Look, we all know you’ve said it. Everyone says it at some point. It’s reflexive, like shuddering at the sight of Mark Wahlberg in an action movie. So don’t try to deny that the words “MTV doesn’t even play videos anymore” ever crossed your lips. We’re all trite in our darkest hours.
But did you ever stop and think of why that’s a problem? If you said “Because Kennedy doesn’t get to be on TV anymore,” we can absolutely hang out. But beyond even the dearth of grunge-loving librarian ladies gracing the flat-screen, it’s that now there just aren’t as many chances for a surprise Vegas sighting in the backdrop of today’s pop standards.
Lucky for you, we’ve pulled together a list of our favorite Vegas-in-videos moments, with the following caveats in mind:
- No hometown heroes. Sorry, Killers, Panic at the Disco and, to a lesser extent, Slaughter. It’s too easy.
- Nothing with “Vegas” in the title. As much as we’d love to wax rhapsodic about Katy Perry’s various corsets, of course “Waking Up in Vegas” gets a Vegas video.
- No club music. Yes, we all know LMFAO recorded at Tao Beach. Where else were they supposed to go? Minneapolis?
- No U2. Shut up, Bono.
In honor of the pyramid-filmed Will Smith gold-standard “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” which seems like it deserves to go into some kind of Hall of Fame for this sort of thing, we’re ranking these seven for their music-to-video-to-Vegasness ratios on a scale of one-to-five Luxors.
7. Iggy Azalea, “Change Your Life”
Everybody’s favorite-ish lady Aussie rapper checks in with a fairly typical strippers-in-Vegas entry. T.I. is your pimp/club owner du jour who introduces Iggy to the life. Things take a turn, she torches his car and a briefcase full of cash, and gets arrested at the Plaza. There are some exterior shots of Cheetah’s—but what in the hell is the Stardust doing there? The song only dates to 2013, five years after the ‘Dust hit the dirt. It’s a strange joint to digitally insert into the video. Unless…is she a time traveler? She might be a time traveler. If so, thanks for not assassinating Hitler. Jerk.
6. Robert Plant “Big Log”
Let’s just get this right out there: “Big Log” is a horrendous—dare we say shitty—name for a song. There. Can we all continue now? Great. What? You’d like to make more poop jokes? Take your time. We good? Fantastic. In this vid, a haggard, ’80sed-up Robert Plant takes a dip in the swimmin’ hole at the Glass Pool Inn. The moody track might be somewhere between third-tier Pink Floyd jam and Presence-era Zep, but the video is pure desert dreamscape. Still, points off for that terrible, terrible name.
5. Avenged Sevenfold “Bat Country”
OK, fine. We’ll cop to kind of liking this song despite the fact that it’s a collection of old Testament riffs and freshmen-level philosophizing. Hunter S. Thompson fetishization is going to play a big role in any song called “Bat Country,” but the video leans heavily on a literal interpretation of the good doctor’s chemically aided Nevada-bound freakouts. Still, in between stock shots of a hooker-fueled room party, there’s some good stuff here at the Neon Museum and on Fremont Street, particularly around the Girls of Glitter Gulch. Bonus points for an oddly placed Rodney Dangerfield lookalike.
4. The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize”
If you want to see Fremont Street high weirdness done right, the Flaming Lips are the Wes Anderson answer to Avenged Sevenfold’s Jerry Bruckheimer. Lead singer Wayne Coyne wanders under the canopy, flanked by four Vestal virgins-by-way-of-the-’60s and two dudes in rabbit suits. It is legitimately sad when Coyne sings, “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” as an elephant flops over in front of the Pioneer. But mostly because you’re worried that the elephant might have a hard time standing back up. Poor elephant. They should’ve had a monkey riding it. That would’ve cheered us up.
3. Nas “Street Dreams”
Nas went all out in this jam, tapping video master Hype Williams to loosely ape the plot of Casino—down to the Saul Bass opening credits. For extra Scorseseness, Frank Vincent checks in as the Nicky Santoro stand-in heavy. You get some brief glimpses of the Strip in its mid-’90s glory, including a long pan over a relatively new Treasure Island.
2. Monster Magnet “Space Lord”
Iggy Azalea was right about one thing: The Plaza’s exterior looks great on film. We have no idea how it’s supposed to fit together with Monster Magnet’s paean to Marvel Comics’ planet-eating space-baddie Galactus, but however it does, it just works. The first 90 seconds of the song are a shadowy, claustrophobic close-up on the band until the song blasts into gear, the curtain drops and lycra-wearing video hoochies rock the fuck out in front of the Plaza’s gloriously lit valet. The band gets to play up tight against a trove of iconic signs, and singer Dave Wyndorf’s lightbulb suit is icing made of awesome on this kickass cake.
1. Beastie Boys “Sure Shot”
Question: Does your video have Ad-Rock doing karate in a tuxedo in front of the Las Vegas Hilton? No? Then you do not have the greatest Vegas video. End of story. Another video auteur, Spike Jonze, checks in here. It’s not his strongest effort, but the subset of Beasties videos where they’re just messing around with the camera are wildly underrated fun. (See also, “Shake Your Rump.”) This vid might not capture the raw bombast of “Space Lord” or rise to the ambition of “Street Dreams,” but there’s a secret-mission vibe to the boys’ scenes in the Hilton that hints at plenty underneath the surface. Are their characters from the “Sabotage” video undercover in Vegas? Can you prove they’re not? Plus, the song is one of the stone-cold jams to end all stone-cold jams, and this is a thing that cannot be ignored.