The Origins of Terrible Music Videos

To fully understand why terrible music videos exist, we must first understand where music videos came from. The first music video ever aired on the late great Music Television    (aka MTV) was ironically, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. The song title basically speaks for itself, but in summary it talks about how they fear the radio will fall off because everyone would rather watch it on TV. Then in turn small groups with not enough funding to make music videos won’t have a chance to make it “big”.

No need to worry Buggles, because MTV doesn’t even show music videos anymore. Today, YouTube is now the central hub for all music videos (Radio prevails!). Now, The Buggles’ video was primitive to say the least, but bear in mind it was 1979. As the years have passed, music videos have evolved into a way of telling a story or adding theatrical/visual value to a song:


The classic: Beat It- Michael Jackson

More recently: Paradise- Coldplay

Or Even: Gangnam Style- PSY

Sometimes that’s not the case though. Sometimes music videos don’t add any value to a song. Sometimes they even devalue a song. That’s what I’m here to talk about. So let’s dive into it. There are two different types of devaluing music videos: ones that are painful unintentionally, and ones that are painful intentionally. Sometimes it’s obvious which ones were made to be intentionally or unintentionally bad, but sometimes it can be tough. One thing is for certain though, both types generally make me so uncomfortable and embarrassed that I have to turn it off.

Really bad music videos have been around since the invention of the music video. There is no official record of when the first one was made nor which video ranks as the worst, but the one thing I can be certain about, is that both painfully bad and unbelievably good generally get about the same amount of publicity, therefore money, as each other. It is always the goal to succeed and have people admire and respect you, but if you can’t do that, can you really blame someone for making themselves famous by making a perfect storm of asinine lyrics and visuals? Food for thought.

Painfully Bad Music Videos: A Manifesto

Why do painfully bad music videos exist? It’s a question a lot of people want the answer to. But first… What is a “painfully bad music video”? It’s not just you and your friends getting together with your iPhone camera and doing a poor job. That would never get anyone’s attention. When I say “anyone”, I mean young people, specifically between the ages of about 13 and 22, because that age group cares about social media the most. What separates “bad” from “painfully bad” is the fact that there was, in some sense, a lot of time and money put into the production of the video. Not only time and money, but there needs to be some kind of seriousness displayed by the artist and or producer. In other words, the people who created this wanted it to be a positively successful project. Here is an example:

Friday- Rebecca Black

Now “Friday” is a horrendous song just by itself, but the fact that there is a music video that is equally as painful just makes it worse. The lyrics are terrible, the vocals are terrible, and the plot line of the video is unrealistic. Some of the questions you might be asking yourself right now are: Who wrote that song? Why was it made? Why is it SO bad? Didn’t somebody along the way know that this was going to be a disaster? How does this song have 63.7 million views?

Well if you think about the theory that “there is no such thing as ‘bad’ publicity” then it’s negative success won’t seem as confusing.  It will always be easier to make a total flop than a smash hit. Aside from the negative response versus positive response a complete failure and a smash hit are basically the same thing: they both get a lot of publicity, they are both talked about all over social media, and they both make a lot of money from both of these things. So maybe it’s terrible, but at the end of the day 63.7 million views are still 63.7 million views, regardless of the mean spirited comments and “dislikes”. Here’s another example:

Chinese Food- Alison Gold

I love Chinese food as much as anyone, but it does seem a little bit strange to sing about ones late night food cravings, right? Wrong. While Friday may or may not have been an intentional flop, this one clearly is. The producer’s followed the exact same recipe for disaster: 1.) Have the singer be young and sweet looking 2.) Have a catchy/POP beat 3.) Have her sing about a topic she has no business singing about 4.) Make that topic lame 5.) Make the lyrics unbearable 6.) Make the video look professional. It’s only been two months since its initial release and it already has 14.1 million views. While this is without a doubt a painfully bad music video, that doesn’t make it any less successful from a money and publicity standpoint.