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Weekend Earworms: The Beauty of Animated Music Videos

An estimated 92% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things, ever. We here at Nerdist are dead set on bringing you those types of songs—even if only for the weekend. So shove this into your grey matter!

It’s that time again. Time to share some catchy music with you, you wonderful internet citizens, with some sort of loose theme based on whatever I happen to currently be obsessed with. Last week I featured a few music videos that utilized stop motion animation in some form, and this week we’re going to continue that theme. The initial idea for last week’s column was going to cover all sorts of animated videos but after digging past the first ones that came to mind, I realized that there are just so many worth mentioning. So, this week is going to focus on, let’s call it, traditionally animated videos.

Before we get to the few that really stick out to me, there are a few honorable mentions that need to… well… be mentioned. Pearl Jam’s “Do The Evolution“, Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract“, and the Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.” all should be recognized for the animated feats that they are. However, I’m a weird old fart with a penchant for the 80s so we’ll have to start with…

A-Ha – “Take on Me”

How could I not include this one, right? I would wager that this song, and the video in most cases, is so deeply ingrained in people’s memories that it’ll be remembered for a very long time as part of the foundation for ’80s music. It’s till impressive from an animation standpoint today, so I cannot imagine what it did to audiences back in 1985. The song is an undeniably classic earworm that even led to one of the best (in my opinion) parody music videos in existence. I’d even be OK with the “literal version” of “Take On Me” being remembered instead of the original. It’s just that good.

Since we’re already talking ’80s videos, I might as well get the mother of all animated ones out of the way.

Dire Straits – “Money for Nothing”

It might not look like much now, but I firmly believe this video changed the world of animation. Cutting edge at the time, this video from 1985 brought computer animated graphics into every home that had access to MTV.  I’m certain this video was the first time a lot of people got to see what computers were capable of. Sure it’s blocky and a bit silly now, but the experience back then was more than likely equivalent to how we all feel when we see a new environment or weather effect in a Pixar film or video game. It’s entirely possible that people in charge of making CGI movies and video games today can trace at least some of their inspiration back to this video.

Although I could stay firmly in the decade I love so much, especially since the ’80s really went a bit nuts with animated videos, let’s cleanse the palate with a selection not everyone may have heard of or remember.

Squirrel Nut Zippers – “Ghost of Stephen Foster”

There is something almost otherworldly about this song that keeps it forever in my brain. Hauntingly catchy on its own, the song is amplified in the best ways thanks to its video. Animated in a way that’s a clear nod to the work of of Max Fleischer (Betty Boop) and early Disney, MGM, and Warner Bros. cartoons–everything about it seems displaced in time which is fitting since The Squirrel Nut Zippers were no strangers to being anachronistic. Although made in 1998, this video seems more like it was unearthed from some vault of lost reels from the 1930s right alongside Disney’s “The Mad Doctor,” only considerably less scary. Early Mickey Mouse cartoons were horrifying.

The video, that visually tells the story of a cartoon couple being terrorized by a haunted hotel and its staff, is drawn in such a way that their actions bounce along to the tune and yet there still appears to be care given to making it feel that it’s just slightly out of sync like you’d expect an ancient cartoon to be. It also doesn’t hurt that the song itself makes reference to the “father of American music” Stephen Foster, which only adds to its old-fashioned feel. This certainly isn’t the most advanced animated video out there, but it’s apparent they put a massive amount of thought and care into every frame.

Those are just a few of my animated picks, but let’s discuss your favorites in the comments below!

Image: Squirrel Nut Zippers

Blake Rodgers writes for Nerdist from Chicago, IL where he lives happily with his Guinness World Record for High Fives. You can be his pal by following him on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers)



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