MTV formed me and I am literal garbage and don’t exist without what MTV did to my brain. I was the little kid who locked his grandparents out of their bedroom so he could watch the new Stevie Nicks “Stand Back” video in peace, ignoring their loud and frantic knocks. My introduction to gay people was Pete Burns in the “You Spin Me Round” video, thank god. I got my work ethic from watching Janet and Madonna chair dance, a lost art that I worship more than any other art. My great desire for a life of sin and glamour came from being seven and watching the great ZZ Top videos, RIP DUSTY HILL. At seven, I knew that I wanted the life that bad girls and a ZZ Top keychain could bring me. Anyways, I wondered what MTV videos changed everybody else’s lives the most. So I texted 40 major people to find out their answers.

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1. Brontez Purnell, “Pleasure Principle” by Janet Jackson (1986).

“Basically the only video I have ever cared about is the Janet Jackson “Pleasure Principle” video. I remember being a little boy and thinking that Janet Jackson was the coolest person ever cause she was a dancer who lived in a warehouse, and that’s what I wanted to be too. Years later, I still think it’s the best video she ever made— it was easily her best look in a video too. Later in life, I became an Oakland warehouse rat (like, I lived in artist warehouses for 15 years) and went to school for dance, basically all thanks to Janet Jackson!”

(Mel: A video UNPARALLELED! Watch it NOW!!!!!!!! Watch the whole thing, not just this clip, but anyways here’s a clip.)

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2. Jennifer Aniston, “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran (1981).

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3. Charlie Porter, “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer (1985).

“The lips. The leather. The singularity of movement. The heterosexual forced to be camp. In fact, MTV is pretty much defined by heterosexuals engaging in camp.”

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4. Sky Ferreira, “Every Time” by Britney Spears (2003).

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5. Inez & Vinoodh, “Nothing Compares 2U” by Sinéad O’Connor (1990).

(Mel: the TEAR!)

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6. Arca, “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin (1999).

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7. Mark Ronson, “Just” by Radiohead (1995).

“Still the most bone-chillingly memorable video I’ve ever seen. This one fucked with me for a long time.”

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8. Scott Ewalt, “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees (1981).

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9. Collier Schorr, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by The Eurythmics (1983).

“The red hair. And the suit. ”

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10. Bruce LaBruce, “Buffalo Stance” by Neneh Cherry (1988).

“It just seemed like the future. Diversity, sassy girls and all that. Inclusivity. ”

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11. Jeremy Scott, “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue (1992).

“The music videos with high fashion are the ones that freaked my brain the most. For Madonna, of course I loved ‘Vogue’, but I think ‘Like a Prayer’ is where I really was stunned—like holy fucking shit—and it was such an epic countdown to this new Madonna and this new look and the entire video and the ending like it was all a play that was so, so strong. Duh, ‘Freedom’ by George Michael as well, I mean, stun. LINDA. NAOMI. CINDY. CHRISTY. I could have done without Tatiana, frankly, but whatever. I mean, then ‘Too Funky’ to follow that up—Kill me.”

(Mel: We lost our fucking minds for this video and were running home after school to smoke cigs and catch as many hits of the ‘Free Your Mind’ glamour as MTV would give us).

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12. Justin Vivian Bond, “Here Comes the Rain Again” by The Eurythmics (1983).

“I do so love a depressive androgyne with clown colored hair! ”

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13. Cruz Valdez, “She’s a Bitch” by Missy Elliott (1999).

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14. Matt Williams, “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode (1990).

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15. Jared Abbott aka Assploitation, “Too Funky” by George Michael (1992).

“Those Mugler looks + Linda/Nadja/Tyra/Beverly + Rossy DePalma + Lypsynka + Joey Arias BLEW MY LITTLE GAY MIND in 1992.”

(Mel: It’s Linda Linda Linda, white wig Linda, feathers Linda, Emma S robot moves, and I’ve always really related to Lypsyncha’s freaking out backstage energy moment. Nobody wants to relate to that…but. George Michael is the god). 

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16. Julia Fox, “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim (1998).

“Ok def Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You.’ I remember watching MTV when it came on, and I was genuinely confused. I was in elementary school and had never seen anything like it. It was so different from the heavily choreographed stuff from that time. Anyway, it made me excited and I still reference it to this day and show it to anyone who hasn’t seen it, hoping it will have the same affect on them as it did on me in ’90s.”

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17. Victor Glemaud, “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses (1991).

“It’s 30 years old and it’s still bad ass, makes me weep, laugh and Stephanie Seymour is so fucking beautiful in it. Whenever I hear the song I see the video. Her legs! That dress! The bouquet.”

(Mel: Don’t even get me started. Don’t even get me started!).

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18. Louis Bubko, “London Bridge” by Fergie (2006).

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19. Lisa Eisner, “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna (1986).

“It’s either Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach”— when she got that Jean Seberg hair cut and her néw body, and she was dating or married to Sean Penn—or Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer,” when you could really see what you could do with video art. Remember his face with fruit, and then it became animated!”

(Mel: We’re now entering a five-person Madonna rock block, because it’s Club Mel and it’s Madonna and she is the true GOAT of MTV and she formed my aesthetic everything, so. And I want to say AGAIN that Madonna’s look transformation “Papa Don’t Preach” is the greatest and most successful visual transformation by any pop artist from one ERA and MOMENT to another, period. This changed the game of aesthetics forever. THIS is the moment! I’m losing my mind here).

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20. Gwendoline Christie, “Like a Prayer” by Madonna, (1989).

