Since 1981, when The Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star” launched MTV in the United States, music videos have been a breeding ground for artists, directors and visionaries, all eager to make their creative mark.
Although MTV rotation has given way to YouTube views and streaming, music videos are still an essential tool in both the marketing and branding of an artist. While music videos aren’t as prevalent as they once were, they continue to be an important showcase for all recording artists. A good video can serve as a debut, a comeback, a revelation, a testament and most importantly, a legacy.
Which is why it might come as little surprise that the five most expensive music videos of all time come from pop music icons.
5. Madonna, “Bedtime Story”—Cost $5 Million
Directed by Mark Romanek, the video originally debuted theatrically in three different Odeon film theaters. It is also included in the permanent collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and the New York Museum of Modern Art. In an 1999 interview with Aperture magazine, Madonna said, “My ‘Bedtime Story’ video was completely inspired by all the female surrealist painters like Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. There’s that one shot where my hands are up in the air and stars are spinning around me. And me flying through the hallway with my hair trailing behind me, the birds flying out of my open robe—all of those images are an homage to female surrealist painters; there’s a little bit of Frida Kahlo in there, too.”
4. Madonna, “Express Yourself”—Cost $5 Million
Directed by David Fincher, this video from her fourth studio album Like a Prayer was inspired by Fritz Lang’s iconic epic, Metropolis. On May 17, 1989, the video had its world-premiere on MTV, where it exclusively aired every hour for three weeks.
3. Madonna, “Die Another Day”—Cost $6.1 Million
The musical theme to the James Bond film of the same name, this video was directed by Traktor, a Swedish directing team. It featured Madonna in the 007-inspired video, with her in a torture chamber as a prisoner and also dueling with herself. The video does not include any footage from the film.
2. Britney Spears, “Work B**ch”—Cost $6.5 Million
Written by Spears, will.i.am, Otto “Knows” Jettman, Sebastian Ingrosso, Anthony Preston and Ruth-Anne Cunningham, “Work B**ch” served as Britney’s comeback to pop music. Director Ben Mor acknowledged that the doesn’t have a narrative like her earlier videos, but “more of a theme…rather than a narrative. This one is basically [saying], ‘the queen is back and she’s about to show all these bitches how it’s done.’ It’s her being really fierce and taking back her throne in a way.”
1. Michael Jackson Featuring Janet Jackson, “Scream”—Cost $7 Million
In “Scream,” both Michael Jackson and his sister Janet angrily respond to the media backlash that had plagued him from various allegations and the tabloid press in general. Set 0n a futuristic spacecraft with several nods to anime, “Scream” was directed by Mark Romanek.