Director Spike Jonze is no stranger to the short-film structure of the music video. While he’s known for original features like Her, Adaptation, and his reimagining of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze can attribute most of his directorial credits to music videos. The director has helmed over 20 projects from a range of artists, but there’s a core few with whom he always collaborates. Here, we’ll go through a list of ten music videos by ten different artists Jonze has partnered with, mimicking sound and sight tailored made for the alternative creatives.
10. Beastie Boys – Sabotage (1994)
Appearing in a spoof of a 1970s cop show, “Sabotage” is one of the many collaborations Jonze has done with the Beastie Boys. Arguably one of the band’s most popular songs (enough so that it was featured at the beginning of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek), the video won an MTV VMA for Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman). Maybe it’s a back-handed compliment, but Jonze’s direction has every cliched camera angle and edit to parody the popular cop shows of the ‘70s. It moves with the speed of the song, and while it might be slightly difficult to take the outrageous costumes and fake mustaches seriously, it is the crafted video and song that make watching so worth it.
9. Daft Punk – Da Funk (1997)
In his first collaboration with Daft Punk, “Da Funk” almost feels like Jonze wrote a narrative that simply happened to have the diegetic sound of the band’s song playing throughout. Really, there is no obvious connection between anthropomorphic Chuck and his ventures through the city. More than anything, the music video may want you to just have a full-length film featuring the adventures of Chuck scored by Daft Punk.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control (2004)
Venturing on the far less structured route, Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Y Control” is a chaotic, underground hellscape featuring kids wreaking havoc, among other things. Jonze would go on to work with Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman, Karen O, on the soundtrack for Her. The pair would collaborate on “The Moon Song” with lyrics by Jonze and music by Karen O. It would go on to be nominated for Best Original Song at the 2013 Academy Awards. “The Moon Song” is a subdued lullaby compared to Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Y Control.” Jonze’s direction behind “Y Control” mimics the ambient noise and ruthless tunes the song provides.
7. LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls (2010)
While the whole of LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls” seems pretty off, it’s on brand weird for Spike Jonze. Like a far tamer, more structured version of The Purge, “Drunk Girls” starts strange and just rolls with the punches, quite literally James Murphy gets pummeled here and there by folks in panda-like, white hazmat suits. Honestly, the lyrics have very little to do with the actual video, but the curated chaos and unexplained weirdness that exists here is too good to leave out.
6. Tenacious D – Wonderboy (2001)
Before Jon Snow knew nothing and battled for the Iron Throne, Jack Black was singing about getting away from ‘the mucky muck.’ One of Jonze’s grander music videos, Kyle Gass and Jack Black traverse cold mountain ranges set to the tunes of their band Tenacious D. It’s epic considering it is a Spike Jonze vehicle. Here music and narrative intertwine for a sort of medieval music video that doesn’t end so well for Jack Black. By this point, it’s pretty clear Jonze is able to, like a new instrument, fine-tune his style and has ‘the power to move you.’
5. Weezer – Buddy Holly (1994)
Weezer’s hit, “Buddy Holly,” unquestionably fits its music video. Debuting the same year Spike Jonze directed “Sabotage” for The Beastie Boys, “Buddy Holly” recreates Al’s Diner and plays their tunes for characters of the popular series Happy Days. Decked out in 1950s attire themselves, Weezer blends into the foreground of the music video. In fact, if you turned the music video on for your folks, I wouldn’t be shocked if they thought they were watching a rerun.
4. The Chemical Brothers: Electrobank (1997)
One of Jonze’s best music video just so happens to feature a fellow Oscar winner. Sofia Coppola dawned a leotard, had her hair teased, and showed off her gymnast skills (with the help of a double and trainer, of course) to star in her future husband’s music video for The Chemical Brothers’ “Electrobank.” It feels like a scene out of a Spike Jonze film. There are moments of heightened tension, relief, then overwhelming joy. While the personal partnership between creatives Jonze and Coppola would last until the early 2000s, the music video highlights both of their dedication to their craft and gives a large-scale cinematic moment to a six-minute music video.
3. Björk – It’s Oh So Quiet (1995)
Björk has a style all her own. In 1995 when matched with Spike Jonze, her song “It’s Oh So Quiet” got a classic musical spin. “It’s Oh So Quiet” has the makings for an old Hollywood movie musical and Jonze realizes this through the music video. Mirrored by the lyrics and pacing of the orchestrations, Jonze sublets subdued slow motion with bold, fast-paced dance sequences that even Gene Kelly could get a kick out of. It’s fun, and light and Björk is the star of the picture.
2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (2010)
Jonze’s partnership with Arcade Fire has spurned some unique takes featuring the band’s songs. Not least of which is “The Suburbs.” Part of a larger film series inspired by the album, the music video displays the fragmented insecurities and anxieties that are often not out-rightly displayed in suburban life. It’s intense, juxtaposed with a subdued song provided by the acclaimed band. A layered vehicle in Jonze’s filmography, it is one of his very best.
1. Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice (2001)
A music video famous for the gifs of a dancing Christopher Walken on an escalator, Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” has an entertainment factor all its own. The lack of seriousness and weight allows this music video to fly at a speed where we’re left wanting more by the time it is over. With Oscar-winner Walken dancing, later flying, through a lavish hotel lobby, it is indistinguishable, catchy and fun. If anything, we want to climb through the frames and join Walken ourselves; and there, you have the mark of a great music video.