Creative VMA Winners from the 80s

Ah, yes, the MTV Video Music Awards – scandelizing the public since 1984. Can you believe it’s been 29 years? Can’t wait to see what they cook up for next years’ 30th birthday.

Anyway, back to the reason for the award show in the first place – the videos!

It’s kind of sad that with all the reality shows and other filler material, MTV doesn’t show as many videos as it used to. Growing up in the 80s, MTV was big. HUGE. Unfortunately, we didn’t have cable TV at home (“We don’t want that garbage in our house!”), so every chance I got, I watched at friends’ and family’s houses.

The thing I like best about the videos from the 80s was the experimentation with form and style. Here’s a small taste of some of the more visually interesting music videos.

First up, the Norwegian group A-ha, and their song, “Take On Me.” It cuts back and forth between live action and a sketch animation method called rotoscoping. This won several awards in 1986 and is one of my favorites.

Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” used stop-motion photography, including claymation and pixilation, to create a pretty mesmerizing video. It won a slew of VMS’s in 1987. Check it out:

I’m not fond of music videos that just show the singer or band performing on a stage. How boring is that? This is a chance for artists to complete their vision or simply play around and have fun.

In keeping with that, I present the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” It’s obvious that in switching from mild S&M dress-up in the boardroom to formal chamber music in a cow field (with cows) , Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart had a blast with this video that won a VMA in 1984.

Finally, there’s the music video that tells a story. Love this kind. The clearest example of this is “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”, from 1984. With a running time of 13+ minutes and co-written, co-produced and directed by John Landis, it’s basically a mini film. I haven’t seen the whole thing in years and when I did for this post, I got sucked into it all over again. Enjoy.

What music videos made the biggest impression on you and why?


9 comments on “Creative VMA Winners from the 80s

  1. thepencilneck says:

    There were SO many great videos back then, even when I didn’t particularly care for the music.

    Off the top of my head, Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Tommy Tutone’s 8675309.

    And of course, Video Killed The Radio Star..


    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Loved all of those! There were way too many to put in one post, though I’m considering a series of posts or a regular video/photo feature of some sort. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. I’m struggling to think of a favourite but I liked KD Lang’s circusy take on Constant Craving, and Tom Waite’s In the Neighbourhood. Both have a good mix of dark and light.


  3. My daughter had her official wedding in October six years ago so of course she had ‘Thriller’ as one of her songs. It turned out a bit awkward because it was offensive to some of our relatives for religious reasons. We didn’t know until the next day that was why everyone sat down. I just recently watched the whole thing again, it really was brilliant.

    One of my favorite vids is Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Tonight, Tonight’:


    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Wow, never thought Thriller could be considered offensive, but to each his own. I liked the silent movie look and the music in the Smashing Pumpkins video, but the lead singer’s high, thin voice seemed so out of place. Which is too bad, because otherwise, it’s a gorgeous video.


  4. dbalekseev says:

    I vividly recall my mother sitting tight-lipped in the dining room while Madonna writhed on stage singing Like A Virgin. “I hear what she’s singing in there” she called out at one point, while my sister and I giggled behind our hands. Mom was also a bit dismayed when I bought The Police single Roxanne. Mom pulled the plug on our cable after we had it for about a year. Oh, the uproar!


    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Lol! At least you got a trial run on cable. For us it was just a big, fat NO! from the beginning. But I loved watching Madonna’s videos from back then (haven’t seen anything of hers in a long time). They all had a story.


  5. Nelly says:

    This piece was cogent, we-rtwlitlen, and pithy.


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