Literal Music Videos: The Big Bang Theory For Music Nerds

A couple of years ago, a video went viral that changed my life in a glorious way:  Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Literal Version.

Total Eclipse Of The Heart is already one of my favourite songs of the 80s, but this video took it to a new world, where all of the things that baffle music aficionados about music videos are challenged, mocked and parodied, to the point where I was holding my aching sides at the end.  In watching it repeatedly on YouTube, I then discovered this wasn’t a one-off:  it was a piece of a delicious puzzle of creative minds sporking the entire industry, video by video.  I clicked link after link, bookmarking favourites, replaying them over and over, and even writing them intentionally into a story online, so as to encourage others to partake.

Like Weird Al Yankovic, these comedic masters forever altered my perceptions of certain songs.  I can no longer hear Gangsta’s Paradise without singing the lyrics to Amish Paradise; now, I can no longer sing Safety Dance without gleefully declaring, “Look at that!  Holy crap!  Definitely LSD!”  Enrique Iglesias has become an excuse to warble about bitch-slapping Mickey Rourke.

Literal Music Videos are love.  Just as The Big Bang Theory celebrates cerebral humour, these videos celebrate the oddities, absurdities and whacked-out visuals that have earned many a Moon Man statue. The concept is simple enough:  the lyrics of the song are changed, so that the artist sings about what’s happening on screen.  Seeing the potential for fun, yet?

Here is a selection of my favourites, for your viewing pleasure.  Copyright issues are frequently a problem these days on YouTube, so if something isn’t visible in your country, try Funny or Die, where a lot of Literal fans have taken their material to safety.

Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler

My first literal video, and pure brilliance.  One of the very best.  Dusto McNeato may have created the meme, but I really feel dascottjr is a master of the artform, and you’ll be seeing a lot of his work here. “I walk onto a terrace where I think I’m alone/But Arthur Fonzarelli’s got an army of clones!”  I love all of the pop culture references in this one that move beyond the actual video.  And how can you NOT laugh at, “What the effing crap?  That angel guy just felt me up!”

Take On Me – A-ha

The first EVER Literal Music Video, and still one of the funniest!  My fiance and I randomly chant, “Pipe wrench fight!” in our lives now, thanks to Dusto McNeato’s genius.  His mimicry of the original artist is INSANELY good.  The entire pipe wrench verse is just epic.  “Band montage!”

One Week – Barenaked Ladies

Another dascottjr video, and my beloved Cancon content!  Heidi Montag references, exploding crotches, and mocking camera effects…. Just SO wonderful and as ridiculous as the original lyrics, perfectly rapid-fire delivered!  “Zip up your boobs, they’re distracting me!”

Hero – Enrique Iglesias

This one is just…. Gah!  I hate Enrique, so to watch this video shredded mercilessly is heavenly.  “How do the keys to Chopsticks go?” poor Enrique whines, as he informs us of his chin fetish.  The pinnacle though is the final stretch, “I just bitch-slapped Mickey Rourke, but it only pissed him off.  I guess I could have planned that better.  Please don’t beat me with that lead pipe…”

Love Is A Battlefield – Pat Benatar

“Point and yell!  Walk backwards as I rebel!”  Another of dascottjr’s genius creations.  The sequence in the club with the choreographer is why you MUST see this one…  That and the references to “skank ho”.

Head Over Heels – Tears For Fears

This video was MADE for this meme, and Dusto takes it to task.  He somehow manages to keep the awkward love confession vibe of the original song between references to flying, monkeys and rabbis.  “Do you like my mullet?  Business in front, party in back!”

I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meatloaf

This one is special; it has little in-jokes to others who’ve created literal videos and also, this video is just so terrible and nonsensical, it’s full of cannon fodder.  “My mattress is made of gypsy sluts!  Craftmatic charged me extra for that!”  And it just keeps getting better….

Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

I waver, since I love so many videos, but this one is probably my favourite, which is remarkable as it’s by neither Dusto nor dascottjr.  This video, like the previous one, is just rich with absurd visuals that have no connection to the original song.  The lyrics jab at the director, and the singer’s dancing, among other things.  My former coworkers embraced this one so completely, we sang it while walking around after work on more than one occasion.

Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran

This one is not only funny, it’s delivered live in front of an audience, which means it deserves extra kudos.  I can’t imagine singing these lyrics with a straight face in front of anyone, even my cats.  “That’s just how we white men roll!”  The “bars of panting” is a brilliant touch.

Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley

“Karaoke all alone!  Frank Sinatra’s microphone!”  Confession:  I loved Rick Astley when he came out, still own several of his albums, and am not ashamed.  The Rick Roll phenomenon is well-known, but this is even better because let’s face it: it’s such a bad video!  Ninja bartender awaits you!

With Arms Wide Open – Creed

Had to leave YouTube for this one.  Is Scott Stapp mad that someone pwned his song and made it better?  In any case, I fucking love this one.  It references The Lion King, Armageddon, and mocks random set objects, never mind Scott’s posturing and Jesus complex.  Worth the click over, I promise!

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

Watch on Funny or Die

Serious props for this one:  the rapid-fire lyrical delivery really doesn’t help when trying to capture a strange plethora of visuals, but it’s pulled off in genius fashion.  One of my favourite songs, and fast becoming one of my favourite literal videos.

Loser – Beck

Watch on Funny or Die

Legendary, in that the original artist enjoyed it and shared it on his website!  Thank you, Beck, for being so fucking cool.  The delivery is so bang-on, it’s no surprise that the infamous Dusto McNeato gave us this one.  One of my newest finds, and truly immortal.


Enjoy!  And if you have other favourites, feel free to pass them my way.


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