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In the world of music videos, there’s no shortage of artist directions a musician can go in an effort to bring their song to life visually. From big budget mini blockbusters to bare bones videos shot on a limited budget, music videos can have an impact regardless of their scale.
For many artists, going the simple route for at least one video can be a way to jumpstart their career or give their fans a more personal experience. Sometimes less is more and these artists prove that old adage to be true with their minimalist music videos.
After years of waiting for Nicki Minaj’s follow-up to 2014’s The Pinkprint, the New York rapper returned with a vengeance in her new single “Chun Li.” When you spit bars like Nicki Minaj, you don’t need a glitzy music video. When’s the last time you saw a bad guy do the rap game like Nicki? Never.
One of the most popular examples of the single camera close-up music video is Alana Morissette’s “Head Over Feet.” The Canadian singer released six music videos from her groundbreaking 1995 Grammy-winning album Jagged Little Pill, but thanks to its simplicity and Morissette’s endearing performance, “Head Over Feet” remains one of the most memorable visuals from the album.
The White Stripes may have only consisted of members Jack and Meg White, but there was still nothing for drummer Meg White to do for the band’s single “We’re Going To Be Friends.” So, she chilled on a couch while Jack played the guitar and sang. Simple and effective.
Do you remember where you were the first time you saw D’Angelo’s abs? Most music fans do, because, wow. The quintessential simple music video, D’Angelo proved that a great song, great lighting, and a lot of crunches are all you need to make music video history.
Gwen Stefani grabbed her old Tragic Kingdom uniform, complete with a bright blue bra and white tank, to perform a whole lot of looks for the camera in 2015’s “Used To Love You.” Does she lip sync? Not really, except for two lines. Does she cry? Almost. Does she make any hand gestures? Nope. Is it one of her most compelling videos ever? You bet. Stefani’s “Used To Love You,” released in the midst of her break-up with husband Gavin Rossdale, is the singer at her most raw and vulnerable. The pop star’s tried-and-true abilities as a performer who can engage her audience has never been clearer than in “Used To Love You.”
Heartbreak is exemplified in Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which features the English singer sombrely walking around Paris in black and white. In most cases, heartbreak looks more like crying on the couch with greasy hair and smelly sweatpants, but Adele gives us something to aspire towards.
Radiohead have released some of the most compelling and captivating music videos of all time throughout their career and one of those is undoubtedly their simple yet powerful “No Surprises.” Lead singer Thom Yorke lip syncs from the inside of an astronaut’s helmet, which fills up with water in the first half of the song, leading to a tense few moments before it begins to empty.
In 2013, viewers were still getting to know the New Zealand teen who seemingly came out of nowhere to save pop music. It’s virtually impossible to tear yourself away from Lorde’s commanding gaze in her one-shot music video for “Tennis Courts,” with the young singer using her dark eyes to emote every word of her song, skipping lip syncing and only throwing in a few “Yeahs.”
The original idea for Coldplay’s 2000 breakout music video for “Yellow” was to have all four members of the British band walk along the beach at Studland Bay in South West England. The plan changed to a solo Chris Martin when the funeral for Will Champion’s mother landed on the same day as the shoot. Martin’s sombre mood is reflected in the video, but as the sun rises near the end of the walk, a hopefulness emerges and makes the video one of Coldplay’s best.
Janelle Monae’s 2010 music video for “Cold War” couldn’t be simpler in execution, with the a close up of the singer performing the track filling the entire three and a half minutes. Yet, we can’t take our eyes off Monae, who is captivating whether she’s starring in an Oscar-winning film like Moonlight or delivering a single Sinead O’Connor worthy tear in “Cold War.”