Historically, the greatest music-video trope is a choreographed walk. More than a convenient way to get from one end of a sound stage to another while lip-synching, the sashay is a time-honored tradition from the art form’s earliest days.
Give me a video with someone just strutting the shit out of their stuff and I’m in heaven. Case in point, Lady Gaga’s simple clip for “The Edge of Glory”:
She’s in vintage Versace, catwalking down an empty street. What else do I need? Nothing. Except of course these 10 iconic sonic saunters:
10. The Spice Girls in “Say You’ll Be There”
Ah, the girl-group tandem walk. It’s a thing of beauty, no? And the Girls of Spice perfected it early on. Meanwhile, to this day, Victoria “Don’t Call Me Posh Spice” Beckham’s catsuit is still snatching everything.
9. Rihanna in “What’s My Name?”
You know when you just want to flit about town with a bow in your hair and not a care in the world? Of course you do and so does RiRi. Because RiRi’s just like you. Except a lot more ratchet with a lot more money.
8. Lady Gaga in “Bad Romance”
Leave it to Gaga to dedicate an entire bridge to walking, which she then gingerly strode across in Alexander McQueen’s infamous armadillo heels.
7. En Vogue in “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It)”
With more legs than a KFC franchise, En Vogue sounded the Bad Bitch Alarm and all other girl groups went cowering in fear. And can you blame them? Few can match En Vogue for class, sass and vocal prowess — all while serving a little Fosse realness. And now it’s time for a breakdown. Take it Liza!
Now Fosse that walk!
6. Michael Jackson in “Black or White”
Always one for subtlety, MJ set off an explosion, cranked up the wind machine to 11 and released the doves for this epic breakdown. Before his own epic breakdown, otherwise known as the 1990s.
5. Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell in “Freedom! ’90”
Supermodels make their bread on their pins so it makes perfect sense that the ultimate supermodel video should be represented on this very important list. Props to Christy for vamping in a bed sheet meanwhile Naomi’s walk is so Sasha Fierce Beyoncé made a dance out of it:
4. Wilson Phillips in “Hold On”
Who knew three easy listening white girls from L.A. could turn it out and turn in the greatest girl group tandem walk of all time? But someday somebody’s gonna make you wanna turn it out as proven years later by Willam, Detox and Vicki Vox:
3. Beyoncé in “Crazy in Love”
If anyone’s built a career on a sickening sashay, it’s Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. And with “Crazy in Love” she walked away with the game in her Daisy Dukes. Gabriel sounded the trumpets, the walls fell and out from the rubble stomped Bey. In a sensible heel.
2. Janet Jackson in everything
The queen of music video walking, it’s too hard to pinpoint just one of Janet’s iconic strolls. From the petulant promenade of her youthful Control days to the slinky slithering following her sexual liberation, Ms. Jackson’s hips have been shouldering the responsibility of music video ferocity for nearly 30 years.
1. Michael Jackson in “Billie Jean”
If Janet’s the queen, Michael’s the king. And that’s why he not only appears twice on this list — with two different faces at that— but also at the top spot. Because we’d have no synchronized walking without MJ initially lighting the way in 1982. It’s called being a pioneer.
And there we have it, kids. A history of music video walking. And you thought you wouldn’t learn anything today. Now put in those earphones, get on that sidewalk and treat it like the runway you know it is. And treat everyone else like the fashion roadkill you know they are.
UPDATE: It was recently brought to my attention that I neglected to include Tina Turner on this list, whose stutter step in “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” was one of the best things to come out of the ’80s. So in light of this egregious slight, here’s our private dancer:
Clearly, we know where RiRi got it from.