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Music Videos Are Back: How Female Visionaries Made It Happen

Music Videos Are Back: How Female Visionaries Made It Happen

By Megan Angelo

Let me take you back to the summer of 1999.

Facebook wasn't around yet. Butterfly clips reigned supreme. And my friends and I were watching Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" music video all day, every day. When it wasn’t on MTV, we'd call up the pay-for-play network The Box and charge $3.49 to our parents' phone bills so that we could see it again. It was the golden age of the blockbuster music video, the era that brought us Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Madonna's "Like a Virgin," TLC's "Waterfalls," and Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?" 

Then, in the mid-2000s, came the rise of YouTube and the fall of "Total Request Live." Eyes migrated online, TV ad money dried up, and megamillion-dollar budgets evaporated. Epics like Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker," one of the most expensive videos ever made — with a cartoon Mariah and a Mariah-as-Rizzo-as-Sandra Dee short within the video! — were no longer doable. Suddenly I could catch a video on TV only if I passed out on the couch and woke up to MTV’s 6 a.m. Music Feed hour.

The loss was a gutting one for femalekind. We talk every day about how to better depict women in film and TV, but music videos have always been a place where certain strong female artists do exactly what they want. Wanna play a post-apocalyptic military heroine? Go for it, Janet Jackson in "Rhythm Nation." Headbang barefaced in "You Oughta Know"? Live your vision, Alanis Morissette. You can be a Bond girl too, Shirley Manson in "The World Is Not Enough." As a venue for bold self-expression, nothing can touch the major music video.

Which is why I'm so glad today's leading ladies of music — many of whom were raised on the same videos I was — are using their vision and resources to revive the art form. There's Taylor Swift, who assembled Cara Delevingne, Lena Dunham, and the rest of the It Girl list to play kick-ass superheroes in "Bad Blood" and set a Vevo most-watched record. There's Tinashe, whose twirls and two-steps in "2 On" are mesmerizing. And, of course, there's Beyoncé, who blew everyone's mind and delivered 17 music videos to iTunes when she dropped her surprise self-titled album in 2013. Each Bey video was over-the-top in every way — full of Ferris wheels, Ferraris, and feminist undertones. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears' "Pretty Girls" for the 900th time. It has everything I love: fabulous style, women speaking their minds, and — just as in 1999 — Britney.

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