My Top 10 OK Go Music Videos

I’m a child of the MTV generation, so I appreciate fun or innovative music videos. Unfortunately, that channel no longer shows the volume of videos that they used to in the glory-day 1980s, but the videos are readily available on YouTube. One particular group has taken video making to a new art form, releasing them directly to YouTube rather than through “traditional” music industry. One of their earlier videos practically broke the internet with over millions of views. That group: OK Go.

I’m not going to go into the details of how the group formed and all that stuff. You can read about them at their Wikipedia page. I’m here to rank their creative, quirky, elaborate videos. If you haven’t seen any of them (or only saw that one that everybody probably saw), then click on the images and take a look. Some of them are quite astounding.

The ranking is my subjective personal preference, based on how much I like the song itself and how well I felt the visuals matched the song both thematically and rhythmically. Sure, the everything-wrapped-in-wallpaper idea of Do What You Want is fun, but the song isn’t as strong as others. I like A Million Ways with its fun backyard dance routine, but it’s not as elaborate as others. And the clothing of the dancing couple in Skyscrapers shifting through the colors of the spectrum is clever, but it’s not as innovative as others.

Before we start this Top 10 11 list, I need to make an addendum (2/12/16). This list was originally posted on February 1st. Ten days later, OK Go released their newest video. Had I known I was posting so close to the release of a new video, I would have postponed this list another month in the event the video would make it into the Top 10. Well, it does. It very clearly does. For that reason, I’m here with this note and making the change, but I don’t think it’d be fair to drop a video from the original list. So this list goes to eleven.

Ready to start the countdown?

OK…Go!

 

#11 – Last Leaf

This is definitely an innovative video. It’s animated using a couple thousand slices of laser-inscribed toast. Yeah, you read that right. Toast. Seriously, watch this video. It’s really cool. The song is beautiful too, and some of the images connect very well to the lyrics, particularly in the beginning of the song. Strong song, unique video, so why is it so low on the countdown? I’m not particularly sure what the connection between the song and toast is. But it’s still really impressive and you should click that link now. Oh, and I wonder what they did with all that toast afterwards.

 

#10 – WTF

This video is super trippy! OK Go do a lot of their videos in one shot, sometimes (like in this one) where the camera doesn’t move at all. They’re performing in front of a green screen and layering the video on top of itself, resulting in really funky moving outlines of the four of them and whatever objects they move along with them. The fun is watching the different objects—scarves, boards with colored tape, beachballs, and even soap bubbles—as they drag across the screen. Until I saw a behind-the-scenes video, I had no idea how they accomplished this, and I wondered WTF was going on. So I guess that connects the video to the images!

 

#9 – White Knuckles

I love this song. It’s got a great, catchy beat to it, and its message about not letting yourself get too scared about living life and things going wrong is strong. I guess the only reason I can’t rank it much higher is that I’m not really much of a dog person. Sure, it’s a lot of fun to watch, and having the dogs trained to go where they need to is amazing, and I can imagine a dog lover enjoying it even further. But I’m ranking how the concept matches the song. Other than a few lines about paws and being in the doghouse, the connection isn’t as strong as in some of their other videos. Extra credit though for the completely arbitrary use of a goat. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!

 

#8 – I Won’t Let You Down

When this video starts, I expected it to be another stationary camera one, this time with the four guys riding around on these pretty cool scooter things. I want one. The choreography is neat, but then they go outside where they’re joined by a bunch of Japanese girls with red umbrellas. The camera soars upward (attached to a drone!) and takes an overhead view of the movement into interesting patterns. And then there are more girls and scooters and umbrellas to make more elaborate patterns. And then there are even more—now with four different colored umbrellas, opening and closing them to change the pattern. The drone rises higher and…I don’t want to let you down by spoiling the end result. Just know that it looks amazing, and impressive creativity was put into designing the video and the patterns. As wondrous as the video is, the song’s just okay.

 

#7 – The Writing’s on the Wall

I absolutely love the optical illusions and forced perspectives in this video. The amount of time taken to paint the warehouse walls and plan all the camera angles must have been staggering. I’m not going to spoil it all by revealing all the great imagery; go watch the video for yourself. It’s not particularly one of my most favorite songs by them (I like White Knuckles more than this one), but the video’s concept matches the song’s theme far too perfectly. It’s a song about not seeing—or not wanting to see—that a relationship may be over, even though the writing’s on the wall. Excellent visual interpretation of the theme, and extra credit goes to Tim for sporting half a beard and mustache for the video!

