Monday, October 06, 2014

15 Essential Music Videos by David Fincher

With the buzz that is emerging for David Fincher in the release of newest film Gone Girl, there’s been a lot of retrospective about his work in the world of film. As revered as he is as a filmmaker as some believe that he’s up for his very first Oscar as Best Director, he’s come a long way from being known as a director music videos which he had been revered for. Since the mid-1980s, Fincher has honed his craft as a filmmaker through music videos as well as commercials where his unique approach to style would become part of the ideas he would refine in the world of film. While his output in music videos had slowed down in the mid-90s only to do it occasionally because of his work as a filmmaker. There’s no question that a video by David Fincher is a work of art as here is a list 15 of his best work as a music video director in chronological order.

1. Sting-Englishman in New York

Having spent much of the mid-80s directing videos for some very mainstream rock acts in Rick Springfield, the Motels, Loverboy, the Outfield, and Patty Smyth, the video he makes for Sting really represents a major evolution into Fincher’s approach to visuals. Not just in terms of its visual style in black-and-white but the way he manages to convey that sense of richness in its look as Sting treks around New York City with some shots of Branford Marsalis playing a saxophone. There’s even moments of flurry images during the bridge of the song as it also features this element of cinema verite in the way Fincher often keeps featuring shot of an elderly woman.

2. Johnny Hates Jazz-Shattered Dreams

A second version of the video made for the American market, this video is definitely of Fincher’s first videos that makes him a major name in the art of music videos. Shot in black-and-white, what makes the video stand out are its approach to visual effects where the band is often playing to white backgrounds whether it’s a refrigerator, a woman’s shoulder, or a woman’s hand. While it has the look of a fashion shoot, it’s sense of style is just intoxicating to watch as well as its approach to editing in some of the aspects of the video

3. Steve Winwood-Roll With It

Shot in a sepia-like photography, it is a video that is all style but it plays true to who Steve Winwood is. With its extreme close-ups on music instruments and its emphasis to capture the sensuality of a Southern bar dance with its sweat. It’s a video that is very simple but showcases how good Fincher is making a video that is very simple but also fun to watch.

4. Jody Watley-Real Love

Fincher’s work as a video director isn’t just revered for its sense of style but also in ways that can be described as innovative in its look. His video for the Jody Watley song may have been shot and released in 1989 but it has the look and feel of something that would become prevalent and often imitated for the videos that would come in the next decade. There’s often complaints that the art of music video is described as style over substance but Fincher does it perfectly with this video from its tracking shots, different photography styles, emphasis on fashion, and unique ideas on lighting.

5. Madonna-Express Yourself

In his first of four collaborations with Madonna, this is definitely one of Madonna’s greatest videos in this homage to the legendary Fritz Lang film Metropolis. This was when Madonna had the world at the palm of her hand where she doesn’t just look great as well as extremely sexually intoxicating. It’s a video that doesn’t emphasize on sex but also a bit of power in Madonna’s dancing. It’s a video that is very big and ambitious but it’s also got something for everyone where there’s hot and sweaty men for the ladies… and guys to look at.

6. Don Henley-The End of the Innocence

Don Henley - The End of Innocence from Brian Newman on Vimeo.

The video is definitely one of Fincher’s finest in terms of how simple he can create images about a world that is long and gone. Don Henley’s song expresses a sense of loss in the aftermath of Ronald Reagan’s U.S. presidency in the 1980s as it takes place in small-town America. It’s a very somber video that is appropriately shot in black-and-white as it showcases the kind of diversity Fincher has as a video director as he can do big videos but also intimate ones.

7. Aerosmith-Janie’s Got a Gun

While Aerosmith’s resurgence in the late 80s were defined by videos that were often filled with beautiful women and a sexiness that was helmed by their longtime collaborator Marty Callner. For this video, the band drafted Fincher to create something that is more serious in this story of sexual-child abuse as it feels like a chilling short film. Featuring Lesley Ann Warren as the terrified mother, Kristin Datillo as the daughter, and Nicholas Guest as the father, it’s a video that features many of the visual trademarks that Fincher would use in his feature films. Especially in the way he can create suspense and dread as it’s one of the band’s best videos.

8. Madonna-Vogue

Their third and probably the best of their four collaborations, this is definitely Madonna’s best video in terms of what she is about. It’s not just about fashion but about the art of looking good. Strike a pose. It’s a video that pays tribute to the fashion of Hollywood’s Golden Age where it’s not just Madonna looking great but also her dancers and back-up singers. After all, it’s a video that is style and has pizzazz that Greta Garbo, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, and many other iconic figures would love.

9. Billy Idol-Cradle of Love

This is a video that can’t be made today because of political correctness although it’s tame compared to the way women objectify themselves in today’s music videos. It’s a very sexy video where a young woman comes in to play a tape and creates havoc in a man’s apartment as it has some amazing lighting schemes and shots that are just unforgettable. While Billy Idol only appears through visual effect backgrounds in painting due to the fact that he was recovering from a very serious motorcycle injury. His presence does keep things exciting as he just maintains that sense of raunchiness in the video.

10. George Michael-Freedom ‘90

Music videos can allow an artist to say something as this video was notorious for not featuring George Michael as supermodels would lip-sync the song as many of Michael’s iconic objects would be destroyed. Shot by longtime Fincher collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, it’s a video that features some unique lighting schemes as well as shots that is Fincher. It’s not just a video that plays into this world of style but it’s also one that captures a moment in time when these supermodels were about to rule the world and do it with style.

