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Earlier this month Lana Del Rey showed how homemade stitches of super-8 film reels can propel an artist towards internet sensation. In Video Games, she credited twelve people for the clips that created her self-described “Hollywood sad core dope summertime sadness” look in the video. Over eight million hits later, it’s fair to say that the cumulative ‘look’ probably worked.
For acts just starting out, found footage can offer a cheap alternative to commissioning full-blown videos, often with greater potential to go viral too. And for established bands with the money and resources to put behind the style, it can lead to some wonderfully absurd results. In honour of these, we count down the top ten – for better or worse – DIY found footage music videos:
1. N.E.R.D. – 'Life As A Fish'
N.E.R.D’s 'Life As A Fish' does exactly what it says on the tin, as director Doug Spangenberg depicts the fish lifecycle through various clips from nature documentaries and news reports. God knows what Pharrell Williams was thinking charting the evolutionary process, but perhaps the most tragic part is that the video can’t even claim the top spot within the niche genre of aquatic-based rap - which obviously belongs to The Chemical Brother’s 'The Salmon Dance'.
2. Beirut – 'Postcards from Italy'
Israeli-born director Alma Har’el purchased cases of super-8 home-footage from various families across the US on eBay to make Beirut’s video, and padded out the rest of the content with gratuitous shots of Zach Condon sauntering around California picking apples for his girlfriend. So not really a postcard from Italy at all, then.
3. Summer Camp – 'Round the Moon'
Summer Camp, aka Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley, have been working in the found footage school of twee for some time (see Ghost Train and Better Off Without You). They teamed up with director Paddy Power (real name…) once again for 'Round the Moon', using clips from the cult 1970 film En kärlekshistoria (A Swedish Love Story). But this time the result is a genuinely endearing video – think Scandinavian Freaks and Geeks, with even better leather jackets.
4. Citizens! – 'True Romance'
Citizens! are the latest addition to the Kitsuné label, with Alex Kapranos producing their debut album out early next year. For the lead single, the band edited footage from the 1987 Telugu film Pasivadi Pranam to create what can only be described as Jane Fonda’s hip-hop mountain flash mob.
5. Vitalic – 'Poney Part 1'
Bringing together the LOLcat internet demographic with the French electro-house scene was always going to be tricky, but director Pleix somehow managed to pull if off. Three minutes of unadulterated fun ensue in 'Poney Part I', essentially the house remix to dog vs. trampoline.
6. The Chemical Brothers – 'Get Yourself High!'
The Chemical Brothers have a reputation for great music videos, and this production by Joseph Kahn is no exception. Kahn tinkers with the classic martial arts film Two Champions of Shaolin, digitally replacing samurai swords with vinyl records and shields with boom boxes, just because.
7. Rage Against the Machine – 'Testify'
A collaboration between Rage Against the Machine and Michael Moore was never going to be a subdued affair. In 'Testify', Moore dubbed clips of then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore to the backing track of an alien invasion movie. He then mixed images of nuclear bombs, oilrigs, cattle farming and child poverty together, as a non-too-subtle study in US politics.
8. Peaches – 'Fuck The Pain Away'
Notorious bad girl Peaches called upon her fans to submit their own videos to 'Fuck The Pain Away'. A challenge that could have been horribly misinterpreted, but which fortunately spawned this incredible version by Erik Huber, using episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as a backdrop to a shimmying piece of jailbait.
9. Boards of Canada – 'Dayvan Cowboy'
Director Melissa Olson beautifully blends together NASA footage of Joseph Kittinger’s 20-mile parachute jump from space with slow-motion clips of surfer Laird Hamilton riding waves in the ocean - the perfect accompaniment to the chilled sounds of Boards of Canada. Though we’re still no wiser on what a ‘Dayvan Cowboy’ exactly is.
10. Ratatat – 'Drugs'
An incredible example of how found footage can be twisted to create truly chilling effects. Director Carl Burgess used only stock footage from the media agency Getty for this video, putting together actors’ show reels in a way that becomes increasingly unnerving as the song progresses.
What are your favourite found footage video clips?
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