 

#6 – End Love

When a relationship is ending, sometimes you may just want to get it over with, and other times you just want time to slow down to savor those last moments. That’s what this video symbolizes by playing with the rate at which time flows. Sometimes the video is in stop motion, other times in super slow motion, and sometimes they look like they’re zipping along at super fast speed. The video looks like it was taken in one long, overnight “shot,” but who knows with the possibility of editing. Sure, the guys slept there in the park, but it never shows them eating or going to the…well, doing other daily bodily functions. Still, the timing of poses matches appropriate moments in the song, and it’s a lot of fun to watch, especially when the band starts interacting with other people in the park. And a goose. Seriously, the goose elevates this video from really cool idea to classic.

 

#5 – Here It Goes Again

This is the one that really put them on the map. It’s one of the most watched videos ever on YouTube for good reason. It’s one single camera shot, but with fast-paced clever choreography done on a series of eight treadmills like you’d find at a fitness center. That’s impressive. Sure, there’s a moment where Damien almost loses his balance, but I can imagine this video took several takes, so that’s okay. It makes it real and makes them human. Now, it’s not just this high on the list because of its iconic nature—seriously, when people think of OK Go, it’s probably because of this video. There is a thematic connection. The song’s about not being in control and being steamrolled by unexpected things happening. When you’re on a treadmill, you’re not in control, and you just have to keep moving because…well, here it comes again.

 

#4 – This Too Shall Pass

Rube Goldberg devices rock, and seeing this one sustained for the duration of the song is a lot of fun. It’s a great way to symbolize the message of the song—that things may get out of control, perhaps in a chain reaction kind of way, but it will pass; there is an end to it. And there’s an end to the chain reaction in the video—a beautiful payoff that’s practically hidden in plain sight but you don’t realize it the first time because you’re watching all the things that happen. A lot happens, and the timing of marbles hitting each other and forks on a rotating guitar hitting glasses is amazing. There are also big objects involved—at one point a piano drops and at another point a television screen is smashed with a sledge hammer. If you watch closely after those two moments, you see other destroyed pianos and televisions, proving that multiple takes were needed. Oh my! The cleanup needed to reset everything must have taken forever! The song’s catchy, the video works well and is fun to watch, and it’s just an impressive accomplishment.

 

#3 – Needing/Getting

Here’s a video that appeals to the creative side in me AND the physics teacher in me. Here they widen their scope beyond stationary camera shots and elaborate warehouse setups and venture into the open, equipping a car with paddles and rods on levers so they can bang all sorts of stuff as they drive by. They bang buckets and windchimes and pipes and glass jars and PIANOS and ELECTRIC GUITARS! It’s abso-freaking-lutely brilliant! Someone had to calculate the precise locations of all those items based on the velocity of the car. I appreciate the amount of time that went into those physics calculations. I love the song’s lyrics, and I like the instrumentation in the video more than I like the album cut. But how does the video concept match the song? To some extent, I don’t care because I love watching them drive the car and I love the song, but I’ll go with this: When you have such unrequited love for so long and can’t shake the feeling, you want to bang things or drive around aimlessly. I’m sorry if you’re needing a better explanation, but you’re not getting one. Just watch the super cool video.

 

#2 – All Is Not Lost

At first glance, this video isn’t as elaborate as some of the ones preceding it on the list. It’s just the four of them in a little white box in the center of the screen. Then they, along with members of the modern dance company Pilobolus, are in positions that seem to defy gravity. It’s then when you realize that you’re not looking directly at them; you’re looking up at them as they dance atop a transparent floor! Again, they use unique choreography, this time viewing it from an unexpected angle. But why only use a limited amount of the screen? Because before you know it, there are FOUR boxes! The behind-the-scenes video shows that there was only one such box, so they had to film the sequence multiple times to get the images for each of the four boxes. But before long, those four boxes are TWELVE boxes…and then EVEN MORE! The planning involved to create some of the kaleidoscope imagery is impressive enough, but when they start spelling out inspirational words with THEIR FEET it gets even more so. If you don’t understand what I mean, just watch it and you’ll see. Here we have a song about looking up in the face of adversity, and we have a video that forces us to look up literally. It just all fits, and I’m mesmerized by the dance moves and patterns, and by the tremendous creativity to design it all.

 

And finally, the brand new, revised top of the list. MY FAVORITE OK GO VIDEO…

#1 – UPSIDE DOWN & INSIDE OUT

I absolutely love the video that used to sit atop this list, but when I saw this one, I went into sensory overload. It’s got many elements featured in previous OK Go videos: one continuous shot, dollar-store props used in creative ways, clever fun choreography, and a unique location. This time, they’re on a plane—on one of those zero gravity planes! That’s unbelievably cool, and not just because I’m a physics teacher. But this video transcends all of their others because it’s such a perfect merger of imagery and song lyrics/theme. The guys from the band and two flight attendants are literally upside down through parts of the video. They also turn some of the items inside out in a variety of ways. It’s an absolute visual treat, and the song’s really catchy too. I really can’t say any more about it because the video really speaks for itself. Click that link NOW!

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? Fire away!

Speak Your Mind

*