HBD Jonas Akerlund + His Definitive Music Videos

Today is the 49th birthday of visionary Swedish director Jonas Akerlund. At this point most of you are probably wondering, who the hell is Jonas Akerlund? Short answer: a music video director. Long answer: a man who is responsible for some of the most iconic pop culture imagery since the 90’s, a man whose career output has been so monumentally shared that we would place money on the fact that anyone born after 1980 has seen at least five of his works. To help spread a little love for the guy (not to mention shake our asses til we drop) we’ve assembled the Definitive Videos of Jonas Akerlund. Enjoy, and get ready for some super potent nostalgia trips.

5. U2—Beautiful Day: Long before U2 had established themselves as sneaky iCloud masterminds forcing their albums upon us, U2 had one of their many career strides in the very early 2000’s with mega-hit ‘Beautiful Day’, a song that exemplifies the big, booming U2 sound and the really weird state of rock circa 2000. Akerlund’s video has the band gallivanting around an airport and playing on oriental rugs conveniently located right on the tarmac. The shots of Bono running solo through empty terminals are very aesthetically pleasing, and Akerlund’s vision is so clear-cut that we’re not even bothered by the antiquated shots of CGI airplanes.

4. The Prodigy—Smack My Bitch Up: The very quintessence of 90’s dance music, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ is an infectious club thumper built solely around 2 lyrics that caused a stir of accusations of misogyny, but the video catapulted the song into infamy as one of the most controversial of all time. Shot entirely from first person POV, the video depicts a night out clubbing in London, which we learn comprises of stripper sex, cocaine snorting, creepy leering men, and even the occasional heroin needle. For those a little doubtful, just stick around for the twist in the end, it’s a doozy.

3. Jamiroquai—Canned Heat: Though most might know this song from a certain dance number in Napoleon Dynamite, the official music video for ‘Canned Heat’ is a literal bouncing-off-the-walls party. It’s a colorful funk-fest that builds on the visual interplay that Jamiroquai earned a reputation for in ‘Virtual Insanity’, but this video showcases Akerlund’s ability to mesh over a dozen different sets and a plethora of imagery and choreography into one coherent short film. Though the visual effects are indeed dated, there is nothing quite as thrilling as seeing lead singer Jay Kay hop into a television that subverts into a cosmic rainbow tunnel right out of an acid trip. Groovy indeed.

2. Madonna—Ray of Light: As the millennium was nearing a close, Madonna’s career had seen far better days. In dire need of a rehaul, she enlisted a top notch crew of album producers and a newfound sense of Eastern spirituality to come up with Ray of Light, which still holds up as one of the material girl’s strongest albums. Her real return to the love and acceptance she had grown accustomed to came in the form of Jonas Akerlund and his music video for the title single. Taking the simple concept of Madonna transcending cities, time, and space to unite the world on the dance floor, the video ended up being an enormous smash, taking home 5 VMA’s including Video of the Year. The imagery of Queen Madge superimposed over the quick-cut, blurred views of planet Earth is still pretty striking, and remains unparalleled in short-form videos.

1. Lady Gaga + Beyonce—Telephone: Wherein Akerlund and the 21st century’s most powerful divas-Our Lady of Gaga and Queen Bey herself- produce a work so mighty and iconic that the very Earth began to shake. Okay we’re exaggerating…barely. ‘Telephone’ may very well be the new millennium’s equivalent to MJ’s ‘Thriller’; a nine minute opus that throws Diet-Coke can hair curlers, smoking cigarette sunglasses, Quentin Tarantino memorabilia, honey buns, DIY poison cooking, transgender prisons, and Wonder Woman costumes into one video that remarkably all makes sense. Gaga’s everything but the kitchen sink aesthetic has never been so fully realized, and it’s all thanks to Akerlund’s ability to juggle the most inane, garishly zany concepts and mesh them into a video that redefines the word epic. We mentioned Beyonce right?

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