Music videos are having a bit of a renaissance as of late—Beyoncé’s Lemonade even earned her an Emmy nomination, and, as was the case with that visual album, it’s often the videos making headlines these days rather in place of the songs themselves. This past April, MTV announced they’d be returning to their roots by adding music-related programming back into their schedule, and those of us who grew up in the network’s heyday can’t help but reminisce on the magic of the OG-music-video era that was the 1990s. Here, 14 of the best videos you may have forgotten about.
We wish we had been at the creative meeting in which the director of Blind Melon's "No Rain" told a bunch of LA-based rockers that the concept he had in mind for their video revolved around a little girl in a bee costume dancing around in a field. It's a good thing they bought whatever he was selling, however, as this video—and its star, "Bee Girl," as she was known— became instantly iconic.
If you have never seen this video, we highly recommend you plug your headphones in and retreat to a dark corner of your office to sneak in a secret viewing. It's all kinds of crazy.
What won't he do?! The question haunts us to this day, and unfortunately the song's Beauty and the Beast-themed video provides little in the way of clues.
This song's album, Tidal, is 20 years old, if you can believe it. Allegedly, the uber-talented Fiona wrote this song in just 45 minutes, after her label asked her to find a hit single to lead Tidal's release. It subsequently spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The "Criminal" video, however, sparked huge controversy for glamorizing Fiona's stick-thin figure, and for being overly sexualized. Still, the artist has since asserted that the video was meant to be body positive, a way of reclaiming her sexuality and self-image after a rape that occurred when she was 12. Whatever your view on the video's visuals, it's hard to deny that "Criminal" is a provocative piece of art.
Okay, so you probably haven't actually forgotten how much you love this one. In fact, you probably still think about it regularly, especially when you and your significant other are in your pajamas on the couch watching Netflix for the 200th night in a row. Sigh.
This video was so instantly iconic that MTV once claimed it changed the entire look of their network. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was directed by Samuel Bayer, who has since insisted he was hired because his reel was so bad that the band figured he'd create something "punk" for them. At the end of the video's shoot, Kurt Cobain insisted on allowing the extras to mosh, as they'd been forced to sit quietly through an entire day of filming. The improvised result ended up defining an entire generation.
This simple video consisted mainly of Sinead's face, in close-up, as she sang, and yet it's as iconic, if not more so, than the song itself. According to the artist, the part of the video in which she sheds a few tears was not planned—she simply began to cry after thinking about her mother, who had passed away three years prior.
The video for this song—which has made it onto multiple "Best Song" lists in the years since its release—was directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich). It was awarded four statues at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.
We can earnestly say that this is one of our favorite music videos of all time: It's so over-the-top in terms of romance and drama. Love, marriage, death, funerals, Stephanie Seymour and Slash... what more could one ask for from a rock video? The storyline of "November Rain" was based on the short story "Without You" by Del James, which centers around a rock star grieving a girlfriend who committed suicide. (Mystery solved! We'd always wondered how Axl's bride died.)
Believe it or not, this song earned Eminem his first-ever Grammy. Former President Bill Clinton (sort of) makes a cameo in the accompanying video, which is worth re-watching if you're looking to deep dive into '90s nostalgia.
It may seem a little creepy that Steven Tyler's own daughter appears in this video, but her casting was apparently a coincidence, as the director scouted her from a Pantene commercial without realizing the family ties. This video launched both Liv and Alicia Silverstone into It girl territory, and forever made torturing a farm boy one of our lifelong #goals.
What was happening here? WHAT WAS HAPPENING HERE? We have so many feelings about this video, and all of them are just wrong.
Basically every video Janet made in the '80s and '90s is worth re-watching, but we chose this one because it reminds us there were bad-ass babes in music long before Beyoncé.
This 1990 video is Madge's most iconic, even if "Like A Prayer" is technically our favorite. If you were a kid in the '90s, you likely believed Madonna invented "vogueing," when in reality, it was an art form popularized in gay clubs in New York City in the 1980s. Whatever you think of Madonna now, there's no denying her place in pop culture history.