Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Best video: Hurt

Good to see that snappy visuals are not the sole defining feature of a good video. David Smith in last weekend's Observer wrote:

Enough Britney and Jacko - the cream of the pop industry says the greatest music video of all time was made by a septuagenarian country singer facing his own mortality.
The video for 'Hurt', Johnny Cash's valedictory single recorded just six months before his death, shows a frail and ailing Cash at home, dressed in his usual black outfit, playing guitar and piano, interwoven with past footage of the 'Man in Black' in his heyday.
His posthumous triumph over the teen idols of the MTV generation comes in a poll of 31 pop stars, video directors, agents and journalists commissioned by mobile phone operator 3. The panel included Natasha Bedingfield, Björk, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook, Jamie Cullum, Tom Fletcher of McFly, Avril Lavigne, Mike 'the Streets' Skinner and Amy Winehouse.
The runner-up is the 14-minute horror film-style 1983 video for Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' with pioneering special effects. Third is another chiller, Aphex Twin's 1997 'Come to Daddy', which features a goblin screaming at a pensioner and a gang of children smashing up a London council estate.
Cash recorded 1,500 songs on 45 solo albums and had 14 number one country hits over 50 years. The video for 'Hurt', a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song, forgoes the visual pyrotechnics of its rivals for the simplicity of moody lighting, Christian imagery and shots of the derelict House of Cash Museum. It also features his wife, June Carter Cash, who was to die a few months before her husband.
The director of the top video, Mark Romanek, who also directed the film One Hour Photo , said: 'Johnny's music has always been candid. I didn't want to make a phoney video - I wanted to tell the truth.'
REM singer-songwriter Michael Stipe, who was a member of the judging panel, said it was 'just heartbreaking. Kudos to Mark Romanek for having the audacity and courage to do a video like that. The moment I saw it I thought, "Please don't let this be the last thing we know Johnny Cash for". Yet he made the song his own and the video is just devastating. And beautiful. It touched me in a really big way.'
Paul Rees, editor of Q magazine, said: 'In four minutes it managed the not inconsiderable feat of capturing everything great, mythical and iconoclastic about its subject. It is, too, the only music video to pack a genuine emotional punch.'

The video for 'Just', by Radiohead, came fourth in the poll. Judge Garry Mulholland, a music author and expert, said: 'The film completely overwhelms the song and the band. A man lies on the pavement in New York. When people stop to ask what's wrong, he says he can't tell them because they won't be able to take the truth. After a crowd begs him for this truth, he finally whispers it to the nearest person. The last shot shows everyone in the street lying motionless, rendered catatonic by whatever he said.
It was 'the most intense and mysterious short film I've ever seen,' Mulholland said. [...]

I have added some comments to the list as it appeared in Sunday's paper:

THE TOP 20 MUSIC VIDEOS EVER Voted by pop stars, video directors, agents and journalists
1 Hurt, Johnny Cash, 2003 - beautiful and elegaic, as is described above. The only reason I tolerate multimedia CDs (when you try and play the track through a computer, it automatically flicks up the video).
2 Thriller, Michael Jackson, 1983 - narrative and choreography at its best.
3 Come to Daddy, Aphex Twin, 1997 - just plain scary!
4 Just, Radiohead, 1995 - this "Just"... the combination of subtitles for the unspoken narrative and the pounding insistance of this track make this my favourite Radiohead video.
5 Billie Jean, Michael Jackson, 1983 - nowhere near as visually interesting as Thriller, but the dancing is awesome.
6 Take on Me, A-Ha, 1985 - that twenty years on I still recall with affection the line drawing coming to life says something about the effective innovation of this.
7 Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel, 1986 - stop/go animation was given a jolt with this work
8 Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O'Connor, 1990 - simplicity
9 Sabotage, Beastie Boys, 1994
10 Vogue, Madonna, 1990 - stylish and empty, rather like this song
11 Human Behaviour, Bjork, 1993 - Bjork has a great eye for visuals, and a great ear for sound: wonderful combination.
12 Rio, Duran Duran, 1982 - I know that yacht launched a thousand mediocre pop stars into foreign travel for their videos, but personally I would have gone for the epic, ludicrous and life-threatening "Wild Boys" directed by Russell Mulcahy
13 Two Tribes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1984 - and lo, T-shirts were sold by the lorryload and masks of politicians became popular
14 Coffee + TV, Blur 1999
15 The Hardest Button to Button, The White Stripes, 2003
16 What's My Age Again?, Blink- 182, 1999
17 Ashes to Ashes, David Bowie, 1980 - still my favourite Bowie song
18 Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen, 1975 - mum and I used to turn the sound off and laugh at the video. Sometimes we turned the picture down as well (as you could with old TVs)
19 Praise You, Fatboy Slim, 1999 - ordinary/extraordinary: Spike Jonze is one of the most wonderfully imaginative people to work with video.
20 Another Brick in the Wall, (Part 2) , Pink Floyd, 1979 - what scared people more: the children's enthusiastic singing or the animation?

Interesting that Godley and Creme's once-acclaimed video for Cry, featuring dissolving faces, does not make this list. Nor is there any mention of the always-influential DA Pennebaker footage of Dylan in the alleyway with the cards: see Bob Roberts and the Maxwell tapes adverts, and MANY MANY bands nicking this idea in all seriousness.

No comments: