MTV's Best Year: The Top 5 Videos of 1992
In 1992, the recording industry was riding high. The compact disc had become a major success, with music lovers purchasing new albums and old releases in astonishing numbers despite the format's comparatively steep price tags. And the music-video juggernaut known as MTV was helping major labels to break new music to an unprecedented national audience.
Axl Rose and his employees collect MTV's 1992 Video Vanguard award.
That may seem strange to those who have grown up with the Jersey Shore version of MTV, but 20 years ago, musicians were the network's stars. Back then, a hot music video could turn semi-anonymous performers into superstars overnight, and the major record labels pumped millions into their top acts' video budgets.
In many ways, 1992 was the high-water mark for music video as an artistic medium. The high-concept shoots pioneered by artists like Michael Jackson had raised the bar far beyond simple lip synching. Put simply, music videos moved units. For that reason, everyone was making videos, from Megadeth to Tori Amos. Video budgets had never been higher, and MTV couldn't get enough of them.
Before long, of course, it would be all over. Videos would be replaced on MTV by reality series, and the days of record companies blowing a few million on a clip directed by David Fincher began to seem too impossible to be true. But in 1992, the medium appeared vital, healthy and here to stay.
Here's a look at the best five music videos from 1992 and what they tell us about that era of popular music:
5. Michael Jackson, "Remember the Time"
By '92, Michael Jackson was already regarded as the greatest music-video artist of all time. The King of Pop's "short films" for "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Bad" had been landmark events for MTV, and in the early '90s -- before the network embraced hip-hop wholeheartedly -- he was still MTV's biggest black star.
Maybe he felt he had a lot to live up to, or maybe he just wasn't altogether sane. But whatever the reason, Jackson elected to go straight over the top for his "Remember the Time" video. Directed by John Singleton, the nine-minute clip casts MJ as a (freakish, alien) wizard in a lavishly decorated ancient Egypt, brazenly trying to woo Queen Iman away from Pharoah Eddie Murphy. Magic Johnson, the Pharcyde(!) and "Tiny" Lister also make cameos, because why wouldn't they.
The whole thing only cost $2 million, a mere fraction of the $7 million Mike would blow on his "Scream" video later in the decade. But that was still a large enough sum to make "Remember the Time" one of the most expensive (and memorable) music videos in history. Er, HIStory.
4. Nirvana, "In Bloom"
A year after the classic clip for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had exiled the Wingers of the world from MTV forever, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain groused (as he often did) that the band was being taken too seriously by the lamestream media and fans. Consequently, the band decided to lighten the mood a bit with their third video from Nevermind, "In Bloom."
Parodying the group's outrageous, overnight pop stardom, the video casts Nirvana as early-'60s heartthrobs playing an Ed Sullivan-like variety show. The band kept things edgy with some trademark dresses and instrument smashing, but compared to the strange, slightly unsettling clips for "Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are" and "Heart Shaped Box" (not to mention the funerary ambience of the band's Unplugged appearance), "In Bloom" was as silly and light as Nirvana would ever get. It was named "Best Alternative Video" at the 1993 VMAs.