The average response to last night’s premiere of Lady Gaga’s video was the very reasonable question, “Why isn’t anything happening?” Gaga had set a benchmark for over-active music videos over the last four years, and to see her spend five-plus minutes doing nothing but dancing around an empty street corner and fire escape was jarring, to say the least. The reasons (or at least the speculation) as to why the video ended up as such have been well-detailed, but what fans are left with is a video that just seems to be lacking something. A storyline, a big dance number, a co-star beyond a quiet and stationary Clarence…just about anything, really.
However, as relatively uneventful as Gaga’s video is, it’s still got enough juice—dancing, interesting sets and costumes, smoke machines, whatever—to be kept out of the discussion of the all-time bores. Compared to the videos on our list of the ten least-eventful music videos in history, “Edge of Glory” may as well be a half-hour Michael Jackson epic. Check out the comatose clips that put Gaga’s latest to shame, but be careful if reading at work—we don’t have any Five-Hour Energy Drinks to lend you if you start nodding off.
10. THE ROLLING STONES, “WAITING ON A FRIEND” (1981)
To be fair, it was pretty obvious from the title here that the Stones weren’t going to be delivering us an episode of Mission: Impossible. Indeed, the first two minutes of “Waiting on a Friend” is Mick Jagger doing just that—assuming he was still calling Keith Richards a “friend” at that point in their relationship—while chilling on some steps outside of a St. Mark’s Place apartment. The two then walk around the corner to a bar, meet up with the other Stones, order a drink, and take the stage to clumsily mime through the song’s outro. It feels like four minutes of hanging with the Stones—which, to be fair, while uneventful, is actually kinda cool.
9. LIVE, “I ALONE” (1994)
For their alt-rock smash hit “I Alone,” Live decided that the sight of frontman Ed Kowalczyk with no shirt and a rattail would be transfixing enough to command viewer attention for four minutes without the band doing much else. They weren’t far off—Kowalczyk’s bug-eyed expressions and shirtless antics are nearly goofy enough to keep you from noticing that the rest of the video is just the band moshing around a barren set for four minutes. Least explicable is why, unlike the band’s bassist and guitarist, the drummer doesn’t even bother to pretend to be playing his instrument, spending the whole time gracelessly skanking around the set instead. Couldn’t afford a spare drum set, guys? C’mon, Throwing Copper sold eight million!
8. LAURA BRANIGAN, “GLORIA” (1982)
No artist of the MTV era got as much mileage out of a couple of disco balls than Laura Branigan, whose “Gloria” music video spoke to a misguided belief that nothing screamed “HIGH-BUDGET” like a couple such glittering trinkets rotating from the ceiling. That was just about all Laura had to work with, with the rest of “Gloria” looking like a glorified homemade karaoke video—and not all that glorified, either. The most ridiculous part of the video comes during the song’s instrumental break, where Laura’s robotic sashaying is replayed in slow-motion—likely because they didn’t record enough footage for a four-minute clip. Still, can’t argue with the results—”Gloria” went to #2 and became one of the biggest hits of 1982.
7. R.E.M., “TONGUE” (1994)
Speaking of disco balls. R.E.M.’s “Tongue” should probably be disqualified from this list due to the inclusion of dual settings and storylines in the video—which is at least one more of each than the other nine videos on the list—but both are so devoid of action that it begs inclusion nonetheless. The frame of the video is a group of teenagers watching R.E.M. play on TV, with shots going back and forth between the kids’ hijinx and the band’s performance, but the kids aren’t doing much besides making sandwiches and semi-flirting, while the band looks like they’re playing the most boring song of their career. (The fact that they actually are playing the most boring song of their career doesn’t help, either.)
6. MADONNA, “LOVE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE” (1996)
A throw-on Rose Royce cover for her Something to Remember compilation, Madonna gave the music video for “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” the effort that it deserved. Presumably blowing the entire video budget on renting out the empty ballroom where the video takes place, Madonna spends the 4:40 walking around the room and rubbing up against one of the support columns, while director Jean-Baptiste Mondino (who also directed Madonna’s slightly more memorable videos for “Justify My Love” and “Human Nature”) executes the world’s slowest-ever zoom-in on her. Interesting if you’re the support column, perhaps, but less so for the rest of us.
For videos five to one, including some lazy alternative rock bands and a very bored Toni Braxton, click NEXT.