Ever since music videos went mainstream in the 1980s with the launch of MTV, and, later, networks like The Box, VH1 and BET, television viewers have witnessed an array of imagery, mixing performances with various artistic influences. While contemporary music videos are used as a tool for record labels to promote artists and their latest records, videos also blend fabulous and avant garde styles, exhibiting the latest fashions with experimental, and global eye-catching scenes.
Black performers have changed the video music game. Iconic artists like Grace Jones and Janet Jackson have used videos to not only offer their listeners lip synced vocals, but to present cutting edge choreography, with optical representations of the glamorous life with funky hair, makeup and garments that have come to influence our personal style.
We just had to do our own fashionable videography! And boy, did we have a great time remembering the hyper-print 80s, the sultry 90s, through to present times with music videos from artists who currently saturate our plasma screens.
Grace Jones, Mary J. Blige to Rihanna, here’s COCO’s Top 15 Most Stylish Music Videos!
1. “My Jamaican Guy” Grace Jones
Grace Jones is a style maverick. The model-singer’s styles have influenced just about every female performer who has graced a stage. Here in one of her earliest videos, Jones toasts to the “Island Life” with colorful and experimental fashions, straight out of her Jean-Paul Goude days.
2. “Pleasure Principle” Janet Jackson
Not only did we rehearse every step to this video–even was audacious enough to try that backward flip off our our mother’s dining room table–Janet Jackson made us flock to the stores for Guess jeans. Janet’s understated look and ultra fitted denim against her voluminous hair makes “Pleasure Principle” one of the most iconic music videos of our time.
3. “Supersonic” J.J. Fad
“And everybody knows that J.J. Fad is devastating.” Indeed this trio was. J.J. Fad’s one-hit wonder is a clear representation of the mid-80s, when graffiti and aerobics-influenced style with a sexy spin dominated womenswear. J.J. Fad’s was one of hip hop’s earliest girl power songs, and these girls rep’d the coco girls in style!
4. “My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” En Vogue
No doubt The Supremes of our time, En Vogue was one of the most thoroughly talented and gorgeous female groups ever. There was not a performance, album cover or music video, where these girls weren’t giving you everything they had from their hair, makeup and the fiercest heels. En Vogue’s “My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” is but one of their many stylish videos. These girls dance daringly in metallic mini dresses and nail it! Funky Divas, yep!
5. “Not Gon Cry” Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige is a treasure to Black women in America because she’s one of the best selling female vocalists who never crossed over and left us. MJB is our girl. And when it comes to style, Mary has done it all. The film adaptation of “Waiting to Exhale” was underway, and the video for Mary’s Babyface-written-and-produced track “Not Gon Cry” sent us running into theaters and to local record stores for more. Mary’s striking dark lips juxtaposed against her shades and scarf of yesteryear was something like a hip hop glamour nostalgia that we embraced.
6. “Crush On You” Lil’ Kim
The “Crush on You” video was Lil’ Kim at her best. The Junior Mafia lead raw diva rocks it giving us different wig colors matching her background scenes. We loved Kim in her green look, so feminine, yet so hip hop. Not to mention the cameos from Aaliyah and Biggie sends us dancing every time we watch this!
7. “Rain (Super Dupa Fly)” Missy Elliot
Missy’s debut single, “Rain (Super Dupa Fly),” has to be one of the most experimental and iconic music videos in music history. A garbage bag and sunglasses took Missy from a obscure Virginia producer to a global superstar. And she was supa dupa fly, dancing with the best of them, driving in her jeep, tangle-o-dangle, so fly we got her styles tangled. The very definition of dope!
8. “Sitting Up In My Room” Brandy
Yet another video from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack, Brandy was a fashionable darling in her retro-styled room, sitting waiting on the cutie dancing downstairs. Brandy’s signature braids were already a huge influence, and here in the “Sitting In My Room” video, Brandy is styled amazingly in various looks she grooves to in the mirror. We love it every second of it!
9. “Didn’t Cha Know” Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu’s classic, J.Dilla-laced hit “Didn’t Cha Know” was a rare and brilliant listen on its own. But when the video dropped of Badu strutting declaratively in a desert, this sent our love for this woman and this track over an orange moon. Badu is simply eye-defying in this clip, taking viewers on a journey, and even revealing her bold and bald look in the end.
10.”Rock the Boat” Aaliyah
Though this would be one of Aaliyah’s last videos, this gone-too-soon artist left us with an incredible display of the sexy urban style and moves she came to be known for. Filmed on an island beach, Aaliyah was stunning in “Rock the Boat,” giving us sultry looks, and beautiful hair and makeup—not to mention Fatima Robinson’s choreography. This video is simply one of the best.
11. “No Scrubs” TLC
At the height of music’s most expensive videos, TLC’s “No Scrubs” presents a digital spin on fashion and music on the cuffs of the technological explosion. The group’s computerized garments and dance moves fearlessly accompanied this girl power track. Only one of many stylish videos from the best-selling female group ever!
12. “Temperature Rising” Les Nubians
These French sisters are our global pick from the Diaspora, demonstrating that iconic style transcends geography. Les Nubian’s tunes is a part of the soundtrack of our coming to age, and in this video, from their first English album, One Step Forward, the duo’s use of cowry shells, hair wraps, and locs while walking through a South African market is a transcultural sight we can dig.
13. “Bossy” Kelis
Kelis 2006 Kelis Was Here album was a style flash forward with runway meets streetwear looks that flipped urban style on it’s head. This “Bossy” singer’s album cover gave us one of music’s first sighting of society’s coveted shoe, the Christian Louboutin, so we knew Kelis would come hard in the album’s debut video. High-waisted denim, copper handmade earrings and a hair cut that influenced many, the Harlem-bred artist proved to everyone she wasn’t just Mrs. Jones.
14. “Rude Boy” Rihanna
One of the many stylish videos from her latest album, Rated R, Rihanna took her fashion game through the roof in her homage to her Caribbean roots. “Rude Boy” is a sonic blast of new designer talent from LaQuan Smith and Boxing Kitten, and some of the best makeup we’ve seen in a music video. We may be on Rihanna overload at this point, but this video was a killer!
15. “Why Don’t You Love Me?” Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s nod to American domestic iconography was a brilliant extension from her all-powerful “I Am . . .Sasha Fierce” re-release. The singer’s piercing red lips, mint green nail polish, and a slew of Grammy’s on display makes her roaring dance hit, “Why Don’t You Love Me?,” a must-have on our top 15 list. There are no loose strings with hair, makeup and a sick wardrobe complete with shoes we’d borrow any day!
–Geneva S. Thomas