When Music Meets Green Screens: A Chronology
  • TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2012

  • Posted by: Andrew Gruttadaro

You must have seen Rihanna perform on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. If you didn't, well it was... hmm. Well, it was definitely something. After Anne Hathaway's traditional introduction, viewers were surprised not to see Ri Ri in the middle of SNL's traditional train station stage. Instead she was in a green screen abyss, buried in 90s screen-saver imagery that even draped her band's t-shirts. It was a weird, maybe cool moment that blended karaoke-going and re-contextualized cheesy technology.

How did we get here, you ask? It's been a pretty long time coming, actually. Apparently, the wonders of green screen technology have always been appealing to musicians, for reasons we cannot fully deduce. Join us now, as we take you through the highlights from twenty years of green-screening.

February 2, 1981
Talking Heads - "Once in a Lifetime"

David Byrne, perhaps our first indie arthouse musician. Let us remind you that this was pretty remarkable at the time.

November, 1989
Technotronic - "Pump Up The Jam"

And with this video, the Nineties were born.

August 1990
Deee Lite - "Groove Is In The Heart"

Quite possibly the apex of green screen filmmaking.

June 1994
Soundgarden - "Black Hole Sun"

The green screen goes grunge.

David Hasselhoff - "Hooked On A Feeling"

Remember what I said about Deee Lite? Forget it. This is the apex of green screen filmmaking. Thank you, David.

June 23, 1998
Madonna - "Ray of Light"

Well, at least it inspired this, right? Now, let's fast-forward to...

July 2, 2009
Keith Urban - "Kiss a Girl"

Country finally gets in the mix.

August 8, 2009
Major Lazer - "Pon De Floor"

"Directed by Tim & Eric's own Eric Wareheim" is pretty much all you need to know for this video.

April 1, 2010
R. Kelly - "Echo"

Happy April Fools, world!

August 8, 2011
M.I.A. - "XXXO"

Annnnd we are now officially in the "Being Cheap as an Artistic Statement" era of green screen music videos.

July 18, 2011
Washed Out - "Eyes Be Closed"

"Green screens are so chill, man." - Ernest Greene of Washed Out

July 25, 2012
Hot Chip - "How Do You Do"

Based on this and their video for "Over and Over" five years earlier, we're assuming that Hot Chip absolutely adores green screens.

August 30, 2012
Chairlift - "I Belong In Your Arms (Japanese Version)"

Considering this whole song is sung in Japanese, I'm going out on a limb here and calling this video the most appropriate use of green screens ever.

November 10, 2012
Rihanna - "Diamonds"

Like we said, this is weird, but it also might be cool. Let us get back to you.

November 12, 2012
Azealia Banks - "Atlantis"

Nope, this one's just plain weird.


Whew, well that was quite the journey. It's entirely possible we missed your favorite one, tell us if we did!


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