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The Evolution of Cinematic Music Videos

The Evolution of Cinematic Music Videos

Michael Jackson and actress, Ola Ray, in “Thriller” music video

Records are appreciated for their complex but relatable lyricism, the production that initially creates the vibe and the goal to ultimately make it stick around long enough to be deemed timeless.

But what’s a great song without a conceptually creative visual to go along with it?

Artists who are passionate about bringing their form of art to life, are spending six figures or more of their hard-earned money on coming up with videos to these records that best convey the message, and allow fans to enjoy their brightest ideas.

Over the years, music videos have grown immensely, and one person to take credit is the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. His legacy reigns beyond his music, but also how each and every one of his videos told us a story and we watched like opening day of a highly anticipated film, hence “Thriller.”

Just like MJ, other artists since the early 80s have used their creative thinking caps to turn chart-topping hits into successful screen grabs.

Michael Jackson “Thriller” (1983)


Director John Landis, teamed up with the King of Pop to create one of the greatest and most influential music videos of all time.

“Thriller,” already a success as a song alone, being certified platinum and selling over one million physical copies and the album still holding the title of “Best Selling Album in the World” with 66 million copies sold, was a cinematic masterpiece in concept, costume, and choreography.

Jackson was one of the first to pave the way for short-film music videos, and continued to enhance his respected position in music while giving the same visual effort to singles such as “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Remember the Time.”

“Thriller” is single-handedly one of the best unofficial zombie, teen wolf and general horror films of all time.

Ice Cube “It Was A Good Day” (1992)


Just like film tells a story, so does music, and it’s seen in Cube’s early 90s authentic hip-hop tune “Today Was A Good Day.”

Directed by notable filmmaker F.Gary Gray (Friday, Set it Off, Straight Outta Compton), viewers grasped both Gray’s and Cube’s ideal “good day,” as if we were in the streets of L.A.

Detail by detail we were met with Cube’s daily encounters in his neighborhood with women, brothers fighting to keep it together and the never-ending confrontation with the LAPD.

Despite those few roadblocks, Cube uses this vision to implement these troubles come and go, and if you’re lucky enough you’ll dodge them.

TLC “Waterfalls” (1995)


Another F. Gary Gray original, this time directed for one of the most successfully iconic girl groups of all time and their more personal record, the 1995 gem “Waterfalls.”

The video captures two rising crises among African-American communities within this era, which were illegal drug use, HIV/Aids, and the possible life-changing/ending effects that come with it.

The beauty behind the message of self-preservation and love, while also captivating the importance of self-protection, health and decisions mended perfectly with the luring ocean visual swaying under the smooth choreography.

Not only did we get a powerful message out of this record, and the music video is a greatly impactful backup, we also witnessed one of the best flows from a bright and beautiful musician, the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

Will Smith feat. Dru Hill and Kool Mo Dee “Wild Wild West” (1999)


Will Smith’s ability to bring his defining acting chops to his as successful music career is one of the aspects of accomplishing, creating the action-packed “Wild Wild West” music video.

Directed by Paul Hunter, and featuring musical acts Dru Hill and Kool Mo Dee, Smith joined together clips from his summer blockbuster of the same name and an original Hip-Hop twist on the west to create minimal dialogue scenes and a huge dance number, accompanied by the piano stylings of Stevie Wonder.

Eminem feat. Dido “Stan” (2000)


Invented the term “stan,” used on twitter and within pop culture slang, meaning to overly obsesses over or take interest in someone who doesn’t know you exist. Although, over time has become more of a term of endearment and acceptance to a celebrity’s talent or views.

Eminem used this song and video to implement the unhealthy tracking people keep on those in the public eye’s life, and how there could sometimes be pressure or guilt on those individuals when they aren’t as responsive to fans as they should be or able to give particularly directed attention.

Still, an evolving problem within the intense era of social media and a lack of privacy, those outside of entertainers’ worlds are getting more personal information every day, which can be used for good and bad. And maybe it’ll just be easier if we appreciated the art, whether than taking a unnecessary large amount of time investigating into someone’s life we’ll more than likely, never know personally.

Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé “Telephone” (2010)


Two of the biggest forces within pop culture, Queen Bey and Lady Gaga, teamed up in this short and colorful film for some serious girl power and validation of why they’re on top of the game.

The two creatives served endless looks, from cans as hair rollers, Wonder Women Esque one-pieces, crime scene tape as a full-body fit, and drastic headwear. And we live for an empowering women takeover, through music and genuine love in hopes of influencing one another for the better.

Btw, the Beyhive and Monsters are still keeping their figures crossed for part two. Only time will tell when we’ll see “Gaga” and “Honey Bee” dominate again.

Beyoncé  “Lemonade” Visual Album (2016)


Beyoncé is no stranger to surprise drops and visual albums. I mean, she did specifically say “Change the game when that digital dropped, you knew where you was when that digital popped, I stopped the world,” and she did once again by raising the bar with flawlessly constructed project Lemonade.

It’s actually become a fact that Bey has influenced the recent surprise release move artist have seemed to be following, but she’s no stranger to latching a visual to every song on the album, which she proved was possible with her 2006 sophomore album, B Day.

Lemonade introduced an entirely different theme, and a conceptual behind the scenes look of the strength of a Black woman who’s on a journey of finding herself and forgiving, in response to infidelity and chains engraved within her soul that tries to defeat her.

After two years since it’s release, Lemonade is still highly relevant in pop culture and influential to women and people everywhere in general. As a Peabody Award winner, and over one hundred more accolades, we have to continue to thank Beyoncé & team for their incomparable efforts in creating this cinematic masterpiece.

Jay-Z “Family Feud” (2017)


Jay-Z is one of the most intelligent moguls in Hip-Hop, and he proved so by joining forces with award-winning director Ava DuVernay in 4:44 track, “Family Feud.”

The star-studded visual included Michael B.Jordan, Trevante Rhodes, Thandie Newton, Omari Hardwick, America Ferrera, Mindy Kaling, Rosaria Dawson, Rashida Jones, Niecy Nash, Hov’s own family featuring Bey and Blue Ivy and many more beautiful faces.

The video focuses on women of all different walks of life and their perspective, coming together to rework the country’s constitution into a more suitable order in regards to the stake of future generations.

But another highlight was a brutally honest Jay-Z confessing his sins to his wife, and implying the pain he may caused in his relationship and free will to fix it.

J.Cole “Kevin’s Hart” (2018)


KOD, or Kids on Drugs, was Cole’s awaited comeback after an almost two-year break from intellectually driven lyrics, and a sense of positive self-reflection.

The rapper’s fifth studio album of his career touched on depression, substance abuse and addiction, wealth and how as much as those things have the ability to tear us apart, once we overcome that area of absence from self we’re ultimately a better person.

In the music video for the seventh track off of the project, “Kevin’s Hart,” the comedian himself is the star in a song which centers around recovering from the guilt of infidelity, a similar issue Hart ran into late last year.

Cole’s boldness and Heart’s agreement to be the center of attention in a video mirroring his faults, was commercially genius, but more importantly, shed light on honestly owning up to your mistakes.


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