Noir, Pulp or 'Gatsby' Era Inspired Music Videos

Lisa Tate

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From modern alternative to 80s retro, the music video format often strives to become little cinematic masterpieces, regardless or not of whether the video actually follows the song lyrics.

Plus, people love a good, sometimes shady, sometimes mysterious tale in the noir, mystery, crime fiction, or pulp genres. Since we took a look at some noir-inspired comics last week for Noirvember, let's head in a musical direction down those dimly lit streets.

Now, a guy in a trenchcoat running around, doesn’t necessarily make the video noir, so don’t expect to see Hall and Oates’s “Private Eyes” on this list. Instead, here are a few videos whose use of storytelling, cinematography or lighting, pays a worthy tribute to some noir, and other early cinema eras.

“Heart of Glass” Vintage ‘40s Old Hollywood Style by Postmodern Jukebox

The easiest place to start when you want some vintage style videos is to check out Scott Bradlee’s talented cast-of-thousands, Post Modern Jukebox. In their cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” vocalist Addie Hamilton transforms into a circa 1940s bombshell blonde.

“You Rock My World” by Michael Jackson

From “Billie Jean” to “Smooth Criminal,” Michael Jackson’s videos often gave a little shout out to that seedy noir and gangster style. In this 2001 video, he includes some cop and gangster movie favorites like actors Chris Tucker, Michael Madsen, and Marlon Brando in one of his last film appearances. Whatever you think of Michael Jackson's personal weirdness, this was a pretty cool video:

“Nicotine” by Panic at The Disco

Panic at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie is one of popular music’s biggest drama queens in terms of his video performances, and that is part of the band's appeal. From lounge jazz looks to steampunk, he’s tried it all, so naturally he had to venture into a little dramatic noir-type black-and-white drama…with penguins for some reason.

“Only The Lonely” by The Motels

You can tell from the cover of albums like Little Robbers, The Motels loved the noir and crime genres. Even though their sound and videos were undoubtedly 80s, it’s hard to overlook the influence of the smokey bars and gratuitous ceiling fans.

The Motels weren’t the only female-led bands who dabbled in time traveling styles. Two other videos from the 80s that borrowed from this style include "Voices Carry" by Til Tuesday and "Love is a Stranger" by The Eurythmics.

"Machine Gun Blues" by Social Distortion

One may argue this is more prohibition era gangster style of the 1920s and 30s, but the era certainly helped to usher in the darker noir look. It's also probably by far the best video punk band Social Distortion ever released:

“My Love For Evermore” by The Hillbilly Moon Explosion

This one is definitely more pulp than noir, but if you want some good, dimestore paperback tales of murder most foul, check out this seedy, gritty modern rockabilly performance:

“Mr. Pinstripe Suit” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

The early 2000s swing era may have annoyed some people, but it was lively, fun, and got them young’uns dollin’ up again to go out on a Saturday night. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was often more wacky than noir, but this hard-to-find video let them get a little dark and naughty.

For those who want some good soundtracks for your noir reading, there are whole genres of music out there for the noir lover, including “Jazz Noir” and “Tech Noir” music all over YouTube.

And, since I’m planning on taking a look at some great noir-inspired video games next week, I’ll leave you with some sounds from the game L.A. Noire:

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