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5 Music Videos That Tell a Story



5 Music Videos That Tell a Story

MTV launched in 1981, and the era of music television began. Musicians were so amazed with the concept of pairing music and video that most of them forgot to do anything interesting with it.

Of the first 30 music videos ever made, only 10 show at least a single scene outside of a traditional performance setting. The vast majority just look like, well, concert recordings.

A few performers got creative and introduced costume changes or 1980s green screen backdrops that look like a joke now (see Todd Rundgren’s “Time Heals” where he floats over a Salvador Dalí painting).

Luckily, music videos evolved pretty quickly. Starting with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, music videos began to rise to cinematic storytelling.

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1983)

Clocking in at 13 minutes, this is the ultimate in cinematic music videos. It was actually conceived as a short film and sparked the popularity of introducing prominent narratives into music videos, influencing videos for decades to come.


Lionel Richie – Hello (1983)

This video may be ultra-cheesy (I mean, he plays a teacher who falls in love with his blind student and then catches her sculpting his face), but that’s why we love it.


Radiohead – Just (1995)

Radiohead has got a slew of fantastic music videos, from the Adult Swim-esque cartoon video for “Paranoid Android” to the eerie, slow motion black and white video for the haunting tune “Street Spirit (Fade Out).”But the one that tells the most interesting story, plot twists and all, is definitely their video for “Just.”

Foo Fighters – Everlong (1997)

Coming at us from the 1990s, this video takes on a surrealist horror vibe as we step into the band members’ dreams.


Lady Gaga – Telephone ft. Beyoncé (2009)

Light on the coherence but heavy on the imagery, Lady Gaga’s videos are so focused on storytelling that they often seem to have no relevance to the original song. This Tarantino-meets-Bonnie-and-Clyde video is a great example.