10 music videos that show the changing face of LA through the decades

Take a sonic tour of the city

From grand Art Deco edifices in Downtown to the single-storey homes of Compton and the glistening midcentury condos of the Hills – Los Angeles’ architectural history can be read in the many music videos shot on its sprawling streets.

We’ve picked ten essential videos that capture the ever-changing face of LA over the last four decades. Journey back in time…

Madonna – Borderline (1983)

Much of the video for Madonna’s breakthrough hit ‘Borderline’ was filmed around the 1930s-built Sixth Street Viaduct. The iconic Art Deco bridge also featured in videos by Kanye, Pharrell and countless others, but has since been demolished due to seismic instability. It’s being replaced by a new $482.2 million bridge by architect Michael Maltzan that’s been dubbed The Ribbon of Light – due for completion in late 2020.

Randy Newman – I Love LA (1983)

Newman’s schmaltzy ode to his hometown packs a lot of iconic locations into four minutes as he cruises around in his convertible. The Million Dollar Theatre on Broadway and the Avenue Of The Stars Bridge in Century City are just some of the famous spots featured.

U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name (1987)

Bono and co brought 7th Street and Main to a standstill when shooting the video to ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ on top of a downtown liquor store. ‘The object was to close down the streets. If there’s one thing people in LA hate, it’s streets closing down,’ said U2’s bassist Adam Clayton.

NWA – Straight Outta Compton (1988)

The incendiary track that put gangster rap on the map also shone a light on the rugged storm drains and back alleys of Compton, the perfect backdrop for Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren to paint a bloody picture of gang life and police brutality in the LA suburb.

Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

Janet Jackson and her team of dancers commandeered the infamous Bradbury Building in the ‘Rhythm Nation’ video. ‘The foggy, smoky street and the dark, black-and-white tone – that was all intentional,’ said Jackson of the smoky interiors. The eagle-eyed will also recognise the 1893 structure as the backdrop for seminal sci-fi movie Blade Runner, as well as from cameos in The Artist and 500 Days of Summer.

Tom Petty – Free Fallin (1989)

The Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles is the centrepiece of Tom Petty’s 1989 video, filmed at the end of a decade known for its celebration of conspicuous consumption. Fitting then that shots at the peak of its chorus could easily be mistaken for a promo for the architecture of the recently opened shopping mall itself, designed by Jon Jerde.

Beastie Boys – Sabotage (1994)

Spike Jonze’s razor-sharp cop show pastiche that accompanies the Beastie Boys’ classic is a perfect visual tribute to LA, not least the crumbling Art Deco splendour of the Los Feliz Manor Apartments building the raucous rappers can be seen larking about on.

2Pac – To Live And Die in LA (1996)

If Randy Newman’s video depicts LA’s most celebrated landmarks, 2Pac’s own homage to the City of Angels represents a more grounded version of the urban sprawl, celebrating the soul food spots and shopping malls around Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills from a street perspective.

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

Director Kahlil Joseph said the video for this 2012 track is ‘a combination of Lotus wanting to do an LA video, but not the LA that people were familiar with, as well as my attraction… to the way black people are photographed and filmed.’ It centres around the 2054-unit public housing complex Nickerson Gardens, built in the 1950s.

Danny L Harle – Super Natural Ft. Carly Rae Jepsen (2016)

The super-slick ‘Super Natural’ video features Carly Rae Jepsen performing her vocal turn around the open-house of a midcentury home in an upscale LA suburb. ‘Bradley and Pablo’s video for “Super Natural” has put the music in a context which is conceptually inseparable to the song,’ says Harle of the video which gives a literal spin to the lyrics, ‘You could show me your favorite streets.’

See more music videos for architecture buffs

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