Music video production can be a huge undertaking, especially regarding financial costs. Yet it’s difficult to place a true monetary value on artists’ output. From Michael Jackson showing us what a high budget music video looks like to spend over $7 million on a project, these investments have been instrumental in helping musicians recoup their funding.
Now and again, the right combination of resources lands us with a masterpiece. The excitement of such endeavors helps keep the flame of MJ’s legacy alive.
Now, let’s delve into the costly world of music video production by exploring ten of the most exorbitantly expensive productions to ever hit the television screen.
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1. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now — Céline Dion
Canada honored us with several successful Canadian singers and amazing Canadian actors, so we started the list with Céline Dion’s video. The clip was recorded in a palace in Prague, Czech Republic. Céline Dion’s It’s All Coming Back to Me Now cost an average of $2.3 million to record. The Canadian singer has always had an impact Remembering that compared to the values of the time, this is a lot.
Directed by Nigel Dick, the clip was released in 1996 and shows Céline Dion being haunted by the image of her lover. The full version is almost 8 minutes long.
2. Die Another Day, Madonna
With the release of “Die Another Day”, Madonna’s iconic Bond theme song, the James Bond franchise embarked on a new chapter. As films such as The Bourne Identity and 24 offered a fresh, edgier spin on the spy thriller genre, the song struggled to make an impression with its hokey humor, outdated references and incomprehensible action sequences. Labeled as one of the most expensive music videos of all time, it was clear that something needed to change for the franchise to remain relevant.
3. Heartbreaker, Mariah Carey
In 1999, Mariah Carey’s visually-stunning “Heartbreaker” music video was created with the help of renowned director Brett Ratner at a total expense of $2.5 million. From Jerry O’Connell’s talent fee to hiring locations for filming the video, such as a theater and a mansion, to animation, no expense was spared in creating this spectacular masterpiece which embellished Mariah’s time in the spotlight.
4. Too Legit To Quit, MC Hammer
MC Hammer certainly made a statement with his 1991 music clip “2 Legit 2 Quit”. It was nothing short of a mini-movie; it spotlighted Michael Jackson’s legendary glove and featured Tony Danza, Jim Belushi and James Brown, amongst other stars. An impressive feat of art which, at the time, was estimated to have cost a staggering $2.5 million – but adjusted for inflation would be around $5 million today.
5. Victory, Puff Daddy
In 1993, three of the biggest names in rap- Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G., and Busta Rhymes- united for the now-iconic music video “Victory,” helmed by Marcus Nispel. The financial backing for this blockbuster production? A whopping $2.7 million. The 8-minute music video was only the tip of the iceberg – the budget included appearances from famous thespians Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito, extensive usage of helicopters and pyrotechnics, stuntmen’s wages, and intricate special effects.
6. Black or White, Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” challenged current stances on racism head-on. The music video immediately drew the attention of people worldwide, making MJ an emblem of the battle against racism. The extravagant video, said to have cost $4 million, featured some of the industry’s leading figures at the time alongside dazzling CGI effects and a spectacular transformation into a black panther.
7. Cartoon Heroes, Aqua
Aqua’s music video for “Cartoon Heroes” is shrouded in mystery. For their world-famous single, “Barbie Girl,” the group splurged over $3 million to create the lavish video, equating to $5.6 million in today’s dollars. Across four minutes and nineteen seconds, a singular-eyed sea beast appears to be intent on ruling the world. But the pricey production secrets remain a closely guarded secret, despite the evident use of green screens and customized sets.
8. Bedtime Story, Madonna
In 1995, Madonna embarked with the iconic “Bedtime Story”, a visually captivating one. An equivalent of $9 million today was allocated to production directed by Mark Romanek, with the compelling aim of depicting the song’s bewitching hook, “Let’s get unconscious,” through surrealistic imagery. Six days of non-stop filming, plus intensive post-production editing to perfect its digital effects, were invested in the video.
9. Express Yourself, Madonna
Madonna’s “Express Yourself” visual received unparalleled budgeting – totalling an extraordinary $5 million (equal to about $11 million in current terms), making it her most expensively produced video. The rich and powerful visuals were directed by celebrated filmmaker David Fincher and inspired by the world of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis,’ a powerful dystopian film.
Madonna had creative authority over every stage of the video’s production – from the arrangement of sets to costumes, makeup, hair styling, and cinematography. She articulated her role and objectives for the production herself.
10. Scream, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
The iconic 1995 music video “Scream” by Michael Jackson featuring Janet Jackson – continues to hold the title of the most costly music project. Directed by renowned helmer Mark Romanek, the video required a budget that ballooned to $7 million. This monumental sum included the production of a computer-generated white spaceship, special effects, and a detailed lighting setup. Adjusted for inflation, this total would stretch up to $10.5 million in today’s economy.