MTV launched Aug. 1, 1981, and eventually took over the planet as a youth authority and a music video jukebox that had the power to catapult an artist’s career to the stratosphere. As YouTube and other streaming platforms took flight in 2005, MTV slowly started becoming more obsolete and less meaningful as a video network, and other stations suffered as well. Some went out of business, and some pivoted to the lifestyle medium.
Still, music videos are an important tool for an artist’s story, and these selections certainly stood out from the pack. Check them out below.
AFI – “Girl’s Not Grey”
Let’s start with the fan-voted winner of 2003’s MTV2 VMA: AFI’s “Girl’s Not Grey.” As its list of winners proves, the MTV2 award was often an indicator of what underground band were about to blow up. Sadly, it dissolved after only six years in 2006. But the award was right on the money with this one, and AFI’s next album, Decemberunderground, shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2006. The dark and atmospheric video for “Girl’s Not Grey” a few years prior definitely had a heavy hand in raising the visibility of the formerly underground act.
Against Me! – “I Was A Teenage Anarchist”
With its vicious police brutality imagery, Against Me!’s first single from the brilliant White Crosses, “I Was A Teenage Anarchist,” is exponentially more appropriate now than it was during its release in 2010. The song never ceases intensity, and singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace (two years before she publicly came out as a transgender woman) is either running from or taking a beating from the 5-0 throughout the entire music video.
Alkaline Trio – “This Addiction”
It’s pretty badass that Chicago’s Alkaline Trio made their most gorgeous music video seven albums into their illustrious career with the title track and first single to their Epitaph Records debut LP, This Addiction. Some bands let up and phone it in when they’ve been around half as long as Alk3, but it’s certainly not the case here. The video itself was shot over a serene landscape that conflicts in the best way with all of the action that takes place.
The All-American Rejects – “Move Along”
The mundane day-to-day lives of various characters get beautiful front-and-center Tyson Ritter upgrades with the All-American Rejects’ classic hit (and title track to their second LP), “Move Along.” This video has it all: emotional close-ups, pristine aerial shots and a man falling backward off a diving board into a vacant swimming pool. Nothing was wrong with this video, and early 2006 seemed to be sponsored by this song.
All Time Low – “Weightless”
Fun fact: Several issues of Alternative Press adorn the wall in the opening scene of this video, but that’s not why it’s here. Both the song and video are that damn good, and you’d be hard-pressed to disagree. As evidenced by the self-effacing plot of the video, All Time Low had a lot of hype going into the sessions for their third album, Nothing Personal, and this song and video truly amped the band to much bigger stages and exponentially more fame.
blink-182 – “All The Small Things”
One of the bigger selections on this list, blink-182’s “All The Small Things” expertly parodied the boy band explosion (Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and 98 Degrees) of the late ’90s with pristine detail. It worked in the band’s favor, for sure. The song is blink’s second biggest video on YouTube and has the highest number of streams on Spotify. And you’ll laugh every time you view the damn thing.
Bowling For Soup – “1985”
Speaking of parodies, Bowling For Soup had the ’80s covered with their refined rendition of “1985” (originally written by SR-71), which was released in the summer of 2004. The song quickly became one of the songs of the season, and the music video lampooned huge and diverse acts such as Robert Palmer, Whitesnake and George Michael with hilarious results. A shoutout is certainly in order to whoever did the costume design on this video shoot.
Bring Me The Horizon – “Drown”
Almost exactly 50 years after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, Bring Me The Horizon debuted their own “talk show” music video performance for then-standalone single “Drown” in October 2014. But then shit got uber dark. Out of seemingly nowhere, band members started disappearing into thin air, turning into hairy werewolves and getting mauled and eaten by each other.
Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”
Gladiator for the Warped Tour crowd? Indeed. This big-budget cinematic video perfectly complemented the pop grandeur of Fall Out Boy’s hit “Centuries.” TRL was on a hiatus from late 2008 to 2017. If it had been online around the time when this video was released, “Centuries” certainly would’ve been No. 1, causing the network to overplay the video to oblivion and eventually retire it in an honorable fashion.
Gym Class Heroes – “Cupid’s Chokehold” (feat. Patrick Stump)
Fall Out Boy vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump gets some more love right here in this sick feature for Gym Class Heroes. GCH had some cool indie-rap kids singing “Ba ba da da” during the original release of “Cupid’s Chokehold” in March 2005, but the song took over on a global scale when it was re-released in 2006. The video itself is bright, sunny, funny and features vocalist Travie McCoy’s then-girlfriend Katy Perry.
Motion City Soundtrack – “L.G. FUAD”
Motion City Soundtrack drew a lyrically tortured picture with the happiest and most saccharine melodic ink on 2005’s “L.G. FUAD.” The music video takes place over the course of 24 hours in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and truly showcases the bleakness of a Midwestern winter with each and every character who has a chance to lip-sync vocalist/guitarist Justin Courtney Pierre’s words. However, it ends on the happiest note ever, as the band rock the fuck out until the screen fades to black.
My Chemical Romance – “Helena”
While the music video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” introduced many to the ambitious New Jersey rock band known as My Chemical Romance, “Helena,” the third single from the band’s major-label debut, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, proved that they were going to be both a scene and worldwide staple for eternity. This video is perfect, and the gut-wrenching pallbearer scene causes a flurry of emotions every time.
Paramore – “Ain’t It Fun”
On Dec. 2, 2013, Paramore attempted to break the most world records in a music video, and they did so in classic form by breaking 10 of ’em in under four minutes. Please don’t try this at home. “Ain’t It Fun” made the group bonafide pop stars, and pop stars should get used to breaking records by now.
PVRIS – “What’s Wrong”
Ever since PVRIS stormed the scene with their debut album, White Noise, in 2014, the band have been showcasing a black-and-white aesthetic that worked quite well in unison with their blend of electropop and synth-pop. PVRIS’ sophomore album, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, didn’t have the same buzz as their prior release, but the video for “What’s Wrong” deserves all the praise for showcasing the most desirable dinner party that you weren’t invited to.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “Face Down”
Domestic violence is an extremely serious matter, and the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus handle the topic with a healthy amount of grace and sensitivity in this powerful music video for their monster single “Face Down.” It felt like the band came out of nowhere to release their first single in 2006, and by year’s end, everyone in the scene and many across the globe were singing along to this song’s verses and screaming with the chorus, which challenges an abuser’s true “masculinity.”
Sum 41 – “In Too Deep”
Do empty swimming pools make music videos better? Maybe. Do ’80s-esque diving competitions make music videos better? Absolutely. Sum 41 were riding high on the success of “Fat Lip” when they pulled out all stops for the iconic music video for “In Too Deep,” the second single on the band’s breakout debut LP, All Killer No Filler. But the true highlight of this video happens about two minutes in when lead guitarist Dave Baksh slips and slides across the diving board in epic fashion, does a flip and comes out of the water playing a blistering guitar solo instead of going under again.
Thirty Seconds To Mars – “The Kill”
While Jared Leto, singer/guitarist for Thirty Seconds To Mars, was no stranger to film and television screens, his band took a few under-the-radar songs and music videos to truly register with the general public. But all bets were off when the visual for “The Kill,” their 2006 reimagining of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining, was released. As you know, it often takes years to be an overnight sensation, but this track and video caused 30STM to become radio and TV stars seemingly overnight.
The Used – “All That I’ve Got”
The Used left the screamo circuit and entered the macabre music video world with “All That I’ve Got,” which took many of its queues from Tim Burton. Each of the band’s four members received a time to shine in this video and had a chance to showcase their acting skills nearly as much as their abilities on their respective instruments. And in true badass form, dark and unique animation closed the tale and the actual book showcased in the video.
Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue”
For this piece, we unintentionally opened and closed with two consecutive winners of the MTV2 VMA award: AFI emerged victorious in 2003, and Yellowcard won one year later in 2004 for “Ocean Avenue.” The video was an action-packed mix of Memento and Groundhog Day, and it featured an exciting chase scene that ended with a car pedaling out of an alley at an out-of-control speed, causing vocalist/guitarist William Ryan Key to escape the wrath of two of his band members (who played villains in the story).