Iconic music videos from your high school days
“Ladies and Gentleman, rock ‘n' roll.”
MTV began its first broadcast with these words just after midnight on Aug. 1, 1981, followed by the music video for The Buggles' “Video Killed the Radio Star.” In those first years, MTV wasn't the international behemoth it is today. In fact, only a few cable providers carried the 24-hour music channel and only in Kansas City. Larger markets like New York and Los Angeles didn't have the channel at all. This was largely due to the fact that music videos were a fairly new form of media.
Prior to MTV, bands would sometimes create promotional clips or videos, and send them to dance shows or shows like “Top of the Pops” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which featured live performances. These clips were usually created in-house, and were intended to be a marketing tool rather than an extension of the music itself.
When a few cable executives watched a dozen of these promotional videos together, they came up with the idea for a network that would carry nothing but full-length versions of these short clips. After hiring their first VJs and creating an ad campaign that featured famous musicians delivering the tagline “I want my MTV,” the network was off to the races.
Today, MTV has been credited with changing the face of the music industry. Famous musicians like Michael Jackson and Madonna owe much of their popularity to the frequency with which MTV played their videos, thereby putting their music in front of potential fans. And while the days of the network as a 24-hour music video channel are long gone, videos continue to thrive on new platforms like YouTube and iTunes.
Stacker rounded up some of the most iconic music videos from your high school days. Whether high school came in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, early ‘00s or ‘10s, we've hand-selected some of the most memorable, industry-changing videos. Critics and fans alike agree that these videos stand out above the rest.
You may also like: The most famous musician born the same year as you
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Six years before the birth of MTV, Queen released a promotional video for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and ushered in the music video era. Rather than perform a complicated, lengthy song live, the band spent a few hours putting together a video that could be aired on “Top of the Pops.” Opening with perhaps the most striking image in the band's history—all four members singing the a capella intro in the dark—the music video helped drive the single to the top of the U.K. charts, where it spent nine weeks and sold millions of copies.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
If Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” video ushered in the music video era, then Michael Jackson's “Thriller” (released in 1983, a year after the song made its debut) changed it forever. Directed by John Landis, the 13-minute long mini-movie cost $900,000 to make and required 10 days of dance rehearsals. It was a gamble that paid off, however, as the video became a cultural icon. In 2009, it was the first music video to be inducted into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
“Like a Prayer” by Madonna
Two months before the release of Madonna's controversial “Like a Prayer” music video, Pepsi signed an endorsement deal with the singer for $5 million and a number of additional perks. When the video aired in March of 1989, religious groups called for a boycott and Pope John Paul II spoke out against it due to the “blasphemous religious images” (think Madonna crooning in front of burning crosses and making out with a wax saint). In the end, the video won a nomination for MTV's “Video of the Year,” but Pepsi was forced to cancel the deal, calling the fiasco “one of the worst advertising blunders ever.”
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” launched Nirvana into mainstream fame. The music video, which featured many of the band's real-life fans as the high school kid extras, made its world premiere on MTV in 1991. Kurt Cobain was reportedly not happy with the director's final cut, and it was his idea to add in shots of extras destroying the set in order to give it an edgier feel.
“All the Small Things” by Blink-182
“All the Small Things” had a huge moment in 2000. Reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, the song was one of the last recorded for the band's album “Enema of the State.” The song was written as a genuine love song for Tom Delonge's then-girlfriend, but the video was a parody of famous boy bands and pop princesses. It delighted fans and won “Best Group Video” at the VMAs.
“Hey Ya!” by OutKast
“Hey Ya!” by OutKast was the first song to ever reach 1 million paid downloads, and was the most downloaded song on iTunes in 2003, the platform's first year. The music video, which depicts a performance akin to The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Andre 3000 plays the role of all eight band members.
“All Star” by Smash Mouth
“All Star” was a career-defining hit for Smash Mouth, and an era-defining hit for those who were in high school in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The track from “Astro Lounge” hit #4 on the Hot 100, and its quirky superhero-themed music video starred actors Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, and Hank Azaria among others. “All Star” was nominated for Best Pop Performance at the Grammys.
“Toxic” by Britney Spears
Written for Britney Spears' fourth studio album, “In the Zone,” “Toxic” was released in 2004. It peaked at #16 on the Billboard charts, thanks in large part to the music video in which the pop star poses as a provocatively dressed flight attendant, and dances nude covered with diamonds.
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
Billboard recently named Lady Gaga's video for “Bad Romance” the best music video of the 21st century thanks to the way it pushed the bounds of the art form. Fans seem to agree with critics about how great the visual style is, and in January 2019 the video hit 1 billion views on YouTube, an impressive feat for any pop star.
“Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson
Michael wasn't the only Jackson producing iconic music videos during your high school days. Janet Jackson also had a huge hit with her military-inspired, post-apocalyptic, black and white “Rhythm Nation” video. Applauded for being socially conscious, it eventually won MTV's Video Vanguard Award.2018 All rights reserved.