“‘Like a Prayer’ because of the burning crosses and religious eroticism. It’s really did change my life because it slammed through those religious taboos and made me consider black lace as a serious choice for a day look. Also, Jesus was HOT! Wax Jesus from that video has stayed with me for a long time.”

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21. Patrik Sandberg ,“Vogue” by Madonna (1990).

“It’s really hard to choose because there are so many that are deeply important to me, from so many different eras. I would have to say the Madonna “Vogue” video, directed by David Fincher. For a video that deeply referential and evocative of Hollywood’s golden era to be a stage to announce ballroom culture to the mainstream, when you’re five years old, is the sort of brainwashing most parents at that time feared. Nothing was ever the same again.”

(Mel: This video is one of the greatest moments in the history of music videos and MTV. Remember the world premieres on MTV? They were such a BIG THING. Do YOU remember where you were when this shit premiered??? I was on spring break in 8th grade. Palm Beach. MONUMENTAL).

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22. Erin McGee, “Justify My Love” by Madonna (1990).

“‘Justify My Love” was banned on TV. I saved my allowance as a 9 year old and went to buy the VHS. BANNED ON MTV!!!!!”

(Mel: this is the best video ever made, I will fight anyone on this). 

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23. Andrew Wyatt, “Come to Daddy” by Aphex Twin (1997).

WYATT: Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy,” directed by Chris Cunningham— or Madonna’s “Justify My Love.” 

MEL: YOU’RE NOT the only one saying that, but honestly if I got 34 “Justify My Loves,” I would run them all bc its THE right answer.

WYATT: So sick.

MEL: Let’s give it a tie. Do you remember having to buy the video tape at Tower Records or whatever since she was banned from MTV???

WYATT: AND IT’S PRODUCED BY LENNY KRAVITZ.

MEL: AND backup vocals by Lenny Kravitz! 

WYATT: I for sure jerked off to that video. 

MEL: Word. Same. I’m sure. 

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24. Zaldy, “Rio” by Duran Duran (2003).

It’s Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ for me…..the padded shoulders of their monochrome suits! Speedos! Fashion shoot with the metallic gown in the wind! Patrick Nagel! This had everything I wanted in life!”

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25. Alexander Fury, “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child (1999).

“‘Jumpin’, Jumpin” by Destiny’s Child because of the Dior. Which I now own THANK GOD.”

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26. Alissa Bennett, “Punk Rock Girl” by Dead Milkmen (1988).

BENNETT: “Punk Rock Girl,” by Dead Milkmen. It made me believe in love.

MEL: “PUNK ROCK GIRL PLEASE LOOK AT ME WHAT DO YOU SEE LETS TRAVEL ROUND THE WORLD JUST YOU AND ME EATING FUDGE BANANA SWIRL JUST YOU AND ME PUNK ROCK GIRL!!!!!!”

BENNETT: Right??? It was so exciting!

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27. Brianna Capozzi, “Manchild” by Neneh Cherry (1989).

(Mel: Home run. This fucking video cuts glass. Styled by Judy Blame!).

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28. Shayne Oliver, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott (1997).

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29. Eric Johnson, “Little Red Corvette” by Prince (1982).

“‘Little Red Corvette’ was important because we hadn’t seen black people on MTV before.”

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30. Nicholas Heller aka New York Nico, “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z (2000).

(Mel: The girls. The fucking girls. )

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31. Christeene, “Self Control” by Laura Branigan (1984).

CHRISTEENE: Haaaay omfg THIS wrecked meeee sooooo harrrrrrd 

MEL: OH FUCK YEA.

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32. Mike Eckhaus, “Crush on You” by Lil’ Kim (1996).

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33. Eric Goode, “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim (2000).

“Music videos , wow. I used to direct music videos in the early ’90s— check out ‘Pinion’ and ‘Help me I’m in Hell’ (two Nine Inch Nails videos I directed) you will like them! Two other favorites are ‘Slap My Bitch Up,’ by Prodigy, and ‘Weapon of Choice,’ directed by Spike Jonze.”

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34. Jen Brill, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty (1985).

“The cake scene!!!”

(Mel: this fucking video!)

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35. Chris McMillan, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson (1989).

“‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak, and ‘Love Will Never Do Without You,” by Janet Jackson.”

(Mel: Sophie’s choice, had to add both).

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36. William van Meter, “Legs” by ZZ Top (1983).

(Mel: This video!!!!!!!!! Home run. Top 3 life changers. At 8 years old i just knew i wanted to be hanging with those bad girls and getting in on what that ZZ Top keychain life was ALL ABOUT).

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37. Pieter Mueller, “Being Boring” by Pet Shop Boys (1990)

“‘Being Boring,’ Pet Shop Boys. If you can mention a second one, I am pretty partial to ‘Boys Boys Boys,’ Sabrina.”

(Mel: Done. I will never turn my back on the boys boys boys video.)

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38. Gia Tisci, “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé (2003).

(Mel: One of the best outfits ever in a video and everybody knows it).

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39. Cathy Horyn, “Freedom” by George Michael (1990).

” I have to say ‘Freedom.’ Almost corny—now—but Michael’s voice was a thrill at the time, and it WAS all about the supers. Kind of affirming how central fashion was.”

(Mel: This video. Can anyone ever do anything this good ever again?!?).

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40. Rick Owens, “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie (1980)

(Mel: It’s pre-MTV, but it’s Rick mf Owens so it stays).

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Special thanks to Assploitation for the video magic.