When you think of how many multitudes a great single can contain, it’s hard to blame an artist for wanting to return to the drawing board for any reason.
And whether due to second thoughts, ambitious mold-breaking or record company interference, many classic singles of the 20th and 21st centuries have ended up with more than one video to represent them.
Early Friday morning (March 30), Taylor Swift released a Spotify-only, self-directed vertical video — in the same month she debuted the Joseph Kahn-directed original video at the iHeartRadio Music Awards earlier this month.
The results have varied between brilliant and confusing — but, at times, were necessary to beat a good idea into a great one. For curiosity, healthy debate or good old contrast and comparison, here are 10 examples of songs that have translated to two or more music videos.
The Rolling Stones — “Angie” (1973)
An elliptical ballad from 1973’s Goats Head Soup speculated by the public to be an ode to David Bowie’s first wife, “Angie” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. There’s not a lot of variation between its two promo videos, of which the existence of both is perplexing — at the end of the day, the only difference may truly be that Mick Jagger suddenly decided he wanted to wear a cowboy hat on camera. Other than that, there they are, pensively strumming along on the same soundstage with their band name in lights, singing their elegiac soft rock threnody to Bowie or maybe to an Angie who never was.
Kate Bush — “Wuthering Heights” (1978)
Plenty of music videos from U.K. artists in this era typically had a slightly gloomier, abstracted version for the homefront and another more “Americanized” version for across the pond. This Emily Brontë-inspired hit features Bush in a glowing, ethereal realm with white dress and all in the British version, while the American version finds Bush in a red dress in a forest clearing. Tellingly, Bush got most of the influence for her idiosyncratic dance routine from English mime artist Lindsay Kamp, which explains this pair of videos’ ahead-of-their-time minimalism in an era of tacky sci-fi imagery and fog machines.
Dire Straits — “Walk of Life” (1985)
A Brothers in Arms cut with a hilariously tweedly little synth-patch hook, “Walk of Life” is a fun little trifle about a roadside musician who can do all the “oldies, goodies,” like “the song about the sweet lovin’ woman and the song about the knife.” The U.S. version of the video features the band in performance (and, arguably, a “slickest headband” contest) intercut with various sports highlight reels. The U.K. version is a tad more awkward, with the central conceit being that the street busker is wearing the same shirt as Mark Knopfler. As for poetic meditations on success from the stage view to the street, this one’s no “For Free.”
Glass Tiger — “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” (1986)
This No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 had a cutesy, accessible concept, with adorably dated haircuts by all involved and dancing schoolchildren with trumpets in a storybook netherworld. What followed was a striking reversal of roles in the typical pop music world; the senior vice president of marketing at Glass Tiger’s label, A&M, demanded a new cut of the video, one that “focused on the artistic integrity” of the band. Usually, that sort of fight for something edgier and realer is on the fearless artist’s behalf, not the corporate mucketymucks, but stranger things have happened.
George Harrison — “Got My Mind Set on You” (1987)
The popularly ordained Quiet One — who was, by all accounts, anything but — nonetheless had a rather disconnected 1980s, in which halfhearted albums like Gone Troppo broke his public silence mostly to satisfy his record contract. This is what made his commercial comeback Cloud Nine so thrilling, and it hung on his first No. 1 on the Hot 100 in years, a cover of Rudy Clark’s “Got My Mind Set on You.” And only appropriate for Harrison’s legendary wit, “Mind” was rolled out with not one, but two completely bonkers videos.
The first, starring Alexis Denisof of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, featured the actor in an amusement arcade trying to win a toy ballerina to woo a blonde who catches his eye — while Harrison, Jeff Lynne and his other pals play on inside a movie viewer. The second is even sillier, as Harrison strums a Telecaster in his study while a statue, chainsaw, taxidermied animals, an opening and closing book and other doodads become sentient and dance along. If you watch that all the way through and don’t get up and dance with them, then I don’t know what else I could show you to help you lighten up — you’re excused from this class.
