s and ’00s we have this strange animated potato that finally manages to get his own song published, something that turns your mood instantaneously. Directed by French animator Numero 6 (the same of another nice animated video, Super furry Animals’ It’s Not the End of the World).
Etienne de Crecy – Am I Wrong
2000, the so-called French touch electronic reaches one of its historical peaks with the House Master Etienne de Crecy and this spectacular video that shows the unconfessable secrets of a fast food. Am I Wrong has everything: cynicism, rebellion, appeal and instinct. Directed by Etienne’s brother, Geoffroy de Crécy.
Electronic music arrives at the end of the journey and it’s the most elusive and intriguing part of the set, because of its aristocratic representatives: they never give up to pure popularity, yet they love to wink at the general public from above, exploiting the power of their forward-thinking character. With the last five videos we close in beauty, in balance between experimentation and instinct.
Breakbot – Baby I’m Yours
2012, Breakbot spreads the verb of quality music in the web, with its modern disco appeal, the carefreeness and the animated dynamism of the video. This is no longer the era of media buzz on TV, and probably not even the best years to explode as a global phenomenon, but who understands Breakbot knows what quality really is. Directed by Irina Dakeva.
Röyksopp – Remind Me
2002, Röyksopp launch in orbit their first album with a video made of that typical Scandinavian flavors: sharp synthetic sound and video that appears harmonic and alienating at the same time. They are still those old times when you could explode on TV and in fact the video worked great. Directed by the French studio H5 (which we will find again in a moment).
Alex Gopher – The Child
1998, the umpteenth, small audiovisual masterpiece comes once again from France and takes advantage of the simple idea of replacing every object with its own name written in fat characters. The sound is elegant and refined, according to the best French tradition, and the story concerns a woman very close to give birth to her baby. H5 Studio directed also this (and, for completeness, names like Massive Attack and Goldfrapp).
Deadmau5 – The Veldt
2012, one of the most discussed electronic producers of the modern era releases what will become one of its most representative tracks. Deadmau5 has a temper but knows how to make music that can please anyone, knows the technique and knows how to avoid abusing it. Here we have a delicate trance touch and an adventure with a childish spirit. Directed by Qudos animations.
Plaid – Eyen
2008, on Warp label website lands a video made of high emotional charge that proposes a Plaid’s track from the album Double Figure, 2001. The electronic community is rediscovering the unreachable elegance of the English group that participated in the expansion of the mythical intelligent music wave of the 1990s. Directed by French director Jean Luc Chansay, who reused some drawings made by his 5 years old daughter.