The late ’80s and early ’90s marked a shift in how electronic music was perceived worldwide: the neon lights, all-night dancing, big-room sound, and utterly over-the-top nature of “rave” became a cultural phenomenon, much like the term itself suggested. And when acid house, breakbeat hardcore, and hip-hop-inspired British R&B all merged to help push the movement forward, they spawned deep jams and some of the finest, of-their-time videos to ever make their way onto film.
Now, some 20 years later, contemporary electronic music still finds its roots in ’90s dance sounds, and so do a lot of current videos making their way around the internet. El Perro Del Mar’s latest single, “Walk On By,” borrows so heavily from ’90s UK R&B that it hurts, and Tensnake’s brand-new “Mainline” seems so plucked from the Clinton era that it might as well feature Crystal Waters on vocals. So without further ado, here are our 10 favorite videos from the last couple years that nod in the direction dance music’s past.
10. Rye Rye – “Boom Boom”
An eccentric take on ’90s videogames infused with literal references to the decade’s pop phenomenon, Maryland-born party rapper Rye Rye’s video for “Boom Boom” combines gamer visuals with her signature over-the-top choreography. The track’s catchy chorus comes courtesy of ’90s Eurodance mega-group The Vengaboys, coated with Rye Rye’s incomparable attitude and hip-hop edge. Battling it out in an exaggerated ’90s setting, Rye Rye takes on the various hunks in dance-off wars aided by familiar psychedelic graphics and green-screen effects.
9. Scissor Sisters – “Let’s Have a Kiki”
Fresh from the pop-electro group’s fourth album, Magic Hour, the video for Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s Have a Kiki” is a play on ’90s instructional dance videos, and the track subsequently became a mega-hit in the gay community, with its anthem-like vocals and pop-house sensibility. Directed and produced by Long Beach cinematographer Vern Moen, the video’s ostentatious graphics, flamboyant styling (made complete by matching zebra-stripe-outfitted backup dancers) and exaggerated acting from frontwoman Ana Matronic, are a precise match to the track’s pumped-up vocals and electro-house flair.
8. The Miracles Club – “Church Song”
Portland-based house revivalists The Miracles Club offer an exaggerated take on ’90s dance music with their energetic house track “Church Song,” and it’s paired with an over-the-top video that spoofs regional TV dance programs. The video for “Church Song” plays off the lively, bouncing beats of the track itself, as the high-energy dancers with inflated smiles move through on-point dance moves, smiley-faced balloons, and metallic fringe—a firm nod to the ’90s. If that doesn’t convince you, then at least watch it for the dancing goat.
7. Kim Ann Foxman – “Return It”
Former Hercules & Love Affair vocalist Kim Ann Foxman continues to deliver her signature house beats layered with punchy femme vocals on her latest single, “Return It”, which came out earlier this month. Offering up the same feel-good vibes as her other hypnotically catchy tracks, “Return It” comes full-force with a Jonathan Turner- and Silvia Prada-directed video that incorporates astutely ’90s styling. Perfectly at home among the shirtless crewcut boys of a C+C Music Factory video, Foxman’s unmistakable presence thrives in the unabashedly simple aesthetic and spirit that ’90s videos revelled in—call this one a modern-day version of Jesus Loves You’s “After the Love”.
6. El Perro Del Mar – “Walk On By”
Swedish indie electro-pop singer Sarah Assbring, better known by her stage name El Perro Del Mar, takes ’90s inspiration to new heights with the video for her new single “Walk On By,” directed by Scandinavian duo Frode & Marcus. Despite a heavy pop tinge, the track makes use of strong old-school house overtones, interrupted only by lyrical references to Massive Attack’s 1991 hit “Unfinished Sympathy” and Dorian Corey’s famous “Paris Is Burning” speech—but it’s the video’s gritty visuals that enforce the ’90s dance music codes. Abstract green-screening motifs, bright colors, and highly saturated designs float in the background, articulating all the so-bad-it’s-good qualities of vintage ’90s shopping-mall karaoke music videos.
5. DJ Haus – “Needin U”
DJ Haus’ “Needin’ U” is a textural house track that he describes as “classic slice of UK hardcore,” with pushing percussive elements and archetypal ’90s synth leads, along with broken-record vocals that melt into the track. Likewise, the Crackstevens-directed video (which has been compared to Justice’s infamous “D.A.N.C.E.” clip from 2007), released in March, plays on the familiar, with nostalgic ’90s rave clips projected onto the shirt of an unsuspecting, sequined-jacket wearing individual.
4. Azari & III – “Reckless (With Your Love)”
Toronto duo Azari & III’s 2009 single “Reckless (With Your Love)” is full of ’90s flavor, taking cues from Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam” with neon marquees and all sorts of green-screen style shots that make for a charming throwback/tribute to ’80s and ’90s house.
3. Tensnake featuring Syron – “Mainline”
Also heavily influenced by the sounds and styling of C+C Music Factory and British house producer D-Mob, Germany’s Tensnake pairs up with 19-year-old London-based singer Syron to go back to the so-called “glory days” of house music. Syron’s upbeat vocals are matched by the energetic retro-inspired basslines, articulated in the black-and-white video that features prototypical ’90s dance moves (a firm nod to D-Mob and Cathy Dennis’ “C’Mon and
Get My Love”) and the then-ubiquitous powder fight, layered over with geometric shapes, projecting that unmistakable ’90s feel. Produced by PONDR, the video retains a “back to basics” edge that embraces the less-is-more technology of the 1990s.
2. Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
UK-based singer Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) gets ’90s-nostalgic in his video for “Champagne Coast,” directed by New York’s Haley Wollens, in which a teenage girl dancing alone in her bedroom, which is constructed of flattened, lo-res 2D backgrounds—with looks provided by the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Eckhaus to complete the overall effect. Said to have been inspired by Barbie’s Dreamhouse, the tie-dyed sheets, lava lamps, and flamboyant outfits in “Champagne Coast” cultivate a resolutely ’90s appeal, interrupted by almost-subliminal visions of Hynes himself.
1. Hercules & Love Affair – “My House”
Taking a more literal approach to the ’90s influence, the video for New Yorkers Hercules & Love Affair’s “My House” recreates a dance party-style TV show, which references Detroit’s The New Dance Show, right down to the neon cursive lettering. Replete with gimmicky commercial breaks, screen wipes, and classic dance moves, this Price James-directed video is a perfect (and convincing) fit for the track’s acid basslines and sultry vocals.
Any other favorites out there that we missed? Let us hear about them in the comments below