Recently, Jason Sirotin (one of the partners here at ECG Productions) got into my car because we had to go pick up a grip truck for a Mercedes-Benz shoot. He started flipping through some of the CD cases on my car door (yes, I still have CDs in my car), and said in response, “I am literally in high school right now”.
I love alternative music from the 90s; it was the soundtrack of my youth! Furthermore, watching alternative music videos from the 90s on MTV all day made me who I am today. As a child, that’s what made me start paying attention to things like cinematography, production design, editing, etc. I literally decided that I wanted to be a music video director when I was 11, and here I am.I love alternative music from the 90s. It was the soundtrack of my youth!Click To Tweet
Remembering the Music
Here are some of the best alternative music videos from the 90s. All of these, in some form or another, inspired me to become a filmmaker.
These are in no particular order. Also, the views of Alexxiss Jackson are not necessarily representative of ECG Productions as a whole. It’s entirely possible that some of my coworkers think these videos suck. LOL.
Korn – “Freak on a Leash”
This video is iconic, and I’m not just saying that because Korn is one of my favorite bands. The VFX were pretty cutting edge for the time; moreover, the movement between animated and live action dimensions using Korn posters was notably creative. Yes, the music video’s relevance to the song lyrics is tenuous at best. However, the video plays on the album cover for the respective album (Follow the Leader) in a way that made it a really effective marketing tool.
This video won Best Editing and Best Rock Video at the VMAs, and even secured a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. Check it out below. Try to ignore how 90s the clothes are and how strange Korn’s facial expressions are as the bullet flies around the room.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”
Smashing Pumpkins consistently had some of the best music videos in the 90s. “Tonight, Tonight”, “Today”… The videos they released were always visually interesting and creative in how they related to the song material.
I used to watch this video over and over again. I was too young to really understand what was going on in the video when it came out, but now… actually, I still don’t really understand what’s going on in the video. Does anyone know? Can someone tell me? I feel like it’s a poignant commentary about something. Either way, it looks really, really cool.
Björk – “Bachelorette”
Michel Gondry is literally an artistic genius. As far as I’m concerned, anything he puts his hands on is gold. Before he started conceptualizing and directing films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gondry was creating visually stunning videos like this one. The production design and concept alone are enough to make it a classic.
Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
I’m going to be honest with you guys; before I started writing this list, I hadn’t watched this video in years. Because it still gives me the creeps. However, at the time that it came out, there simply wasn’t anything else like it on TV. It secured the VMA for Best Metal/Hard Rock video the year it came out; also, this is one of the best guitar solos ever.
Aerosmith – “Cryin’”
Aerosmith might not qualify as alternative, but hear me out. The cinematography in this video shines, in a way that’s almost sneaky. It doesn’t jump out at you immediately, but once you start looking for it, it’s pretty solid. The lighting, framing, and camera movement of Steven Tyler’s solo shots (where he sits in the window) were noticeable to me even when I was a really little kid.
I also remember being really struck by the narrative/storyline. This music video, along with Aerosmith’s “Crazy”, had a huge impact on Alicia Silverstone’s career; Amy Heckerling actually selected Silverstone for Clueless after seeing the two music video appearances. This video also caused an explosion in belly button piercing, so now you know who to thank for that.
No Doubt – “Ex-Girlfriend”
This actually came out in 2000, but I’m going to include it anyway (you’re not the boss of me!). Hype Williams is one of the most iconic music video directors of all time for a reason, and this video is no exception.
At the time, the aspects that jumped out for me were the storyline, the color grade, and Gwen’s close-up performance footage. I didn’t even know what a “color grade” was yet, but I knew that the colors and saturation were visually incredible. This still ranks as one of my favorite music videos to this day.
Bush – “Glycerine”
This is another alternative music video that I used to record on VHS tapes and watch over and over again. It’s such a pretty video, and the floatiness/dreaminess of it fits perfectly with the song. The light leaks and lens flares; the way the image goes in and out of focus; the extremely tight close-up on Gavin’s face for most of his performance footage; man!
The imagery of the video mirrored the emotion of the song to perfection. This video gave me the feels before I was even old enough to understand what the feels were. Also, fun fact: they filmed this video in Atlanta! They also filmed it in a really short period of time because the bands’ visas had expired, LOL.Watching alternative music videos from the 90s on MTV all day made me who I am today.Click To Tweet
What do you guys think? What’s your favorite on this list?
Which alternative music videos from the 90s resonated with you? Let me know in the comments!