The music industry has spawned some truly extravagant video productions over the decades. This list will introduce you to the most expensive music videos of all time.
The music videos featured in this article captured the attention of audiences worldwide with their mind-boggling production values. These ambitious visual projects often feature elaborate settings, incredible costume design and stunning special effects with no expense is spared in their creation.
To accurately reflect the cost of these videos, figures have been adjusted for inflation, and the videos ranked accordingly. It is interesting to see that many of the videos date from twenty years ago or longer – a clear indication that music execs no longer see the benefit in investing huge sums in music video production in the same way that they once did.
Let’s find out more about the most expensive music videos of all-time.
20. She’s A B**** – Missy Elliott
Cost: $3.5 million
‘She’s a B****’ appeared on Missy Elliott’s second album Da Real World. The song peaked at a modest number 90 in the U.S Billboard Hot 100.
Its music video was directed by American Hype Williams. Costs were high due to an extensive use of effects including CGI stormy skies, computerised ‘tron style’ settings and elaborate costuming.
The video features the iconic female rapper Elliott and her dancers being raised from underwater on a giant hydraulic “M” amongst a set made from ‘electroluminescent’ lighting.
19. Honey – Mariah Carey
Cost: $3.64 million
‘Honey’ features on Mariah Carey’s sixth studio album Butterfly and was critically acclaimed, becoming her third single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a record she held for twenty-three years until it was finally broken by Ariana Grande. ‘Honey’ remained at the chart’s summit for three consecutive weeks.
Directed by Paul Hunter, its video was so expensive due largely to indulgent settings and locations including a Puerto Rican island, an elaborate mansion and a grand yacht studio set.
The video’s story involves Carey as an agent being held hostage before eventually escaping, proceeding to perform a dance routine and then finding her way back to her romantic love interest.
18. Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys
Cost: $3.68 million
Backstreet Boys’ ‘Larger than Life’ appears on their third studio album Millennium. The song is reportedly a “thank you” to fans for their encouragement and devotion. Music critics noted its memorable melody and catchy singalong lyrics. It became a top ten hit in over fourteen countries!
The music video was directed by Joseph Khan who also took charge of their earlier work on ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ in June 1997. Its budget was huge as a result of extensive CGI use and beautifully designed clothing.
The narrative takes place in a futuristic space setting, utilising animation and epic dance sequences. The band were said to have been inspired by the movies Blade Runner and the Star Wars saga.
17. Remember The Time – Michael Jackson
Cost: $4.1 million
‘Remember the Time’ is the second single from Jackson’s eighth studio album Dangerous. The track was commercially successful, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and made top spot on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles. It is also certified three-times Platinum by the RIAA.
The nine-minute music video that accompanied the song was directed by John Singleton. It was set in Ancient Egypt, featuring epic choreography and ground-breaking visual effects within the storytelling.
The $4 billion dollar price tag was spent on a range of pioneering CGI, massive studio sets depicting the Middle East and securing the services of huge Hollywood stars including Eddie Murphy.
16. What’s It Gonna Be?! – Busta Rhymes feat. Janet Jackson
Cost: $4.21 million
The fourth and last single from his third studio album Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front, ‘What’s It Gonna Be?!’ reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the top ten in various countries. The track was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Its music video was directed by Hype Williams and focused largely on special effects. Aside from the faces of key players including Busta Rhymes himself, settings and costumes are completely generated by computers, instantly raising the cost of producing such an ambitious video significantly.
15. It’s All Coming Back To Me Now – Celine Dion
Cost: $4.29 million
Originally the power ballad ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’ was written by Jim Steinman as part of his 1989 album Pandora’s Box. Re-recorded by Celine Dion for record Falling Into You, her version reached number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
British director Nigel Dick directed the song’s music video and was shot at the Ploskovice summer palace in Prague. In January 2020, the video finally registered 100 million views on YouTube.
The production’s budget would have been allocated to the use of a spectacular mansion along with complex and dramatic camerawork, extensive lighting and immaculate costume.
14. Doesn’t Really Matter – Janet Jackson
Cost: $4.39 million
Jante Jackson’s nineteenth single ‘Doesn’t Really Matter’ was certified gold and topped the Billboard Hot 100. It remained there for three consecutive weeks and was the singer’s ninth US chart-topping single. She became only the third singer, following Madonna and Whitney Houston, to achieve the enormous feat.
