It’s really only been this year that electronic dance music videos have won awards on a greater, industry-wide scale, but within the scope of the genre, visuals have been added to such tracks for over the past 30 years.
But within the dichotomy of dancing on a soundstage and a tenuous plot are videos from the earlier days of EDM that make you scratch your head and think, “Who thought this was a good idea?” Even when plot-driven, the “story” is poorly organized, is nonsensical, or starts artsy and ends up dull. Essentially, these relics from another era of the genre, from both a gear and sound perspective, are the equivalent of B-movies. Discovering these lesser-known – or even banned – videos from well-known artists is akin to finding an A-lister among the cast of an ‘80s slasher.
So, from lame to fascinatingly bizarre, what are some of the more forgotten electronic music videos from the 1980s and ‘90s?
Depeche Mode – “See You”
The top-selling electronic music group is additionally known for its long-standing relationship with Anton Corbijn. Yet, Corbijn – now a director of feature films – only started working with the synth-pop group in 1986. For roughly five years prior, Depeche Mode’s videos were very low-budget and extremely forgettable. Likely the worst? “See You,” a single from sophomore album A Broken Frame, centers around a picture strip from a photo booth and features frontman David Gahan wandering around what appears to be a Woolworth for roughly two minutes.
New Order – “Round and Round”
“Round and Round” is the strange case of being a good song marred by a poor video. Part of their acid-house influenced stage (its album Technique, in fact, was recorded on Ibiza), “Round and Round” the song has the perfect pace but is coupled with a sluggish, stagnant video. Yes, models from the shoulders up stare from the screen, but that’s about it.
2 Unlimited – “No Limit”
The Eurodance trend of the 1990s is a treasure trove of so-bad-they’re-good songs and videos. But, the visuals for “No Limit”? It’s more like “No Budget.” What should be a pinball game looks like the two faces of a Eurodance group poorly dancing on a colorful soundstage; the camera angles only partially cover some bad dancing. The message that “No Limit” sends to video producers is, invest in some backup dancers and a better set.
Alcazar – “Crying at the Discoteque”
Essentially a remake of a disco song at the tail end of the ‘70s nostalgia period in the ‘90s, the video for “Crying at the Discotheque” can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be serious or ironic. A plot about filming a ‘70s Planet of the Apes-like B-movie? It’s rather fitting. But animal heads, silver vinyl, and bad synchronized dancing without a wink? There are times when a straight face just isn’t appropriate.
New Order – “Fine Time”
Before Skrillex did a Christmas-themed dubstep video, there was New Order’s “Fine Time.” The track itself was the only one from Technique actually written on Ibiza – the rest were written in the U.K. and then recorded in the Balearic paradise – and is accompanied by a trippy video of rabbit hole-like Christmas presents, a vibrating Christmas tree, and a kid who, it hints, might have popped a pill or two. Or, is it all just a dream? While it doesn’t live up to “True Faith,” the strangeness and randomness fit the acid house vibe.
La Bouche – “Be My Lover”
La Bouche was one of the few Eurodance groups that scored multiple hits in the 1990s. One of their most successful tracks, “Be My Lover” has a plot that seems part Party Monster, part torture porn film, obviously unintentionally, with an S&M focus. None of it makes sense, and there’s a good chance, at the time a video for the hit was put together, a team sat down and said, “You know what would be good? A bunch of men on meat hooks, held upside down, and some dancers in the background.”
The Prodigy – “Smack My B-tch Up”
The premise around The Prodigy’s “Smack My B-tch Up” video is practically pulp – “So horrifying it was banned from television!” With that first-person, wobbly camera angle that gained popularity in the 1990s, the video is both visually and plot-wise grotesque, from drug use to groping to playing around with strippers to vomiting on screen. If, to compare older electronic music videos to grindhouse fare, “See You” was yawn-fest Girl in Gold Boots, “Smack by B-tch Up” is Cannibal Holocaust.