Nirvana — “In Bloom” (1991)
The year is 1990, and a moderately successful college-rock act called Nirvana have recorded eight fuzzy, R.E.M.-style tunes for their sophomore album on Sub Pop Records — songs with titles like “Dive,” “Lithium” and “Breed.” They picked one of the bunch, “In Bloom,” to shoot a quick, scrappy video, with Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Chad Channing goofing off in Lower Manhattan.
Cut to two years later, Kurt and Krist are world-famous for a No. 1 album called Nevermind, Channing is now their Pete Best, and a slick, updated take on “In Bloom” has an updated video in which Cobain gets to indulge the ‘60s musical TV he grew up on like The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand. The boys are introduced in their best chunky-glasses innocence as “thoroughly all right and decent fellas” by the host before annihilating the instruments, cameras and set.
U2 — “One” (1991)
If you were to find a point in their work to divide U2’s long career into two halves, 1991’s “One” may be a decent fulcrum for the experiment. Recorded on the cusp of a breakup due to simmering tensions over the band’s direction, “One” paradoxically gave U2 a new lease on life, peaking at No. 10 on the Hot 100. And what better way to celebrate this ode to disunity with not one, not two, but three wildly disparate videos?
The first, a moody, noir-ish thing directed by Anton Corbijn and featuring abstracted shots of the band in drag, was pulled due to the band fearing public misunderstanding — the song was released as an AIDS benefit, and they feared that rather bold act would muddy the waters of the charitable point.
The second, directed by Mark Pellington, struck a far more benign note, with slow-motion imagery of buffalo and sunflowers. You can imagine how this went over like a lead balloon for such a bleeding-heart, big-statement band, and it was scrapped along with Corbijn’s idea.
The third became the keeper, a hyper-minimal single-shot video by Rattle and Hum director Phil Joanou of Bono sitting in a bar, smoking a cigarette. Allegedly, the rest of the band along with models and transvestites attended a party in the bar’s basement, waiting to be called to set, but never were. Good thing they didn’t get the role — this bare-bones result was deemed perfect for release.
Tori Amos — “Cornflake Girl” (1994)
While many of the other songs in this list may have been split into two different videos for arbitrary, compulsory reasons, “Cornflake Girl”’s video has separate American and British versions because of a clear decision by Amos. In a revealing explanation to NME, Amos described her aim as having “two different artistic expressions” for the tune, and both work splendidly in service of the song. In the U.S. version, Amos may be racing a truck full of women around a desert, more straightforwardly driving the point home about those who have your back and those who you keep an eye on. The black-and-white U.K. version, however, takes a more artsy and abstruse tone, best described as depicting “Dorothy going to Hell instead of Oz.”
Sheryl Crow — “A Change Would Do You Good” (1996)
Crow made headlines in the 2000s for relationships with Owen Wilson and Lance Armstrong (and an eccentric view of toilet paper that should keep you up at night), but her self-titled 1996 album was a commercial and critical knockout, producing hits like “If it Makes You Happy” and “A Change Would Do You Good” that hold up well today. The original video for “Change” kept it simple, featuring Crow singing on a black-and-white street corner while her doppelganger throws all her possessions out a nearby window. The second version of the video, directed by Michel Gondry, is a fiasco, a halfhearted parody of the show Bewitched featuring endless celebrity cameos and intrusive dialogue and sound effects. The critical jeers for this second version ultimately grew so loud that it was recut to let this great pop song finally breathe.
Madonna — “American Life” (2003)
A hurled Molotov cocktail at commercialism, the Bush Jr. administration and a vaguely sketched concept of “modern life,” Madonna’s “American Life” peaked respectably at #37 on the Hot 100 but was panned by critics, with Billboard’s Chuck Taylor calling it “more like a disjointed medley than a song.” The first draft of its video, which was never released publicly, lays it on thick with its camo-and-ammo imagery and the singer pulling a hand grenade with her teeth and lobbing it at Dubya. In an uncharacteristic flirtation with subtlety, Madge pulled the video before it dropped, saying “It was filmed before the war started and I do not believe it to be appropriate to air it at this time.” The result was an edited version, that simply placed a singing, rapping Madonna in front of a green screen with a continual screen-saver of international flags behind her. Ultimately, neither version seemed to recontextualize or improve the rather heavy-handed “American Life,” but you can’t say Madonna didn’t give it the old college try.