Tonight is the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards. Remember when videos were the only thing that made that channel go ’round?
So, it felt natural to feature alternative music videos today somehow. Since it’s the 34th annual show, I thought maybe featuring 34 music videos? But that’s a recipe for “too long, didn’t read.” We could shrink that list to say, the top 10. But we would be leaving out wayyyy too many.
So instead, let’s look at one bands contribution to telling a musical story through pictures. Specifically, Green Day.
10 – Longview
This was the music video that put the band on the map. A three-time nominee in 1994, one of the categories being “Artist To Watch.” That’s a understatement now, looking back on thing, isn’t it?
9 – American Idiot
In 2004, Green Day under took the task of creating a “punk rock opera” following the life of a adolescent anti-hero whose is conflicted between the emotions of rage and love. The result? “American Idiot,” which has since spawned a Broadway stage show. The title track was as straight forward a performance video as possible — save for a little messy twist at the end.
8 – Walking Contradiction
Just a fun narrative, and most notably, directed by Roman Coppola. He is the son of famed director Francis Ford Coppola and an accomplished Hollywood player on his own: he co-wrote Wes Anderson heavyweights “The Darjeeing Limited” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” Other music video credits include The Presidents Of The United States Of America (Lump), Fatboy Slim (Gangsta Trippin’), and The Strokes (Last Nite).
7 – Hitchin’ A Ride
Feels like we took a trip into prohibition era United States of America. Of course, the distortion and volume was probably way beyond the 1920s would have liked. But don’t worry — their grand kids are gonna love it.
6 – 21 Guns
You are looking at a three-time VMA winner. Surviving a hail of gunfire whilst trying to pull off a bank robbery isn’t a bad trick, either.
5 – Brain Stew/Jaded
When this video debuted, it felt like Green Day had arrived. The previous couple of video hits were fun, but lacked the polish that was put on this narrative-driven take. The band was no longer “one to watch,” but rather the gold standard of alternative music of the time. The video reflects this well.
4 – Jesus Of Suburbia
The release of American Idiot marked a significant point in the Green Day timeline. The band had gotten serious about the long form narrative on the album, and their music videos reflected this shift. This was the fifth and final single from the album. It checked in at just under 10 minutes…plenty of time for director Samuel Bayer to parse out the story. He was the one responsible for all the videos off this album, by the way.
3 – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
The video has a great artist look, and that didn’t come by way of computer effects. Samuel Bayer literally took razor blades, lit cigarettes, and hot coffee to the negative to achieve the effect. It paid off: it won six Moonman trophies (in 2017, now called the Moonperson). This song is also the only one in history to win both a Grammy for Record Of The Year AND the VMA Video Of The Year.
2 – Wake Me Up When September Ends
So if the previous track was the biggest winner, why does Wake Me Up When September Ends trump it? I remember being screened this video before it’s release. This was not the goofy, fun Green Day that I had grown up with. This is the video that made people take notice, and with it’s release directly in the middle of the Iraq war, it hit home for a lot of people. It also features a couple of current Hollywood middleweights: Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel Wood.
1 – Basket Case
If you were lucky enough to grow up towards the end of the MTV era that thrived on music videos, you no doubt turned on the TV in the afternoon looking for — and expecting this one. It would be hard to argue against the importance of music videos as a second path of exposure towards making bands superstars. This video help define who Green Day was, and as such, tops this list.