Dream On: The Top Ten Music Videos That Take Place In Dreams


Ever since the dawn of the eighties when the music video revolution took place, musicians and directors alike have used the medium to unleash ideas and visions that often start bubbling up from the subconscious. When you think about it, this strategy makes perfect sense; since songs rarely have linear plots and generally only run 3-4 minutes in length, it’s can be a challenge to cram an entire “traditional” story into a music video. So videos tend to work best when they use music and imagery to create a mood that’s dreamlike in nature, rather than telling a story that starts at point A and definitively ends at point B.

Despite the fact that a lot of videos rely on dreamlike imagery, very few, in fact, actually literally take place in dreams themselves. However, after taking in Bon Iver‘s lush video for “Calgary” yesterday, we found ourselves really wanting to explore what other videos also took place in dreams. We admittedly fell down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole, in a good way, and we wanted to share our results with you. So, without further ado, here is our list of the Top Ten Music Videos That Take Place In Dreams.

10) The Chemical Brothers, “Let Forever Be”
A woman finds weird reflections of herself as she goes about her day, because it turns out she’s having that dream where she goes about her day—you know, the one where you try to trick your brain into thinking you’re already up. This video visualizes the brain’s process of figuring itself out. Also there are nods to Busby Berkeley. (NM)

9) Gorillaz, “Dare”
A dream within a dream: fictional Gorillaz bassist Murdoc dreams he’s in bed with Shaun Ryder (of the Happy Mondays), who is dreaming that his own disembodied head is singing “Dare” in Gorillaz guitarist Noodle’s closet. Phew! The video also contains references to a number of horror movies, both classic and modern. (NM)

8) The Cure, “Lullaby”
Robert Smith trapped in bed, Robert Smith as a spider, Robert Smith eaten by a spider, and a handful of rack focus shots through spiderwebs for good measure add up to a classic dream-video and a great song—but a pretty terrible lullaby. (NM)

7) Madonna, “Like A Prayer”
Life is a mystery, and so was this controversial video. When it debuted in 1989, it cost Madge her role as a Pepsi spokesperson, but it solidified her position as the decade’s most outrageous button pusher. While it’s impossible to say whether or not the scene where Madonna frenched Black Jesus was a dream or hallucination, either way, it gave the Religious Right nightmares for months. (MDG)

6) Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Bonnie Tyler plays a female headmaster at an all-boys’ school who dreams of wandering the halls of the school and coming upon the boys as swimmers, ninjas, fencers, angels, and creepy glowing-eyed altar boys. Or else she plays someone who hated A Separate Peace as much as we did, and then had a nightmare about it. (NM)

5) David Lee Roth, “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”
Nobody really ever mentions David Lee Roth’s video output from his Crazy From The Heat/Eat ‘Em And Smile era when discussions of musicians who made the best music videos are bandied about, but this 1985 gem contains one of the sillier and more entertaining dream sequences in video history. This video casts Diamond Dave as a sleep-challenged VJ on “Dave TV,” who falls asleep during a shift and dreams of becoming someone who, instead of serving up televised intros to videos from the biggest stars of the era (Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, et al), actually APPEARS alongside them in their iconic work. At press time, we are unable to confirm whether or not this video treatment came direct from an Alan Hunter fever dream. (MDG)

4) Genesis, “Land Of Confusion”
One of the more highly satirical and overtly political videos of the mid-eighties, “Land Of Confusion” all takes place in a Cold War dreamscape imagined by a senile Ronald Reagan. The grotesque puppets from the British television series Spitting Image are fairly nightmarish in nature, but not more so than the video’s conclusion, which has Reagan starting a nuclear war. (MDG)

3) Metallica, “Enter Sandman”
Metallica performs in a boy’s dream in the clip that catapulted them to stardom. The video’s old, bald title character doesn’t seem all that threatening until the kid protagonist’s prayers prove powerless against nightmares of running, falling, drowning, strobe lights, dropped frames, and extreme close-ups of Kirk Hammett. (NM)

2) Fatboy Slim, “Weapon Of Choice”
Spike Jonze directed a number of high concept videos during his late nineties heyday (conveniently collected in the DVD entitled Director’s Series, Vol. 1 – The Work of Director Spike Jonze), but for our money, “Weapon of Choice” was his best work. In it, an aging travelling salesman type (played by Christopher Walken) nods off in a hotel lobby and imagines himself as a cross between Gene Kelly and Willy Loman. Viewers aren’t entirely sure that Walken’s character is dreaming until the climactic moment in the video where, after a hilarious and poignant dance number, he suddenly levitates and proceeds to fly right out of the frame. Did he die, or is he still napping? Jonze leaves that up to you to decide. (MDG)

1) Foo Fighters, “Everlong”
The video for Foo Fighters‘s “Everlong” is maybe the quintessential dream-video. Guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel play thugs who invade the home of a happy couple (played by Dave Grohl and by drummer Taylor Hawkins in drag)—by invading their dreams. Grohl’s character must eventually enter his girlfriend’s dream to rescue her. This video is also sort of a dry run for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Director Michel Gondry (also responsible for “Let Forever Be,” above) takes credit for the decision to put a Foo Fighter in drag in the liner notes to his music video compilation The Work of Director Michel Gondry. (NM)
(Additional reporting by Nick Minichino.)

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