Today we ring in the 30th anniversary of music television, a full three decades since MTV first blasted off. And in the years that have since passed, though much about the music video medium has changed, certain tropes of the format remain. Video vixens, celebrity cameos, fish-eye lenses (people still use those, right?)—long as people are still cranking out music videos, they’ll still be around. But one of our favorite video clichés—and one that’s been around since the very first video ever played on MTV—is the gratuitous explosion. From George Michael to Puff Daddy to Justin Timberlake, nothing has said music video excitement over the course of MTV’s lifetim like blowing the crap out of stuff. Here’s a chronological look back at some of the best kabooms from the last 30 years of music video.
THE BUGGLES, “VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR” (1981)
The leadoff clip from MTV’s maiden voyage, “Video Killed the Radio Star” set the bar early for explosions in music videos with its exploding radios, artfully symbolizing the titular sentiment. Video explosions would get a lot flashier over the years, but few were as impactful.
BILLY IDOL, “WHITE WEDDING” (1982)
For a brief period in the early-’80s, exploding kitchens were all the rage in music video. A couple years after David Bowie saw his kitchen spontaneously combust all around him in “Ashes to Ashes,” Billy Idol’s domicile was similarly beset by kitchen-localized explosions in his video for “White Wedding.” Odd trend, but maybe only the sixth strangest thing to happen in the “White Wedding” video.
DURAN DURAN, “A VIEW TO A KILL” (1985)
Duran Duran’s video for Bond theme “A View to a Kill” was filled with as much suspense and intrigue as the Roger Moore flick itself, but the band may have skimped some in the special effects department. After lead Durannie Simon LeBon accidentally triggers a bomb on the Eiffel Tower—or possibly just one on a postcard of the Tower sold at a concession stand below, it’s hard to tell—an explosion goes off that packs the force of a firecracker. (Hey, no video from a soundtrack was ever perfect.)
GENESIS, “LAND OF CONFUSION” (1986)
One of many Cold-War-anxiety videos to rise to prominence in the mid-’80s, Genesis’ enormously popular video for “Land of Confusion” featured puppet renderings of any number of important cultural figures of the time, most notably none-too-flattering caricatures of then-president Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. At the end of the video, puppet Ronnie attempts to page a nurse, but accidentally hits the button for “Nuke,” triggering a mushroom cloud explosion. (“That’s one heck of a nurse!” comments Reagan.)
MEGADETH, “PEACE SELLS” (1989)
“Peace Sells” will always own a special place in the hearts of MTV fans due to its bass line being lifted to soundtrack the channel’s trademark “MTV News…You Hear It…First!” slogan, but the song’s video was also an early metal classic. General badass imagery abounds, but perhaps most memorable is the early sight of an exploding skull, about as metal an image as you were likely to find on MTV in the late-’80s. (Actually, second most memorable: “I wanna watch the news!” “This is the news!” takes top honors every time.)
For the finest in ’90s music video explosions, including Michael Jackson and Green Day, click NEXT.