i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture and the times we live in.
Jamie xx, "Gosh"
The British producer isn't the first to enlist a peroxide-mopped army for a blockbuster music video. Eminem cleaned up at the 2000 MTV Music Video Awards with "The Real Slim Shady," which featured an army of bleached blonde clones in tall tees. (And before Marshall Mathers, Morrissey cycled around with his bespectacled look-alikes in The Smiths's "Stop Me" promo clip). But, as far as we know, Jamie is the first to turn 400 identically styled Chinese school children loose in the streets of Tianducheng — a city originally developed as a vacation destination, and modeled after Paris. In a behind the scenes documentary capturing the making of the Romain Gavras-directed video, we find a room full of schoolboys blow-drying each other's new 'dos before practicing the final scene in an empty ballroom. Gavras said he first got the idea to dye the boys' hair in a dream, and decided to do it because it'd look "fucking cool."
Missy Elliott, "Sock it 2 Me"
Any of Missy's videos could be included on this list, because all of them are iconic. Though the Virginia-born rap royalty has been making music professionally since the early 90s, her reputation as an unmatched visual maverick didn't really crystallize until the release of her debut solo record, Supa Dupa Fly (which celebrates its 20th anniversary this July). Each of her many video's concepts, costumes, choreography, and special effects are singularly imaginative. Hair honors go to "Sock it 2 Me," Supa Dupa Fly's second single. The song's intergalactic music video — helmed, naturally, by Hype Williams — is inspired by Mega Man, the robot hero of one of Nintendo's most beloved franchises. Though Da Brat features on the track, Missy is joined in the video by fellow hair icon Lil Kim. Missy and her dancers sport flame red wigs, while performing Michael Jackson choreography. It's a hue also rocked expertly by Twin Peaks's mysterious Lil the Dancer, as well as Grace Jones in the 80s flick Vamp. Honorable hair mention goes to Timbaland, who makes an appearance as a mad scientist with an electrified style also found in another of Lynch's films: Eraserhead.
Cinderella, "Nobody's Fool"
This list wouldn't be complete without mention of the hair metal movement of the 1980s. Not simply because these bands elevated hair to a musical genre, but because metal was on major rotation at then-fledgling network MTV. And sort of bizarrely, because most hair metal music videos look exactly the same. These pageants of triple fringe leather and glorious hair play out on expertly-lit stadium stages, and generally lack any sort of plot. Philly-based glam metal band Cinderella gets this shout out because its first two videos go above and beyond in the narrative department. "Shake Me" and "Nobody's Fool" follow a (what else) Cinderella story, except the ball is a metal concert, and the wicked stepsisters dress exclusively in polkadots. Bassist Eric Brittingham's hair is the best in my opinion. Teased on top but relentlessly flat-ironed on the bottom, it's a look David Bowie also pulled off in Labyrinth, and one scene kids would reinvent 20 years later.
When Grimes's "Oblivion" video debuted in 2012, I watched it on repeat for an hour and a half. The dream-like visual features cool as a cucumber Canadian Claire Boucher bouncing around football and motocross stadiums. It's a perfect visual representation of how uniquely infectious the cyborg-pop song is, and it seemed impossible to top. But, of course, she did, with "Genesis," a self-directed video Boucher herself has described as "Beyoncé meets Dune." It's inspired by The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, who Boucher has called "the Hype Williams of Renaissance painters"), anime, Britney Spears, and Quentin Tarantino. It features a positively hypnotizing performance by Brooke Candy, whose mean mug and knee-length cotton candy colored braids obviously steal the show. Boucher's own look is, as usual, not to be overlooked. Equal parts Lord of the Rings and Battle Royale with a dash of 2001 VMA Britney, Boucher had everyone spellbound with her silky pigtails and mace wielding abilities. A boy with a checkerboard buzzcut rounds out this other-worldly crew of modern day hair icons.
Ludacris, "Stand Up"
As a seventh grader who watched VH1 at all hours of the day, I have a long believed Ludacris to be a modern day surrealist master. The Lewis Carroll of rap visuals, his best music videos completely warp senses of proportion and perception. Objects are inexplicably oversized (in "Get Back," it's Luda's Hulk-esque fists). Settings shift rapidly between computer generated fantasylands and real-world scenarios (in "Splash Waterfalls," sequences cut between a football field and an airbrushed Game of Thrones-ish mountain city for some reason). "Stand Up" is one of Luda's best-known visuals, and it's on the same brainwave as Missy Elliott and Aphex Twin. If Luda's ability to summon a beer bottle using telekinetic powers, or shape-shift into a dancing baby do not make you a fan, his enormous afro certainly will. "Stand Up" often feels claustrophobic, thanks to shots of clubs, conveyor belts, and dimly lit nurseries. Fortunately, Luda's larger-than-life hairstyle gets the shine it deserves.
Text Emily Manning
Still via YouTube