The track’s music video was directed by South-Korean Joseph Kahn. The narrative surrounds a portrayal of futuristic cities largely inspired by modern day Tokyo. In the video, Jackson is placed in an anime-based environment that includes levitating platforms, futuristic vehicles and morphing clothes.
The cost of the music video skyrocketed due to its monumental sets representing Tokyo, complex CGI backdrops along with extensive props and awesome costumes.
13. Heartbreaker – Mariah Carey
Cost: $4.39 million
‘Heartbreaker’ from her album Rainbow hit the summit of the US Billboard Hot 100 and became Carey’s fourteenth chart-topping single in America. It was a top-five single in various European countries including the likes of France, Spain and United Kingdom.
The music video was mainly filmed in Los Angeles both Downtown and at the LA theatre. It was directed by filmmaker Brett Ratner and broadcast as a premiere following a behind the scenes featurette on the network’s Making the Video series.
Its story was intended to visually highlight the song’s lyrics according to Carey herself. The budget for the video was so epic because of several factors including large interior locations, the use of huge choreography set-ups and intricate stunt work involving the singer.
12. Rollin (Air Raid Vehicle) – Limp Bizkit
Cost: $4.6 million
American rap-rock band Limp Bizkit released second single ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’ from their record Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water in 2000. The song reached only number sixty-five on the US Billboard Hot 100 yet remained in the chart for an impressive seventeen weeks.
The music video was actually directed by the band’s frontman Fred Durst who has a video making background. It was filmed in September 2000, on the original World Trade Center’s South Tower roof in New York City, only twelve months before the deadly 9/11 attacks.
The cost of the music video was undoubtedly heightened by the inclusion of recording on the streets of New York, extremely lavish studio sets and the fact it featured cameos from A-list actors Ben Stiller and Stephen Dorff.
11. Victory – Puff Daddy
Cost: $4.84 million
‘Victory’ by Puff Daddy features fellow American powerhouse rappers the late Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes. It has heavy use of mafioso-style lyrics and samples the Bill Conti song ‘Going the Distance.’ The song was released as a single in 1998 and reached number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100. Recorded a day prior to his death in 1997, this track contains the last ever verses recorded by The Notorious B.I.G.
The music video was directed by German filmmaker Marcus Nispel and is said to pay homage to the movie The Running Man. This near eight-minute-long feature includes cameos from Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito. The inclusion of Hollywood megastars can only have increased costs further.
It commanded an immense budget, shot in a high-production filmic way with a complex narrative, on-location city settings along with expensive interior designs such as warehouses, churches and urban rooftops.
10. Make Me Like You – Gwen Stefani
Cost: $4.87 million
‘Make Me Like You’ by Gwen Stefani received critical acclaim, praised for its upbeat and energetic vibes. The song peaked at number fifty-four on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for five non-consecutive weeks.
Directed by Brit Sophie Muller, the track’s video was highly adventurous and saw Stefani exploring a range of outlandish fantasy locations through her travels within this visually stunning world.
Spending nearly $5 million, the production had to factor in a series of ambitious interior sets including a man-made derelict street, realistic cocktail bar and an expansive roller skating arena.
9. 2 Legit 2 Quit – MC Hammer
Cost: $5.3 million
The first single from his fourth studio album of the same name, “2 Legit 2 Quit” is an epic track from MC Hammer featuring Saja. The song proved a commercial hit in the US and reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
Directed by English filmmaker Rupert Wainwright, the video is almost fifteen minutes long whilst featuring an impressive cast of celebrity talent including Jim Belushi and several American athletes. The uncut version also has cameos from the likes of Danny Glover, Queen Latifah, Henry Winkler, Mark Wahlberg and Milli Vanilli.
Its astronomical price is a result of grand mansion-style locations, huge pyrotechnics and the work of various celebrities who are interviewed as part of the video’s concept.
8. Bad – Michael Jackson
Cost: $5.6 million
Jackson’s eighth number one chart entry ‘Bad’ reached top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for two weeks whilst also peaking at number one on three other charts.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, the full version of its music video takes the form of an eighteen-minute short film, written by screenwriter Richard Price and taking an incredible six-weeks to shoot.
The production cost well over $5 million to complete, including a seemingly never-ending underground set, mammoth dance routines and Hollywood star Wesley Snipes.
