Music videos have been around for a long time. The Beatles made full use of it by incorporating them into its movies, starting with “Can’t Buy Me Love” that was included in the film “A Hard Day’s Night.” As a result, the director of the movie, Richard Lester, was given credit for basically inventing music videos.
Since MTV’s launch in August 1981, the production has evolved from the very crude and basic to the elaborate concepts we have today. The first video shown was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It proved to be prophetic as the impact of music videos on the industry has been far and wide. Some of the most memorable videos during these first years were “Mickey” by Toni Basil, “Cry” by Godley and Crème, “Take on Me” by A-ha and the videos of Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Here is a list of the top 10 most expensive music videos ever made.
1. Scream (1995), Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – $7 million
In response to allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson in 1993, the “Prince of Pop’ composed “Scream” that bewailed the sensationalist journalism practiced by the tabloid press. He sang it with his sister Janet. The video was directed by Mark Romanek and lasted 4 minutes and 16 seconds. It was an angry video that featured the siblings flashing the middle finger and Janet grabbing at her breasts and simulating male urination. Japanese anime clips were shown in the background. The video won several awards from the MTV Music Video Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and the Grammy Awards.
2. Die Another Day (2002), Madonna – $6 million
It was the theme song for a James Bond movie. It featured several references from past Bond films, like Honey Ryder from “Dr. No,” the white Persian cat and Rosa Klebb from “From Russia with Love,” Oddjob and Jill Masterson from “Goldfinger,” the metal arm from “Live and Let Die,” the golden gun from “The Man with the Golden Gun” and the space suit and metal teeth from “Moonraker.” It also had a reference to the Kabbalah religion practiced by Madonna. Traktor directed the video.
3. Express Yourself (1989), Madonna – $5 million
The song was written by Madonna and Stephen Bray and was meant to be a tribute to the defunct funk and soul band called Sly and the Family Stone. It sang of female empowerment and the need for a woman to express herself. David Fincher directed the video that took off from the design of the 1927 Fritz Lang movie entitled “Metropolis.” It featured Madonna in a gender-bending role as a glamorous, albeit masochist, lady with beefed-up men acting as her workers. One of them was then chosen to be her date at the end of the day.
4. Black or White (1991), Michael Jackson featuring L.T.B. – $4 million
Michael Jackson wrote this rock dance song about racial harmony in collaboration with Bill Bottrell. It was his fastest song to reach number one, accomplishing the feat in just three weeks. The video was directed by John Landis and featured Macaulay Culkin of “Home Alone,” Tess Harper of “Crimes of the Heart” and George Wendt of “Cheers.” Jackson is shown moving and dancing from one scene to the next with various cultures and landmarks in the background. The latter part showed people of different ethnicities singing along as they morph from one face to another.
5. Estranged (1993), Guns N’ Roses – $4 million
The song is part of the band’s “Use Your Illusion II.” It was about couples getting estranged after the breakup of a relationship. Originally written after the annulment of Axl Rose’s marriage to Erin Everly, the video was shot after the breakup of the singer and supermodel Stephanie Seymour. It showed the difficulties encountered after the end of a relationship that resulted in the lead character’s attempted suicide in the video. He was later rescued by a group of dolphins. The video was the third part of the trilogy directed by Del James, coming after “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain.”
6. Victory (1998), Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes – $2.7 million
The song featured gangster-type lyrics that were popular at that time and sampled the theme song from the film “Rocky.” Marcus Nispel directed the video that featured the late The Notorious B.I.G. in two rap verses and Busta Rhymes in the chorus part. Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito appeared in the video set in the year 3002.
7. Too Legit to Quit (1991), MC Hammer – $2.5 million
The song is the title track from MC Hammer’s third album. The video featured hand motions that eventually became popular at that time. James Brown made an appearance in the video and made the same hand motions, as did an impersonator of Michael Jackson.
8. Heartbreaker (1999), Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z – $2.5 million
The song tells of a woman’s love for a partner who always cheats on her. It was written by Mariah Carey and Jay-Z and sampled the song “Attack of the Name Game” by Stacy Lattisaw. It was directed by Brett Ratner and has remained a favorite by fans after several years. The video took inspiration from movies like “Grease” and “Enter the Dragon.” It took a funny approach to the lyrics of the song.
9. What’s It Gonna Be (1999), Busta Rhymes featuring Janet Jackson – $2.4 million
The song was one of Busta Rhymes biggest hits, peaking at number three in the Billboard charts. The song’s video was full of sexual entendres with the rapper appearing as a sperm-like creature that was slowly moving itself up a liquid tunnel that originally showed Jackson. Women in silver body suits also appear in the video.
10. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (1996), Celine Dion – $2.3 million
This is a romantic song written by Jim Steinman. The video was directed by Nigel Dick and featured a couple’s image being flashed in photo frames after the guy had died in a motorcycle accident. It was shot in a gothic palace in the Czech Republic. Observers noted the video’s similarity with Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”