10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2021

Welcome to year seven of my dumbest annual list. Honestly, this list usually happens during that stir crazy part of winter, just before the dawn of spring. I get drunk on a weekend, fire up YouTube, watch a bunch of music videos, and write about the experience. Unfortunately, the past year has provided WAY too much time for me to sit inside, drink too much, and watch things on my TV. It’s sad, really.

But hey, why not make the best of it? There were some really great videos from 2011 that I’d totally forgotten about. It was a year of transition in my life, marked by leaving some difficult things behind and moving forward to some really great things. Thus, I have a lot of fond memories associated with the music videos below. I hope you’ll enjoy them. And please share your favorites in the replies!

Eisley – “Smarter”

The Valley arrived four years after Eisley’s sophomore album Combinations but was very much worth the wait. On lead single “Smarter”, Sherri Dupree-Bemis finds herself leaving her own funeral to return to her waiting family/bandmates in an abandoned church while singing lines like, “If I sound angry, I’m sorry / This body can only cry for so long / And if you want to blame me, then go on / I’m smiling now ‘cause I’m smarter than you think”. It’s an angry, poignant, determined return for a band that had been through the ringer in more ways than one.

Yellowcard – “Hang You Up”

“Hang You Up” is such a great video because it’s a lovely song and the video could’ve been played straightforward, but instead, they leaned into comedy. Here, Yellowcard vocalist Ryan Key wanders the street before entering his job at a fast food restaurant, annoying strangers and patrons along the way with his singing. Top moments include a woman in the parking lot threatening, “I swear to god, if you open your mouth and start singing a pre-chorus…” and drummer LP handing Ryan his signature black leather jacket.

Blessthefall – “Promised Ones”

Look, I’m an unabashed blessthefall fan and there’s no way this video wasn’t making the cut. It combines the intro/opening track from Awakening into one video, which is cool, and it’s set in some sort of post-apocalyptic world or something? I think? I dunno. There are a lot of fired up blessthefall fans that are all dirty and they’re running, driving, and throwing molotov cocktails, baby. And I don’t blame them. That breakdown at 3:50 fucking RIPS.

Childish Gambino – “Heartbeat”

The ascent of Donald Glover into a cultural force happened fast and it’s still incredible to think about how it happened. From a musical perspective, a lot of the forward movement began with his debut album Camp, which features this gem. The video for “Heartbeat” includes two very cool things. 1. A bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. 2. A really cool analogy about a slippery, messy relationship told through the very clear image of who’s in the driver’s seat.

Christina Perri – “Jar of Hearts”

I met my wife in the summer of 2011 and she was so into this song. And I got hooked, too. The video is one of those cool things where the color and choreography match the cold, dark feeling of the song in a way that’s just perfect. Perri’s raging bridge to the song is captured perfectly in the mid-street dance between the shitty dude character and the women that he seeks (and fails) to control.

Jay-Z and Kanye West – “Otis”

I just see this video and I’m taken back to the summer of 2011, which was a very good one for me. It was a celebration, just like this video. It reminds me of a time when we could get together and party. It reminds me of a time when Jay-Z and Kanye were like best buds and Kanye hadn’t made me sad. It reminds me of what a victory lap Watch the Throne was for hip hop and how good that felt. It just reminds me of good times, and that’s something I need right now.

The Wonder Years – “Came Out Swinging”

SPEAKING OF THE SUMMER OF 2011. This song is just a damn rager and a touchstone of when pop punk began its renaissance moment. The shots of The Wonder Years playing in that weird basement just says everything about that moment. It’s also a reminder that there was like a year where every scene band had light bulbs hanging in their video. But this was probably the best version of it because there’s like 20 bulbs and we all know that more bulbs = better.

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

It’s crazy how certain years in music are simply defined by the question, “Did Adele release an album that year?” And if the answer is yes, you kinda know what the conversation was about that year. And 21 dropping in 2011 was probably the biggest one. This song was fucking everywhere and the video is one of those kitchen sink videos. It has everything. A dude dancing with a sword, dishes smashing against a wall, a floor full of water glasses that ripple to the music, and Adele sitting on a chair. What more could you ask for?

Chiodos – “Notes in Constellations”

Ready for a really hot take? “Notes in Constellations” is the best Chiodos song. Yeah, you heard me. And the video makes it even better. It looks like it cost a lot, too. The video matches the song’s narrative about the passing of a loved one, with the bereaved carrying on with all of the memories. Brandon Bolmer’s voice is angelic on this track and he’s hot as hell in the video. Yeah, you heard me. Did I repeatedly watch this video at 2 a.m. in my apartment whilst crying many a night back in 2011? That’s none of your business, mister.

Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”

There’s no way this video wasn’t making this list. It’s either the most notable or second most notable video of 2011, depending on how you feel about Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. But guess what. Just four months after that crazy Rebecca Black moment, Katy Perry GOT HER IN THIS VIDEO THAT IS ALSO ABOUT FRIDAY. I mean, damn. And then you’ve got Kenny G playing the sax solo on the roof at a house party. It’s all so dumb and crazy and silly, but this is kind of a moment that said, “Hey, if you’re gonna release a music video and have it actually matter, you have to do something big.” And that’s what Katy Perry did in the summer of 2011.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2016: #9 Taylor Swift Comes Back in Style

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Filling the Blank Space

Just over 14 months after the release of the most successful album of her career, coupled with numerous award nominations and a massive world tour, we’re already anticipating what’s next for Taylor Swift. In doing so, we recognize that it’s wholly possible (even likely) that Ms. Swift rides the continuous waves of 1989 all the way through 2016. But we hope that isn’t the case.

Swift has a history of proclaiming her need for “time off” shortly after the release and support of her albums, only to resurface sooner than expected with another offering. Now six singles into the lauded pop tour de force that is 1989, it’s hard to believe that Swift isn’t thinking about what comes next.

Her place atop today’s pop music mountain alongside the likes of Adele and Beyoncé is in no danger of crumbling, but in a world driven by the moment, there’s a constant clamor for something new. While Swift could easily coast through 2016 in relative silence without missing a beat, here’s hoping she’s ready to make some more noise.

Swift’s career trajectory has been astonishing to watch – from innocent pop princess to pop culture’s biggest action hero, there’s no denying her ability for sonic and personal growth. Wherever she goes next, our collective attention is sure to follow. Pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist? Nah, T-Swift holds it in the palm of her hand.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Empty Houses – Empty Houses EP

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There is something immediately noticeable about Empty Houses that makes it hypnotic, but its hard to place exactly. It could be the throwback factor about not hearing motown music regularly. It could be the simplified, majestic jazz version of Fireworks that makes you want to dance. The obvious one though is the soulful commanding voice of singer Ali Shea, who steals the show and makes the EP her own. If the self titled EP is anything to be taken seriously, Empty Houses are poised to potentially dominate the world should they get the backing that they deserve.

Empty Houses is the brainchild of pop punk staple Fireworks’ vocalist David Mackinder, touring member Adam Mercer and singer Ali Shea. The EP stands as something that is on a short list of releases that actually make me mad because it ends far too quickly. The musicianship is stripped down, allowing each instrument to shine to the forefront and Shea’s voice bleeds soul and croons perfectly. I need more.

Mackinder and Mercer play beautifully. They’re a perfect throwback sound that would’ve fit in easily as some of the best music of the motown movement fifty years ago. The melodies aren’t overly complicated, but layered enough to sound fully fleshed out. While I wouldn’t have noticed it without already knowing, there is a level of Fireworks-style of flare to the song writing (vocal melody and bass line, specifically) that helps the music pop even more.

For only having two musicians, the duo work masterfully. Two guitars trade riffs and change tempo to work softly as well as they do to make you want to dance. The bass pushes the songs along almost more than anything else, and has some incredible riffs. One of the best additions is the precise thunder of the drums, which really improves the classic motown sound and makes it sound modern. Mackinder, as a background vocalist, is a perfect match to harmonize with Ali.

I am in love with Ali Shea. From what I can tell, this is her first real musical venture, and the fact that her name isn’t already known is something short of a travesty. Her voice is utterly dripping with soul. She entrances the listener with soft crooning before exploding to hit higher notes, and making it sound miraculously simple. To put it in perspective, she sounds like a mixture of Zoey Deschanel of She & Him and Adele, but with a tone of more honey and conversation. I could literally listen to her for days.

Lyrically, Empty Houses is a pop album through and through. There isn’t any of the philosophy of Fireworks to be found, but that doesn’t mean things are simple. The songs are about lost love, and fit perfectly to Shea’s voice. There is a definite weight even to pop lyrics such as “I had this comfort built up inside that was a good place for me to hide. I’m hoping for a little longer and I cried all night, thinking about it, I’m trying to convince myself that I’m all right living without it” from “Far Away”.

Empty Houses have potential to make incredible waves in the music industry if marketed correctly. While there are a number of modern motown and bluesy groups out there, few have the instant ability to stand out, even if they are more of a throwback sound than an exploration. Singer Ali Shea has honest potential to take the country by storm with her voice, and I hope more people hear it. Whatever the future holds for Empty Houses, I want to hear it sooner rather than later. Please go check out their EP from their bandcamp site. You won’t regret it.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and his new life goal is to hear Ali Shea sing live. It sounds creepy, but it comes from a place of adoration. Does that make it worse? Oh no…. 😦