Just as fairy tales always have a Prince Charming and a happy ending, music videos tend to follow a stock list of tropes. It may seem pretty standard today, but let’s not forget that concepts seemed so fresh and new back in the day. Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” got millions of teens daydreaming about skipping class to dance in pigtail braids. Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again” made us want to run around naked in public, and Backstreet Boys’ “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” made it cool to sing about unrequited love in a futuristic hotel.
Now these tropes are old and tired after we’ve seen them in dozens of derivative videos. How many times are we going to see rappers pop bottles in the club? How many R&B singers will feel lonely and angry in an empty hotel room? The answer is: a lot. Let’s examine each overused music video cliche specifically, shall we?
Crazy House Party
House parties are a staple in music videos. Especially wild, destroy-everything-and-throw-shit-in-the-pool parties that start in the afternoon and end the following morning. Ke$ha woke up with an infamous bottle of Jack in “TiK ToK” and Meek Mill had neon spandex-wearing models twerking in “House Party.” But Katy Perry topped them all with an epic rager, including a cameo by Rebecca Black.
“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)” by Katy Perry
In Da Club
Every ballin’ shot callin’ playa starts in a music video with gorgeous people, endless bottles of Cristal and a VIP area fit for a King or Queen. 50 Cent came through with “In Da Club,” Nelly stripped down in “Hot In Herre” and Jay Z did it up real classy to impress a video vixen in “Excuse Me Miss.”
“Excuse Me Miss” by Jay Z ft. Pharrell Williams
Acting As Different Characters
Videos are the perfect platform to allow musicians to show off their acting chops. Unsurprisingly, they usually take the “evil twin” route, like Mariah Carey in her “Heartbreaker” video. Watch Mimi kick her own ass (technically) in a kung fu fight scene.
“Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey
A sure-fire way to captivate any audience is to look absolutely stunning in only glitter. That’s what Britney Spears did in “Toxic,” Beyoncé did in “1+1” and J. Lo trademarked in “Waiting for Tonight.”
“Waiting for Tonight” by Jennifer Lopez
Many artists look to push the envelop by trying to predict the future. Apparently Katy Perry thinks the future involves falling in love with aliens in “E.T.” and The Darkness envisions a more playful future where they can rock out in space. However, the future for Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson is a lot more badass.
“What’s It Gonna to Be?!” by Busta Rhymes ft. Janet Jackson
On (Or Around) A Car
Cars are everywhere in music videos. They may not be the star but artists are either washing them in really skimpy outfits (see Jessica Simpson) or leaning on them with hot chicks. Destiny’s Child used theirs as a statement background piece.
“Soldier” by Destiny’s Child
On The Street
Many iconic moments in music video history went down in the streets. Michael Jackson lit up the sidewalk in “Billie Jean” and Beyoncé did the “uh oh” dance in “Crazy in Love.” A young Chris Brown come on the scene dancing his way down the street to kick it to a young Erica Mena.
“Yo” by Chris Brown
Going Completely Naked
Why wear clothes? Miley Cryus didn’t while riding a giant wrecking ball and neither did Katy Perry as she leisurely lounged on a pink cloud. The boys of Blink-182 showed us that showing a little skin didn’t hurt anybody.
“What’s My Age Again?” by Blink-182
Epic Dance Breaks
Music videos are all about the epic dance breaks, but leave it to the King of Pop to bring us the most epic one.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Guy Tries To Get The Girl (Vice Versa)
Every love songs needs a matching lovey dovey music video. Sometimes the love interest is a model or actress but if you’re Nicki Minaj then it’s Nas.
Right By My Side by Nicki Minaj ft. Chris Brown
One of the perks of being talented, rich and famous is that you get to travel the world and show everyone else all of the amazing places you get to visit. Case in point? Snoop and Pharrell.
“Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell Williams
Bathtub scenes can either get steamy or seriously intense. Britney Spears revealed bleeding wrists in her controversial video for “Everytime” and Rihanna soaked in a bathtub to try and cleanse herself from heartbreak.
“Stay” by Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko
Lonely Hotel Room
As much as traveling to exotic areas is fun, musicians get lonely too. And usually it’s in a hotel room.
“Me, Myself and I” by Beyoncé
Running From The Cops
“’03 Bonnie and Clyde” by Beyoncé ft. Jay Z
It’s a simple formula: pretty people + scenic view = music video gold.
“Bound 2” by Kanye West
In The Classroom
“… Baby One More Time” by Britney spears