It’s hard to picture now, but once upon a time, millions of people would gather around their giant tube-powered TVs to watch the debut of music videos. Mostly Michael Jackson ones, like “Thriller” and the 18-minute “Bad,” which was the subject of a 1987 CBS prime-time special called Michael Jackson: The Magic Returns.
And then… well, thanks to YouTube and the Internet in general, music video debuts are not that big a deal these days. But that hasn’t stopped everyone from Beyonce, Rihanna and Kanye West to Meghan Trainor, Radiohead and Gwen Stefani from trying to relive the good old days and making a ton of noise when they have a new visual to share with us.
West has made it something of a calling card, thanks to the global debut of “New Slaves” in May 2013, which included projections on buildings in 66 locations around the world, while sometimes-rival Taylor Swift has used the 2015 Billboard Music Awards (“Bad Blood”), 2015 MTV Video Music Awards (“Wildest Dreams”) and 2016 New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (“Out of the Woods”) broadcasts to share new videos recently.
Here are some of the biggest music video debuts of the past year:
Kanye West, “Famous”
‘Ye is the king of making everything he does a huge deal, which includes Friday’s L.A. Forum debut of his eight-minute short film featuring wax re-creations of celebrities, including Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, Rihanna, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, George W. Bush and others. West charged $25 for the event, a kind of spiritual sequel to his The Life of Pablo listening party at Madison Square Garden in February.
Rih is so psyched to land the lead single from Star Trek Beyond that she’s doing the unprecedented: debuting a music video in IMAX. The singer teased that the video — the first to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras — will debut exclusively in IMAX theaters on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET before it’s available on Vevo and Tidal at 10 a.m. She posted this cosmic 27-second teaser Wednesday (June 29):
— Rihanna (@rihanna) June 29, 2016
One video is cool, but Queen Bey went 10 steps further in April when she unveiled Lemonade in an hour-long HBO special — expanding on the “visual album” concept she began back in 2013 with her surprise self-titled release.
In May, the band and director P.T. Anderson sent 35mm prints of the meandering video to select movie theaters in New York, Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles as an opening feature.
Adele, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”
Taking the TV route, Adele unwrapped the kaleidoscopic clip for her 25 single during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards.
Gwen Stefani, “Make Me Like You”
In the arms race to make videos matter again, Stefani took a radical shot by starring in a Target-sponsored live music video that aired during this year’s Grammy Awards broadcast. It was a risky proposition (including a planned roller-skating tumble that made fans do a double-take), but the No Doubt singer pulled it off with style.
Meghan Trainor, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”
Go big or go home. That might explain why Trainor decided to premiere her John Legend duet on the big screen in Times Square last July. It was the latest in a series of debuts on the New York big screen (many sponsored by Sony), which has also included first looks at vids from Fifth Harmony, Future, Ciara, Tinashe and Tink.
Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta”
Promoting his award-winning To Pimp a Butterfly album, Kendrick lit up Times Square and L.A. Live in Los Angeles with the world premiere of his Director X-helmed video.