MTV turns 30 today. To celebrate, we’re running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.
In the 30 years since MTV first hit the air, the music video has proven itself as a medium able to collapse high and low culture—or, as Chuck D put it in a video of his own, teach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard. Today, music videos have been canonized in art museums around the world, but they are also our generation’s pulp fictions, disposable flashes of sex, adventure and cheap thrills. So we thought it’d be fun to compare the best videos made by “winners” of the “Golden Raspberry” for worst feature-film directing with those made by winners (no scare quotes necessary) of the Hollywood’s high honor, an Academy Award for best directing. Before we get into the former list, a big dishonorable mention goes to Barry Sonnenfield, who, after botching Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West, wasn’t even given a shot at directing the music video of the same name.
5. Shania Twain, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” (John Derek, director)
Bolero cleaned up at the 1984 Razzies, earning a grand total of six awards, “Worst Picture” and “Worst Director” included. Twenty years later, director John Derek was making music videos, the best of which promoted Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” In the video, the singer struts around a small-town diner, trying to get the attention of any of the ten gallon hat-wearing, mustache-waxing locals. When no one so much as makes eye contact with her, she ditches the bar and hits the open road, loosening her hair and walking into the sunset. A nice feminist gesture from the director who shot Playboy spreads for not one, not two, but three of his four wives.
4. Madonna, “What It Feels Like For a Girl” (Guy Ritchie, director)
Before taking home a Razzie in 2003 for his Madonna-starring Swept Away remake, Guy Ritchie tapped into his Mel Gibson in What Women Want powers to direct a music video his pop star wife, who, conveniently, had just tapped into her own Kate Bush circa Hounds of Love powers to write “What It Feels Like For a Girl.” In the video, Madonna, accompanied by a woman she finds at “Ol Kuntz Guest Home,” drive around town targeting all men and anything that signifies masculinity. But if you knew what was coming in Swept Away, wouldn’t you do the same?
3. Deee-Lite, “Runaway” (Gus van Sant, director)
“Winning” the worst director Razzie for his grossly misunderstood shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Gus van Sant enters this list as a fairly accomplished music video director. He’s done everything from slowing down speeding bullets in Tracy Chapman’s “Bang Bang Bang” to using an old Fred Astaire trick to make the Hanson brothers walk on walls. His video for Deee-Lite’s “Runaway,” however, is the best of bunch. van Sant moves Lady Miss Kier and crew out of a club and onto a highway in the middle of nowhere, where they hitchhike their way into—and slowly take over—an old station wagon. Like the station wagon, the landscape becomes theirs, and you come realize that they didn’t leave the club; they just expanded it until it encompassed the entire horizon.
2. Meat Loaf, “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (Michael Bay, director)
Never let anyone tell you that Michael Bay’s best trilogy involves Shia LaBeouf and shape-shifting robots. No, that honor goes to the three music videos the critically despised and audience-adored action director made for Mea Lloaf in the early ’90s. “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” is the best—and, it almost goes without saying, the most ridiculous—of the bunch. The video’s premise, essentially, is that rock and roll dreams come through. “For who?” you might ask. Well, for a runaway teenager played by Angelina Jolie, for blind women struggling to learn Braille and for a kid who is about to rob his first bank. Fortunately for the kid, rock and rock dreams come through when a radio and Meatloaf himself bust into the car and save the day. In fact, the favoring of eye candy over plot development that has turned critics against Bay actually makes him an ideal music video director, and in an alternate universe one can easily picture him as a (less talented) Hype Williams, making blockbusters out of radio fodder.
1. Prince, “Raspberry Beret” (Prince, director)
Named the worst director of 1986 for his work behind the camera on Under the Cherry Moon, his first feature since the Academy Award-winning Purple Rain, Prince gives us a few choices as we attempt to pick to the leader of Team Razzie. “When Doves Cry,” a video built around footage from the 1984 film, is one option, but no Prince vid is complete without at least a little use of greenscreen. Since “Mountains” is too kitschy even for a list like this, that leaves us with “Raspberry Beret,” a video based around a daydreamt, fantastical Top of the Pops that nicely compliments the song’s daydreamt lyrics and melody. Plus, it has that guitar.