7. Cartoon Heroes – Aqua
Cost: $5.9 million
‘Cartoon Heroes’ by Danish dance-pop group Aqua was a reasonable commercial success, although it failed to achieve the heights of earlier tracks ‘Barbie Girl ‘and ‘Doctor Jones.’ Back home in the group’s native Denmark, the song entered the charts at number one and sold enough copies to be certified quadruple-platinum within 48 hours of its release.
The track’s video was directed by Czech movie-maker Tomas Masin and featured a fairly random narrative involving the group’s adventures in a fantasy intergalactic world. The cost of the production was extremely high due to the vast space-like imagery, large space station set and visual effects – a highlight being an underwater action sequence battling a monstrous CGI creature.
6. Black Or White – Michael Jackson
Cost: $8.5 million
‘Black or White’ entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number one and remained there for seven weeks. It became the fastest selling chart topper since the Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ in 1969 and was number one in twenty countries!
The track’s epic video was directed by legendary auteur John Landis, who had previously worked with Jackson on the Thriller promotional film back in 1983. The video to ‘Black or White’ premiered simultaneously in twenty-seven countries across the globe and became the most viewed music video ever with an audience of 500 million viewers.
The video features Macaulay Culkin and George Wendt at the beginning before Jackson takes fans on a tour of the globe. The expense is clear to see, real-life locations, studio sets that mimic the African plains, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue Of Liberty. The final portion of the video uses unbelievable CGI technology that morphs together faces of numerous individuals in a seamless manner.
5. Bedtime Story – Madonna
Cost: $9.6 million
‘Bedtime Story’ was surprisingly unsuccessful by Madonna’s high standards reaching the top-ten in the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia charts, yet missing out on the US top forty.
The video received critical recognition for its stunning visuals and was directed by Mark Romanek. With a budget of nearly $10 million, money was spent on moments depicting a dystopian world with incredible sets, amazing costumes and stunning make up.
4. Die Another Day – Madonna
Cost: $9.9 million
From the soundtrack to a James Bond film of the same name, ‘Die Another Day’ peaked at number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was the top selling US dance song across both 2002 and 2003. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song along with two Grammy Awards for Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video.
Swedish directing team Traktor took control of the music video which sees Madonna roaming settings that stir connections to the spy genre including, for example, a heavily secured art gallery.
The music video cost nearly $10 million with the production value raised due to various complex fight scenes and action sequences. Madonna dons a number of expensive costume designs, and there are a crazy number of practical effects and stunts in the narrative.
3. Estranged – Guns ‘N’ Roses
Cost: $10.1 million
From their 1993 album Use Your Illusion II, ‘Estranged’ is an epic song by American hard rock act Guns N’ Roses. Its music video was directed by British video maker Andy Morahan and is over nine minutes in length.
The video’s narrative is simple. A set of images with the band placed in grand locations and situations – intercut with shots of live performance – a classic formula for many stadium rock artists of the time.
Costs were naturally high, epic settings such as lavish houses and aeroplane hangers, the use of helicopters and awesome stage footage – all increasing the budget to over $10 million.
2. Express Yourself – Madonna
Cost: $11.8 million
From her fourth studio album Like a Prayer, ‘Express Yourself’ reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and also became Madonna’s eighth number-one hit on the European Hot 100 Singles chart.
Hollywood filmmaker David Fincher directed the music video and was largely inspired by the 1927 film Metropolis. The work portrays full city skyscrapers and railway lines with Madonna playing the part of a glamorous lady that hosts muscular men acting as her workers.
The budget was over $11 million and the reasons are evident. There are endless extensive and incredible studio sets paired with immense lighting setups – the overall effect was nothing short of spectacular.
1. Scream – michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
Cost: $13.4 million
‘Scream’ is the famous lead single from Michael Jackson’s 1995 ninth studio album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The song is a duet with his sister, Janet Jackson.
The music video was directed by American filmmaker Mark Romanek. In a unique move, Jackson didn’t create the video’s concept like the works before it, and instead left the design to Romanek.
Costing over $13 million, the music video’s content reflected its unprecedented spending with an endless space station set, CGI effects and remarkable costumes. Along with challenging camerawork and anti-gravity technology – Scream became the most expensive music video of all-time.
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