Music videos are nothing new for this generation. The Beatles were the first to make a music video for their song “Can’t Buy Me Love” and was added in the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” giving recognition to its director, Richard Lester, for initiating the creation of music videos.
Music videos became more popular in 1981 when MTV started airing them. That was when the music industry began to seriously use video, especially with singles, for promotional purposes. Since then, the production has progressed into complex concepts. When “Video Killed the Radio Star” was aired as the first music video by MTV, it paved the way to the production of more music videos to help the industry.
The peak years for these music videos were during the 1990's when Michael Jackson and Madonna starred in heavily financed music video productions. Over the last two decades, production costs have decreased. However, the rebirth of expensive productions can likely occur, especially for new artists in the industry.
There were rumors buzzing around that $13 million was spent for the production of Jared Leto’s “From Yesterday” video, making it the supposed most expensive music video to date. Those rumors were never proven to be true.
The following lists the top 10 most expensive music videos ever produced. You’ll notice it's a tight fight between Madonna and Michael Jackson.
10 It’s All Coming Back to Me Now (1996), Celine Dion – $2.3 million
The 10th spot goes to Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, which was written by Jim Steinman. The $2.3 million music video was directed by Nigel Dick and the location was in the Czech Republic. The whole concept was about a couple’s image being flashed in picture frames after the guy died in an accident whilst riding his motorcycle. It was observed that the video has a hint of resemblance with the music video “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.
9 What’s It Gonna Be (1999), Busta Rhymes featuring Janet Jackson – $2.4 million
“What’s It Gonna Be” takes the 9th spot for this list. It is one of Busta Rhymes’ greatest hits, which reached the 3rd top spot in the Billboard charts. Busta Rhymes appeared in the video as a sperm-like creature slowly moving its way up in a liquid tunnel which showed Janet Jackson at first. The music video was overflowing with sexual entendres with women wearing silver body suits.
8 Heartbreaker (1999), Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z – $2.5 million
The 1999 hit “Heartbreaker” takes the 8th spot. It was written by Mariah Carey and Jay-Z and the video was directed by Brett Ratner. The song depicts a woman’s love for a man who always double crosses her. The concept of the music video was inspired by Grease and Enter the Dragon, making it an amusing interpretation of the song’s lyrics.
7 Too Legit to Quit (1991), MC Hammer – $2.5 million
MC Hammer may not be visible in the music industry lately, but his song “Too Legit to Quit” ranks 7th in the list. It was the title track from his third album. Hand motions instantly became the in-thing soon after the video was aired. James Brown and a Michael Jackson impersonator appeared in the video doing the same hand motions.
6 Victory (1998), Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes – $2.7 million
“Victory” which was directed by Marcus Nispel is at the 6th spot. The song was performed by Puff Daddy featuring the late The Notorious B.I.G. rapping two verses and Busta Rhymes doing the chorus. At that time, gangster-type lyrics were very popular. Danny DeVito and Dennis Hopper made a special appearance in the music video.
5 Estranged (1993), Guns N’ Roses – $4 million
“Estranged” was produced with an astounding budget of $4 million, which earns the 5th spot on this list. The song was about couples getting estranged and the difficulties faced after a breakup. It was directed by Del James, the same director of the videos “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain”, which were the two other parts of the Guns N’ Roses trilogy.
4 Black or White (1991), Michael Jackson featuring L.T.B. – $4 million
Number 4 goes to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, which was all about racial harmony. In just three weeks, the song reached the top spot in the charts. John Landis was commissioned to direct the music video which featured actors Macaulay Caulkin, George Wendt and Tess Harper. Part of the video’s concept was Jackson moving and dancing from one scene to another showing different cultures and landmarks in the setting and people of various cultural background morphing from one face to another as they sing along with the song.
3 Express Yourself (1989), Madonna – $5 million
Taking the 3rd spot is the late 1980's music video “Express Yourself”, which was directed by David Fincher. It was about female empowerment and expressing herself as an individual. Madonna was featured in the video in a gender-bending role set in the 1927 movie Metropolis.
2 Die Another Day (2002), Madonna – $6 million
The music video for “Die Another Day” ranks 2nd with an eye-popping budget of $6 million. Traktor directed the video and was the theme song performed by Madonna for a James Bond movie of the same title. Several references from the previous James Bond movies were featured in the music video.
1 Scream (1995), Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – $7 million
Finally, another Michael Jackson song takes the top spot as the most expensive music video ever produced. The music video “Scream” was funded with a staggering $7 million budget. His sister, Janet, joined him in the song and video, which was directed by Mark Romanek. This very expensive music video won several awards from the Grammys, MTV Music Video Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards. The theme of the video was futuristic with Japanese anime clips presented in the background. The song was composed by Michael Jackson in response to sensationalist journalism observed by the tabloid press after putting him in the front pages with allegations of child sexual abuse.