This list doesn’t include the fan videos that mash up anime footage with popular music. Rather, these videos are the ones that were done with the cooperation of the band and paired with lots of cell-shaded, stop-motion, Flash, or CGI animation.
NOTE: This is a Crazy Frog-free zone.
#10 – Michael & Janet Jackson: Scream – Back before CGI ruined Star Wars, Michael and Janet were using it in their “Scream” video. Also, it has that morphing technology which Michael loved so, so much. The video caused a ruckus when it was released because it was, at the time, the most expensive music video ever made and it sure didn’t look like it. It also uses some anime snippets, back when so few people knew about it that it was still kinda cool.
#9 – Beck: Nicotine & Gravy – This is not my favorite Beck video, but it is his best animated one. Beck’s always trying something different, and this one is no different. The flash video recalls Andy Warhol paintings and the underground poster art of the 90’s.
#8 – Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out – An innovative video that uses flash footage to place the band in the sepia-toned world of a turn-of-the-20th-Century engineering manual. There’s something going on with teddy-bear heads and a Franz/Anti-Franz dualism, but I think that’s just the video directors screwing with us.
#7 – Pearl Jam: Do The Evolution – Let’s go back to the day when grunge band Pearl Jam was the hottest act in the land and they had this thing against doing music videos or even appearing on MTV. This 1998 video is not only their first video since 1991’s Jeremy, but they also managed to get Todd “Spawn” McFarlane’s studio to animate it for them. OK, ao nowadays this video looks totally pretentious and heavy-handed (as McFarlane, by the way, is apt to do; I mean, a rape scene, Todd?). But it’s got a goth girl dancing around who looks suspiciously like Death, so that’s gotta count for something.
#6 – Peter Gabriel: Sledge Hammer – The original stop-motion sensation. Peter Gabriel loses control of his facial muscles while Pee Wee’s Playhouse happens all around him. Also, there are dancing Butterball chickens. Aardman Animations, which provided the animation for the video, also are responsible for Flushed Away, Wallace & Grommit, and the Chevron Cars.
#5 – A-Ha: Take On Me – Yup, the one with the animated 80’s black & white indy comic book. Kids know this as the one that Family Guy parodied. There’s a plot in this video, but I’m always distracted by the fact that the bad guys are evil race car drivers. With wrenches.
#4 – Gorillaz: Clint Eastwood – No list of animated videos is compete without at least one Gorillaz entry. I’ll limite myself to one: Clint Eastwood. This is one of the earlier videos, back before the animation was about giant heads and being emo. Also, catchy tune. And giant gorillas.
#3 – Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band — Ah, the video from before there were music videos. I’m not sure how the Beatles aired this segment: MTV wasn’t around back then, was it? But this short piece with blooming flowers and swaying dolls conveys the unbridled trippiness that was the Sgt. Pepper album.
#2 – White Stripes: Fell In Love With A Girl — The song that put the White Stripes on the map was also a fascinating study in how Jack and Meg White would look like if they were made out of Legos. Watching this, it reminds me of a more innocent time when everyone suspected that the two really weren’t brother and sister, yet we still felt that there was something inappropriate about the two being so close together.
#1 – U2: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me — U2 come face to face with a villain that looks like a comibnation of Joker and Satan. The video was made for Batman Forever. A horrible movie, but in managed to attract some decent songs and videos. Why is this #1? It’s got U2 doing a kickin’ song that they don’t play anymore, and it’s got Batman. That’s what I call a one-two can’t-lose proposition.
Edit: While searching for videos on YouTube, I came across this interesting one: Read A Book. It’s turned out to be a very controversial video among the African American community. Why? Because the lyrics are “Read a book,” “raise your kids,” and “buy some land.” The anti-Read A Book people say that this is a racist portrayal of African Americans. Pro-Read A Book people chastise them: how can they be offended by a song with this message, and yet silently condone videos with negative messages? It’s not making it on my Top Ten list, but this may be the most controversy an animated music video has ever generated.