We have never had anything like this. For the first time, not only were we able to hear our favorite bands and artists drop a new song, we were also able to SEE THEM. And that brings us to the top 10 music videos of the '80s on MTV.
Music videos were never really a thing before the '80s, but with the advent of MTV, they took off like gang bangers. The music videos were now able to capture the tone of the band, and the song, and bring a whole new vibe to the recent release.
With the explosion of new video content thanks to MTV, what were the best of the 1980s? Luckily I have you covered.
The rise of MTV in the '80s
Before we cover the Top 10 MTV Music Videos of the '80s, we need to remember just how innovative this new music TV network really was.
Not that MTV invented the music video, but they put it on a 24-hour channel in a quirky, modern new format. Music videos have been around before, just not in the form we know them today.
As with most things related to music, we have the Beatles to thank. When the Beatles became massive in the '60s, everyone wanted a part of them. These are still the relatively early days of television, not to mention air travel. It was more difficult to take off to all corners of the world. And the Beatles were in demand in all corners of the world.
Since it could take weeks to cite New Zealand as an example, they decided it would be easier to record themselves playing their latest single and broadcast it to local TV stations. That way, they wouldn't have to fly to the other end of the world for a 3 minute performance.
This solution to the demand problem resulted in the first music videos. But the British will help develop this new visual format.
The meaning of Top of the Pops
There were many great bands in England and the music scene developed rapidly. The idea was born to introduce all these new bands on a weekly show called Top of the Pops. In doing so, chart-topping artists performed in front of home television audiences, and this inadvertently led to music videos as we know them.
It became second nature for British bands to record themselves performing their songs, knowing the importance of being featured on Top of the Pops. They also knew how important their visual representation was and how important it was for fans to look good on camera. These British bands became adept at packaging their songs and looking together in those short video clips, and it would serve them well in the rise of MTV.
MTV is forever changing the music landscape
I have a wholeBlog covering the entire history of MTV here, but let's look at some of the quick highlights.
The network launched on August 1, 1981 with the announcement "Ladies and gentlemen, Rock n' Roll...". That simple statement ushered in a new era that would forever change popular culture.
But like many pioneers, MTV was slow to catch up at first. Many thought it was a silly idea and the other problem was that there weren't that many videos to play. We all know that the first video to play was "Video Killed the Radio Star" and it was a huge hit. But there weren't many other big hits.
MTV was forced to fill much of its airtime with NASA footage (resulting in the famous moon logo and the Moon Man Awards they give out). But eventually, MTV became a pop culture staple. And some of the biggest acts that used it initially were British bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and even Billy Idol.
They were so used to making music videos because of Top of the Pops that creating new content for MTV became second nature, leading to the second British Invasion. Many other American bands struggled with this new concept and were quickly sidelined.
But since the '80s were an exciting time for this new way of consuming music, what were some of the best '80s music videos on MTV? Let's count the top ten. Of course, this is from my point of view, so feel free to discuss among yourselves...
Top 10 Music Videos of the 80s on MTV
Bonus #11. Money for Nothing – Dire Straits
What the hell is that: graphics created by a computer? In a music video? Consider our minds blown. It looks primitive by today's standards, but it was pretty innovative back then. It's a great viewing experience for an equally great song. The opening guitar riff is one of the most famous in music history and the accompanying image does it justice.
10. Addicted to Love - Robert Palmer
I don't know why, but it always strikes me as the "singles" of the 80's. It's another 80's music video with some iconic visuals that have been duplicated many times. Palmer is the classic leader, backed by the all-female band. It's simple, but the models really helped cement it as one of the best videos when it came out on MTV in 1986.
The idea of the video was to make the models look like mannequins. One of the models says that after drinking a lot of wine she was quite drunk, was wearing very high heels and fell forward and hit Palmer on the back of the head with her guitar, causing him to hit his head on the microphone. .
9. Fe - George Michael
Like Addicted to Love, Faith was simple and iconic. It has a definitive image that does a great job of reflecting the decade. And to further cement it in the history of classic music videos; You can also imagine Weird replicating Al. That's the sign of a really strong music video.
Faith was a great song for George Michael as he was the one who parted ways with Wham. To show that he was more than just a "little one". Faith was released in October 1987 and was a huge success. It is a certified diamond, which means that it has sold at least 10 million copies. The music video is a stripped down production to show George Micahel trying to reinvent himself and it became one of the best music videos of the '80s.
8. Chica Material - Madonna
This lady not only ruled the airwaves in the '80s, she also ruled MTV. If there was a poster child for MTv, she was Madonna. I know Michael Jackson is probably the best artist, but he was famous before MTV. Madonna and MTV got together at the same time and both used each other to feed each other.
Madonna made perfect use of this new medium and it seemed tailor-made for her. She understood it and knew how important it was to create an image and a brand before it was a thing. Material Girl captured the essence of Marily Monroe by imitating her performance from Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend.
The video was filmed in 1985 and it was there that Madonna met Sean Penn for the first time.
7. Physicist – Oliver Newton-John
Unless you grew up in the '80s, it's hard to stress how massive this song was, as it spent 10 crazy weeks at number one. The MTV music video also managed to capture the essence of it. It looks like a fitness commercial today, but that was a time when the growth of fitness and aerobics in the country was booming.
The physique was a great way to cash in on this new growing fad. One interesting thing about this song was that it was originally meant for Rod Stewert and then Tina Turner.
