The well of music video ideas is somewhat limited, and three decades after the advent of MTV, it’s interesting to see the themes that have recurred again and again over the years. One of the more enduring conceits, curiously enough, has been the workout video, either rendered in parodic style or played completely straight. We’re not entirely sure why this is — perhaps because, stereotypically, musicians aren’t generally the ones who enjoy gym class, or perhaps the curiously sexualized imagery of the fitness video provides rich material for satire and also for commentary on our society. In any case, the arrival of the latest addition to the genre — Dan Deacon’s “Crash Jam” — has gotten us thinking about gym-centric videos past and present.
Dan Deacon — “Crash Jam”
As we noted yesterday when this video arrived in our inbox, watching it kinda gives us a headache. We’re not saying we don’t like it — the frenetic imagery is a good fit for the similarly frenzied music that it accompanies, and the whole idea of a Dan Deacon exercise video is kind of amazing. But it still gives us a headache.
Kanye West — “The New Workout Plan”
In which West, who’s never seen an obvious concept he didn’t like, extends the central “workout”/”work it out” conceit of this song to its video, casting himself as a personal trainer dispensing instructions to women who want to score “a rapper/ An NBA star/ Or at least a dude with a car.” Also, lest we ever forget what a dreadful lyricist West is, let’s pause and meditate for a moment on the inanity of the lines, “It’s been a week without me/ And she feel weak without me,” shall we?
Moon Duo — “Sleepwalker”
Revelation: King Khan (for it is he) was born to play a mystical workout guru.
Goldfrapp — “Alive”
Until this video debuted a couple of years back, the black metal vampire exercise video was a concept largely unexplored in popular culture. Afterwards… well, OK, it’s still a concept largely unexplored in popular culture, but this video is ace, even if the song isn’t a patch on Goldfrapp’s former glories.
Mansun — “Being a Girl”
As the title might suggest, this song is all about struggling with conventional notions of masculinity, and so too is the video, contrasting the “being a girl” chorus with hyper-masculine imagery of boxing, endless crunches, and lots of towel-flicking in the changing room. We’ll say it again: gyms really, truly are the worst places in the entire fucking universe.
Broken Social Scene — “Fire-Eye’d Boy”
It’s funny enough to see the bearded and mustachioed members of BSS suit up in retro ’70s gym garb and be put through the paces — exercise bikes, running, push-ups… facials — in some kind of demented band boot camp. But when it turns out to be none other than Rush’s Geddy Lee who ends up judging them? Hey, we’d train for that.
OK Go — “Here It Goes Again”
Hey, wow, this whole synchronized-dancing-on-treadmills idea is pretty cool! I wonder why it hasn’t had much success on YouTube…
Washed Out — “Belong”
We do hesitate to use the “h” word here at Flavorwire, but… well, there’s something distinctly Williamsburg-esque about this take on the idea of the workout video, perhaps because the models on show look like they’ve walked directly out of an American Apparel catalog.
Bon Iver’s fitness video
Of all the artists we’d expect to take the workout video concept to its logical conclusion and actually release a full-blown workout video… well, Bon Iver wouldn’t be at the top of the list, put it that way. But nevertheless, Justin Vernon did indeed do this very thing a couple of years back, much to the amusement of the the entire internet.
Olivia Newton-John — “Physical”