11. Madonna-Bad Girl

The fourth and final collaboration between Fincher and Madonna is really one of Madonna’s most underrated videos of her career and is often overlooked over the hoopla of her hyper-sexualized image at the time. Yet, this is easily one of Madonna’s most gorgeous videos as well as the fact that it plays like a short film about a woman who is very successful and powerful but also lonely and self-destructive. The video features Christopher Walken as her guardian angel as the cast includes Matt Dillon, Rob Campbell, Mark Margolis, Thomas Arana, and James Rebhorn who would appear in Fincher’s 1997 film The Game. The videos is also notable for the fact that it is inspired by Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings of Desire for the fact that Walken’s character is only seen as an observer.

12. The Rolling Stones-Love is Strong

The Rolling Stones - Love is strong from Ciccy on Vimeo.

There’s no band that is the emphasis of cool better than the Stones as this is one of their best videos. All it does is showcase the Stones plus various models and such roam around a miniaturized version of New York City as it’s a video that just emphasizes the idea of cool. Charlie Watts just sitting there playing on buildings as his drum kit while Mick, Keith, and Ron just rock out in the city. What more can be said about this video as it’s one that exudes awesomeness?

13. A Perfect Circle-Judith

After a four-year break from videos where Fincher was making a name for himself in films, Fincher returns to help expose a new band from Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan as it features former Nine Inch Nails guitar tech Billy Howerdel and renowned drummer Josh Freese who would join NIN in the late 2000s. This is a very simple video where Fincher just uses grainy camera footage to capture the band performing as it features some unique editing as it’s definitely one of Fincher’s underrated works as a video director.

14. Nine Inch Nails-Only

Though Fincher’s connection with Nine Inch Nails and its leader Trent Reznor began in the opening credits for his 1995 film Se7en, their collaboration really begins with this video. It’s essentially a video shot in an office where Reznor’s face appears in a pin-art on the desk as it’s the major visual-effects driven thing in the video. It plays into many of the song’s lyrics in Reznor’s struggle with depression and self-destruction as he’s inside this pin art novelty as it’s one of Fincher’s great videos.

15. Justin Timberlake w/ Jay-Z-Suit & Tie

The most recent video that Fincher did is an ode to classic Hollywood as it’s a simple black-and-white video that features Justin Timberlake, who starred in Fincher’s The Social Network, singing his song in a suit and tie while hanging out with Jay-Z. It’s a video that showcases Timberlake becoming more of an adult-oriented artist as it’s a video that looks great where it shows Timberlake singing in a nightclub and recording the song in a studio. It’s a video that showcases how good Fincher is creating visuals that plays to what the song is about.

If David Fincher decides to make anymore music videos. It’s not question that it will be good as he is someone who knows how to make them and do it right. Even as it would showcase his own style where it can be instantly recognizable among his fans. After all, David Fincher is someone who brings and always deliver.

David Fincher Films: Alien 3 - Se7en - The Game - Fight Club - (Panic Room) - Zodiac - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Social Network - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 film) - Gone Girl - The Auteurs #61: David Fincher

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

Love this post. I'm not familiar with the music videos Fincher directed (sans a few), but I know that it was a huge part of his early career and so this is giving me a lot to look at right now!

Chris said...

Cool idea for a post with Gone Girl hitting theatres. I didn't know Fincher had done so many high profile music videos for so long.
Those Madonna videos are classics, right? For what its worth, I heard at watchmojo the Vogue video introduced audiences to a new dance style that had been popular in the underground gay scene.

Brittani Burnham said...

LOVE this post! I wasn't aware he directed all of these. Now I'm going to be hanging out here for awhile watching them. lol

Wendell Ottley said...

Excellent work. I've only seen a few of these before and didn't know he directed them. Thanks for teaching me something.

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-There's plenty more that he did that I wanted to cover but I wanted to showcase his best work as I was already aware of what he does as a video director.

@Chris-Madonna did popularize voguing though it had been around for a while. The stuff he did w/ Madonna is great. It probably wouldn't happen now since Madonna's recent music just fucking sucks.

@Brittani-Hope you have fun watching them. There's some cool shit in there as those are some of my favorite videos. It's just a shame the art of making music videos had gone way downhill.

@Wendell Ottley-That's part of my job and why I love it.

m.brown said...

This was completely eye-opening! I can't believe how iconic some of these are and I had no idea. His work with Madonna blows my mind.

Great work, man. And I'm with you...videos today? Hollow and pointless.

thevoid99 said...

@m. brown-Today's video lack imagination these days? Have you seen that new J-Lo video? It's awful. The song is bad but do we need close-ups of her cottage cheese ass?

ruth said...

Wow I had no idea he directed all of these! I LOVE Sting's Englishman in New York vid (and the song too), wow no wonder it's an awesome video! Growing up in the 80s, I'm very familiar w/ Cradle of Love and George Michael's Freedom, that's the one w/ all the models right? Very cool post Steven, learned something new today!

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-Yes, it's the video w/ Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Eva Herzigova, and all of those supermodels.

Roman J. Martel said...

Wow thanks for sharing these. I knew he directed some of them, but others I had no idea. And now that you've pointed it out I can see the similarities. Great post!

thevoid99 said...

@Roman J. Martel-Well that's what being an auteur is yet it's good to know that some directors in the world of videos do put their own stamp and hone their craft to do something bigger.