It's crazy to think that this song came out in 1981 and it's pretty fun to watch today. But it was a very popular song and music video. It won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 1983, back when that was still a thing.
6. Like a Prayer - Madonna
Was this the video that started the era of music video controversy? If not, it really helped kick things off and deserves a spot on MTV's list of the best music videos of the '80s for that reason.
This video seemed sacrilegious to me as a kid, but in retrospect it's relatively tame. Especially compared to what's out there now. But has Like a Prayer paved the way for artists to express themselves however they want?
Regardless, this video upset a LOT of people, and Madonna took it to the bank. The music video contained a lot of religious imagery and Madonna knew exactly what she was doing. I guess it was a bad publicity situation, but there was still a lot of bad publicity.
The Vatican, family groups and religious organizations were outraged by the video and boycotted Pepsi, which used the song in one of its commercials. Despite its controversy, it remains one of the best music videos of the '80s and of all time.
5. Girls just want to have fun - Cyndi Lauper
In the '80s, there wasn't another music video that captured the energy and excitement of the decade like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." It's also a pretty revolutionary music video, which we'll get to in a bit. One big thing that led to this music video was Cyndi Lauper, who was sitting on a plane next to WWF legend Captain Lou Albando.
This led to his participation in the video and also helped start the rise of the WWF as we know it (See my article on this here).
The music video was like Lauper; Fun, unique and quirky. It cost just $35,000 and came out in 1983. The entire project was a budding production and required many volunteers and the free loan of state-of-the-art video equipment.
Here's another cool thing about this music video: SNL's Lorne Michaels allowed free production use of his multi-million dollar digital editing team. This allowed them, for the first time, CGI footage of Lauper dancing with her lawyer, leading the entire cast to dance around New York. Lauper was actually involved in creating these computer generated images.
Fun fact: Of all the music videos on this list, this one has the second most views on YouTube with almost 900 million.
4. Golpéalo - Michael Jackson
This could easily be number one on this list of the best '80s music videos on MTV, but there are a couple of reasons why I ranked it at number 3. Beat It is a song and video that may have come out decades from now and it might fit right in with It Is Simple, but that doesn't mean it isn't visually stunning. The smart thing to do was keep it simple in introducing Michael Jackson.
It doesn't particularly represent the decade in its images, so I toned it down a bit. The other reason is that Micahel Jackson has dominated the decade so much that we have to give others a chance (but we'll look at that again in a bit).
Beat It is also notable as it was the first time Michael Jackson released an actual rock song. This was not a genre he dabbled in, and Beat It was his way of showing that he could hit hard.
That song still feels aggressive and intense to this day, and while I will say that this video is pretty simple, it's still a very important video. Beat It helped cement Michael Jackson as a pop icon, and Eddie Van Halen's performance further cements him as a pop masterpiece for the MTV era.
3. Follow this path: run DMC and Aerosmith
The song that almost never happened. Aerosmith was something of a junk band that started in the '80s after success in the '70s. Run DMC was recording their classic album, Raising Hell, when they flipped through the records in the studio with Rick Rubin.
They stumbled upon a 1975 album called Toys in the Attic by a band they had never heard of: Aerosmith. They started freestyling over the track called "Walk This Way" and Rubin thought this might be an ideal single. He could combine rap and rock and create an unprecedented new sound.
Rap was just coming into its own in the '80s, and it wasn't yet the mainstream genre it would soon become. They got Steven Tyler and Rick Perry to record the song and then appear in the groundbreaking video.
The iconic video sees the two bands tearing down walls to come together for one of the greatest songs and videos of all time. Perry and Tyler reluctantly appeared in the video, fearing they would be mocked.
2. Suspended – Michael Jackson
Do not yell at me. I know this is not just one of the best music videos of the 80s and of all time, but I think it should be classified differently. Thriller is more of a short film or extended music video concept. For that reason, I'm not putting it number one. It's innovative, iconic, and influential, but it's more like watching a performance than a music video.
Thriller is the soundtrack to Halloween and must be seen every October 31st. Michael Jackson showed the world what was possible when he released thrillers: music videos could be a serious art form,
But here's the fun fact: The music video for Thriller was released on MTV on December 2, 1983. There are some good conversations over dinner.
I know there's a lot of talk about Michael Jackson now, but can we just acknowledge how astronomically talented, influential and iconic this guy was in the '80s? He owned the decade.
1. Face Me – A-Ha
The video that helped define MTV and an entire era is my best '80s music video. The video and song are the perfect embodiment of the '80s and new era of MTV. Unique video sketches come to life, which not only perfectly captured the song, but also made perfect use of the new medium of video.
So here's an interesting fact that you might not know: There were two music videos for "Take on Me." The first was a simple and powerful music video released in 1984, which featured a different version of the song.
What We All Know was filmed in London in 1985. This music video is unique in that it combines animation from actual pencil sketches with live action blended through a technique called rotoscoping. Here, the live action footage is tracked frame by frame to give the characters realistic movement.
The video rotoscoping required 3000 frames and took 16 weeks to complete. What we got was one of the most iconic music videos ever made and the one that I think best represents the decade.
This video has the most views on YouTube on this entire list with over 1.1 billion. Take on Me is number one on my top ten music videos of the '80s on MTV.
Narrowing down MTV's top ten music videos of the '80s wasn't easy, but luckily I lived up to it. As I mentioned in my article.about the best songs of the 80s, the order of the options may vary for you, but there is no doubt that most of them would be on any list.