Pop music videos have a tendency to be flashy and eye-catching, with cuts that are so quick that there's not really any room for subtlety or nuance. However, these seven artists ignored these conventions and instead made videos that are startlingly minimalist and uncomplicated.
1. The Replacements - "Bastards of Young" (1985)
The Replacements weren't shy about their dislike of music videos; their 1984 song "Seen Your Video" is an attack on "phony rock and roll" bands with videos on MTV. So when the Replacements signed to a major label in the mid-'80s and had to release a video for their single "Bastards of Young," they released the ultimate anti-video: a single black and white shot of a speaker playing the song in someone's living room.
2. Sinead O'Connor - "Nothing Compares 2 U" (1990)
The video for Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" is one of the most famous of the '90s. Other than a few mood-setting shots of a park, most of the video consists of a close-up of O'Connor's face while she sings the song. It proved to be so powerful that it went on to win the VMA for Video of the Year.
3. Pixies - "Velouria" (1990)
The Pixies had already mocked music video conventions with their video for "Here Comes Your Man," in which Black Francis and Kim Deal simply open their mouths instead of lip-synching. They took this mockery to the extreme the next year with the video for "Velouria," which is simply a shot of the band running down a hill in excruciatingly slow motion.
Someone on Youtube decided to speed up the video to see how it looks in real time, and it takes just 23 seconds.
4. PJ Harvey - "Man-Size" (1993)
After a brief prologue in which she dances while holding a dress against her body, the remainder of PJ Harvey's excellent "Man-Size" video features a single unbroken shot of the singer sitting in her underwear while lip-synching and dancing to the song. What's most fascinating about this video is the way that Harvey seems to shift back and forth between self-consciousness and total confidence in her performance.
5. Radiohead - "No Surprises" (1997)
The video for Radiohead's "No Surprises" is at once one of the simplest and one of the most agonizing ever made. It features a close-up of singer Thom Yorke's face in what looks like a space helmet, only it's gradually filling up with water, until Yorke's head is completely submerged. Though he seems to be holding his breath for an incredibly long time, the documentary Meeting People is Easy shows how this part of the video is actually edited in slow motion.
6. The White Stripes - "We're Going To Be Friends" (2002)
The White Stripes were known for their iconic and visually stunning music videos, but for the video for the acoustic White Blood Cells track "We're Going To Be Friends," they chose to keep things simple. In a single take, Jack White plays the song while sitting on a couch outdoors, while Meg White sleeps next to him, since there's nothing for her to do in this drumless song.
7. Lorde - "Tennis Court" (2013)
The video for Lorde's "Tennis Court" immediately brings to mind Andy Kaufman's famous "Mighty Mouse" performance on the first episode of Saturday Night Live. Instead of lip-synching the words, Lorde simply stands and stares at the camera, only opening her mouth for the occasional "yeah" that punctuates the choruses. It's also reminiscent of Andy Warhol's screen tests, in which he would film people to see how they act in front of a camera.
What are some other great minimalist music videos? Let us know down in the comments section!