I did that thing tonight where I watched a particular video on YouTube and ended up going on to watch a bunch of mostly-unrelated videos. One of them was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” which is a catchy song with a well-choreographed video (seriously, it’s obvious the director is meticulously timing the entire video to the actual music, something you don’t see that often).
One of the things I noticed is the video has over one billion views. It was released in 2009 so it’s had time to acquire those views, but it’s still a staggering number.
But more than the number of views, I was struck by the number of comments.
If you read one comment per second, it would take you 223 hours (over nine days) to read them all. Also you would be insane.
These are personal picks and they coincidentally are all from the 1980s because the 80s were both chockablock full of terrible music videos and it also happened to be the decade when I was old enough to really got into music. You can find more “official” choices out there like WatchMojo’s Top 10 Good Songs with Bad Music Videos (you’ll see some duplication on my list). My one criteria in the following selections is this: Do I cringe while watching? If the answer is yes, the video is a winner (at being cringe-inducing).
Here they are in no particular order:
Journey, “Separate Ways”
In some ways it’s hard to describe what makes something very 80s but you know it when you see it. Here, it might be the woman’s puffed hair and overly made-up face. Or maybe it’s Steve Perry’s everything. The air instruments alone guarantees this video’s spot but really, the whole thing is difficult to watch. You feel bad for these guys. Then you remember how much money they had.
Starship, “We Built This City”
Sometimes cited as the worst song of the 80s, the video is a fine companion to it. Never mind that a song extolling the virtues of rock and roll is a top-heavy mess of synthesizers, the lead singer can’t dance and several times he literally stands facing the camera with his mouth hanging open, waiting to sing the next part of the song. The rest is a hodgepodge of extras and stylized scenes of Las Vegas because when I think of rock and roll, I think of Vegas.
Man, even the still you get before playing the video is cringe-worthy.
Wham!, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
I’ll confess, I pretty much hated this song. It was catchy but insipid. The video takes these qualities and turns them up to a million. The fashion transcends being 80s to looking like the random results of piecing together whatever was found after a rainbow exploded in a clothing factory. I mean, look at this still image I grabbed:
Also, George Michael’s teeth are supernaturally white. It’s kind of creepy.
Styx, “Mr. Roboto”
This is a good example of a perfect marriage, with both song and video being equally silly and cringe-inducing. Part of the concept album Kilroy Was Here, this song features lead singer Dennis DeYoung disguising himself as a robot to help secretly undermine the authoritarian regime that has made music illegal or something. But if he’s in disguise, why do the lyrics include lines like, “my brain is IBM”? DeYoung over-emotes throughout and early in the video he spontaneously switches from being disguised as a robot to mincing around in a purple jumpsuit. He later inexplicably grabs a robot and starts singing loudly at it, possibly to torture it. And us.
Queen, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
I quite liked this song when it was released as a single way back in 1980. It’s a breezy little Elvis-style ditty. The video features the band as the least-convincing group of greasers ever. Freddie Mercury struts around, jackets mysteriously appearing and disappearing on him and toward the end of the video someone apparently handed him a microphone because he’s suddenly got one in his hand. One of the dancers tears Mercury’s shirt open. It magically repairs itself later. The dancers look like they got lost on their way to a Broadway production of Cats or maybe Starlight Express. Brian May grimaces throughout.
And a bonus from 1975:
Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood”
Neil Sedaka’s brown jacket and yellow shirt represent stylish 1970s fashion in the same way the shark from Jaws represents safe ocean swimming. The song is about a woman who done the protagonist wrong, with the chorus charmingly including the lyrics, “The bitch is in her smile.” Sedaka nonetheless mugs and grins throughout the song as if it’s some Barry Manilow show tune. There’s an odd bit halfway through where he suddenly stands up from the piano and starts clapping and singing to the same person off-camera that he’s been over-emoting to throughout the video.
Elton John, who embraced 70s fashion as the tasteless spectacle it was, shares vocals but, perhaps suspecting something was up, does not appear in the video.