It’s Day Two of TLC Week here at VH1, which means that there are only six more days left until CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story premieres on October 21 at 9PM/8C. As we all know, TLC is widely recognized as being a dominant force in the genre of R&B, but one area where TLC doesn’t generally get the credit they deserve is in helping to pioneer some of the most memorable special effects moments in the history of music videos. In particular, their collaboration with director F. Gary Gray on “Waterfalls” in 1995 blew our (then) young minds when three water creatures morphed into T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye.
The ’90s were an incredible time in the history of of music videos, as artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna and Peter Gabriel teamed up with visionary directors like David Fincher, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris to push the entire genre forward with increasingly intricate shoots and complicated special effects. Sure, some of these videos may look a bit dated considering the advances that have been made in computer generated imagery (CGI), but at the time of their release, each and every one of these videos BLEW OUR MINDS. Won’t you join us down this GIF-illustrated stroll down memory lane?
ARTIST: Michael Jackson
SONG: “Black Or White”
DIRECTOR: John Landis
Michael Jackson and director John Landis had previously teamed up on the “Thriller” video in 1983, arguably the best music video of all-time. While this video failed to top that one’s success, that’s not to say that this isn’t one of the Top 50 videos in the entire history of the medium. In addition to some memorable choreography, two moments here stand out. First, the end of this video features some seamless face morphing (including Tyra Banks!), which involved some cutting edge SFX (and, we must say, still looks great nearly 25 years later). Second, in a moment that got this video banned, a panther morphs into Michael Jackson and begins smashing streetcars, grabbing his crotch, and screaming to the high heavens. MIND=BLOWN!
ARTIST: The Rolling Stones
SONG: “Love Is Strong”
DIRECTOR: David Fincher
What do you do when you get the call to direct a music video for the biggest giants in rock and roll history? If you’re David Fincher, you literally turn them into giants. The video for “Love Is Strong,” the first single off of 1994’s Voodoo Lounge LP, features Mick, Keef, Charlie and Ron in full-on Paul Bunyon mode, stomping around the streets of New York City alongside a bunch of heroin chic glamazons. The video won a VMA in 1995 for Best Visual Effects, and also earned The Stones a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video.
DIRECTOR: Chris Cunningham
Madonna’s legacy as a music video pioneer was already set when she teamed up with Chris Cunningham for “Frozen” in 1998, but this video ended up further cementing this position. The video for first single off Madonna’s 1998 “comeback” LP, Ray Of Light, showcased Madge as some sort of desert dwelling, shapeshifting Gothic/Wiccan Stevie Nicks. Regarding the shapeshifting, this video shows Madonna morphing into a flock of crows—caw CAW!—and a scary dog, too. Move over, Toto!
ARTIST: Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson
DIRECTOR: Mark Romanek
“Scream” is the most expensive music video of all-time, costing a reported $6.5 million. And you know what? It looks like it. The sets are flawless, there’s scenes that take place in zero gravity and, well, it’s Michael and Janet Jackson, so you know that things probably ran a bit late and got a bit perfectionistic. We’re guessing that a good chunk of the budget went to the computer-generated game of space racquetball that MJ is seen playing in the GIFs below; the technology is probably something that you could create on your iPad today, but at the time, it probably took something like 1,000 computers to make this come to life.
SONG: “Even Better Than The Real Thing”
DIRECTOR: Kevin Godley
“Even Better Than The Real Thing” won the 1992 VMA for Best Visual Effects for its dizzying, “How did they do THAT?” cinematography. Twentysome years later, we’re still in awe (and dizzy as all get out).
ARTIST: Paula Abdul
SONG: “Opposites Attract”
DIRECTOR: Candace Reckinger & Michael Patterson
I mean, come on! Sure, the technology is a little bit corny, but watching MC Skat Kat flirt with a pre-cray cray Paula Abdul? GETS US EVERY TIME!
ARTIST: Will Smith
SONG: “Men In Black”
DIRECTOR: Robert Caruso
Speaking of awkwardly lovable pairings! In the video for “Men In Black” (which, you may or may not recall, was the theme song for the film Men In Black), Big Willie Style gets jiggy with a CGI alien. These graphics have aged the worst out of everything you’re gonna see today, but we still have a soft spot for this treatment.
ARTIST: Peter Gabriel
DIRECTOR: Stephen R. Johnson
Peter Gabriel’s career rocketed into the stratosphere with the music video for “Sledgehammer” was released in 1986, and for a period of time there, he was known as a video vanguard. His video for “Steam” is not as well known as “Sledgehammer” or “Big Time,” but it’s a pretty remarkable pastiche of cutting edge (at the time) special effects. It won both the VMA for “Best Visual Effects” and also the Grammy for Best Short Form Music video, two well-deserved wins. Bonus points for also being a SUPER underrated jam!
SONG: “Freak On A Leash”
DIRECTOR: Todd MacFarlane, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Nary a day goes by when we don’t thank the heavens that the unholy rap/rock hybrid genre is no longer of this world. That said, Korn’s video for “Freak On A Leash” is so good that it bears watching repeatedly no matter how little you like the song. The magic bullet that travels from Todd MacFarlane’s cartoon universe into the “real world” was a breakthrough piece of VFX, and when combined with the super, super slo-mo shots of exploding bottle, whipped cream canisters and flower pots, makes for one of the most memorable and mind-blowing videos of its era.
DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray
This video is the whole reason we put this list together! Great story + Tremendous Special Effects + An Unforgettable Song = One For The Record Books!
[“Waterfalls” GIFS via Uproxx]