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1. Vitalic, "Poney Part 1"
It's no surprise that imagery of dogs bouncing in slow-motion with lasers in the background proves striking, but it's amazing just how striking. The clip for Vitalic's "Poney Part 1" is simple and dreamily dramatic, in stark contrast to the banging electro-house track in the background. The footage features many different kinds of dogs plummeting through the air, faces fluttering, expressions varying from cute-and-confused to fierce-and-fangy. Special praise goes to the bulldog that blasts off through blue rays of light, and the basset hound whose baggy skin looks even weirder than usual.
2. Peter Gabriel, "Shock The Monkey"
Peter Gabriel isn't usually an overly literal guy, but he nonetheless felt the need to put an actual monkey (a macaque, to be precise) in the video for his 1982 semi-hit "Shock The Monkey." Luckily, the poor simian doesn't really get shocked—but he sure does look upset as close-ups of his fuzzy mug are interspersed between shots of Gabriel in some horrific office, Gabriel in tribal facepaint, and Gabriel fighting off a gang of little people. And while the monkey is the only animal in the video, one of the song's verses begins with the lines, "Fox the fox / Rat the rat / You can ape the ape." Damn those budgetary concerns. Those who might have assumed "Shock The Monkey" is some antivivisection manifesto, rest easy: Gabriel has admitted that it's just another rock ditty about jealous lovers.
3. Timbuk 3, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"
In retrospect, Timbuk 3's 1986 hit "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"—which boasts lines like "I've got a job waiting for my graduation / Fifty thou a year'll buy a lot of beer"—is a painfully transparent attempt to pump out an instant college-rock anthem. But like many such lame attempts, it worked: Set to a bland blues-rock track swiped directly from Huey Lewis' "The Heart Of Rock & Roll," Timbuk 3's deadpan sentiments resulted in a minor hit, due mostly to a video that prominently featured a donkey with a TV tied to its back, wandering across the desert. That donkey also adorned the cover of the band's debut album, Greetings From Timbuk 3. Or is it a mule? Whatever.
4. Madonna, "Like A Virgin"
Is there a better visual metaphor for losing one's virginity than a bored lion slinking around a Venetian palazzo? Probably. Still, it's impossible not to grasp what director Mary Lambert was going for with that image in her second video collaboration with Madonna, "Like A Virgin": namely, lions will seduce you. Why else would a wedding-dress-clad Madonna be so drawn to that palazzo? Why else would she writhe so perilously close to the gondola's edge as it navigates the canals to reach her lion-love? Why else would there be a close-up of the lion panting in perfect staccato with the music? But Madonna and Lambert thankfully restrain themselves from showing the pop star and the lion together. Instead, Madonna hooks up with a dapper man wearing a lion mask—which, though ridiculous-looking, is the safest form of bestiality.
5. "Kitty Kat, " Beyoncé
So far, Beyoncé has only released a one-minute video for the song "Kitty Kat," but if an animal's role in a video is measured by its size in the video, then the one in "Kitty Kat" probably has the biggest role of any animal in music-video history. At first, the audience believes that Beyoncé, clad in a leopard-print cat suit and lounging next to a giant ball of pink yarn, is going to be the video's only "kitty kat." But then a black cat bounds onscreen behind the continuously writhing singer, dwarfing her thanks to the power of green-screen technology. The two play with some gigantic yarn, Beyoncé waves from atop the giant cat like a beauty queen on a parade float, and then she leads the mammoth feline out of frame by a gold leash, putting an end to one of the weirdest uses of green-screen in a music video ever.
6. Guns N' Roses, "Patience"
Guns N' Roses had already grown weary of its new superstar status when the video for "Patience" was made in 1989. The fame-hungry glam hustlers of Appetite For Destruction were now spending most of their time looking unimpressed by the smokin' hot talent they were able to pull. GNR's ennui is best illustrated in the "Patience," via the way Slash handles his pet boa Pandora while several scantily clad groupies magically appear and disappear from his hotel bed. For Slash, handling a snake isn't merely phallic; it symbolizes his very essence. Nothing—not fame, women, even his band mates—will get between him and his boa. Which is why, obviously, Slash named his GNR side project "Slash's Snakepit."
7. Faith No More, "Epic"
At a time when hair metal and glossy dance pop dominated MTV, Faith No More's "Epic" stood out in 1990 for its adventurous musical and visual sense. The song itself was a classic single that pioneered a hybrid of rap, punk, and metal that unintentionally inspired some of the shittiest bands known to man later in the decade, but the "Epic" video is best remembered for the slow-motion footage of a flopping fish laid over the song's pretty, piano-tinkling coda. Like the song, the fish has no meaning beyond its visceral effect, which is both oddly beautiful and incredibly creepy. As for animal-rights concerns, well, at least the fish was immortalized in a way his breaded and fried brethren never were.
8. Michael Jackson, "Black Or White"
There are lots of animals in Michael Jackson's rock version of It's A Small World—the lions being hunted by the African tribesmen/backup dancers, the horses ridden by the Native American warriors/backup dancers, George Wendt—but nothing in the video captures the song's latent primal rage quite like the panther in the last two (notoriously banned) minutes. Via the exciting new "morphing" technology that was such a big hit in the early '90s, a panther prowling the alley outside the studio suddenly changes into Jackson, who does a few Moonwalker moves—scaring a stray cat with his pelvic thrusts—before taking out his frustrations over being neither black or white on an innocent parked car. Having sufficiently expressed himself, Jackson turns back into a panther and runs off into the night, solving the problem of racism forever.
9. Paula Abdul, "Opposites Attract"
Long before she became the queen of suspicious non sequiturs on American Idol, Paula Abdul was a bona fide MTV sex symbol. No doubt many a boy was ushered into puberty with the help of the David Fincher-directed video for "Cold Hearted," but when it comes to her legacy, Abdul will be forever the girl that danced with an animated cat for "Opposites Attract." MC Skat Kat—who likes the movies, while Abdul likes TV—isn't real, of course; he's actually voiced by three different rappers, including The Wild Pair and Derrick Stevens. Nevertheless, the clip proved so popular that the character was given his own solo album, 1991's The Adventures Of MC Skat Kat And The Stray Mob, proving that starfucking pays off, even when you're a cartoon.