For an upcoming project, we took a look at some of the best dance battle videos of all time. Here are five of our favourites, as selected by an impartial panel of thirty-something white dudes with varying degrees of dancing ability.
5. “Safe and Sound” – Capital Cities
Set in the historic Los Angeles Theatre, Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound” features breakers, ballerinas, and burlesque dancers throwing down on the big stage.
Mixing live action with classic footage from different eras in the theatre’s history, “Safe and Sound” won the 2013 MTV VMA for Best Visual Effects.
The video also gets bonus points for bringing back roller disco and jazzercise – two of the most gangsta dance styles this side of the crip walk.
4. “Days Go By” – Dirty Vegas
Dance battles aren’t always about stepping up and stomping yards: sometimes they’re about facing off with existential sorrow and regret. Fun!
“Days Go By” tells the story of an aging breaker, who returns to dance at the same spot every year to lament his lost love – inspiring onlookers to do something slightly less depressing with their lives in the process.
The song was a smash hit in 2002, and remains the jam of choice for multi-ethnic crews headed to indeterminate locations in Mitsubishis.
3. “C’mon” – Tiesto vs. Diplo feat. Busta Rhymes
We’ll admit it: the original cut for Tiesto and Diplo’s “C’mon” was pretty outstanding.
So how do you improve on perfection? By adding Busta Rhymes, a pulsating wall of speakers, and a chick in a sequined bodysuit fighting a goddamn cobra!
The remix of “C’mon” takes viewers to a breakdancing thunderdome, with Busta calling the shots as a series of combatants pop and lock their way through a series of post-apocalyptic dance battles.
While the battle sequences are admittedly sick, the less said about the Thulsa Doom-esque special defects at the end the better…
2. “It’s Like That” – Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins
Inspiring countless dance-offs of questionable quality in the late 1990s, Jason Nevins’ remix of Run DMC’s “It’s Like That” revived shell tops and boom boxes for a new generation.
Combining a breakin’ battle of the sexes with classic footage of the Kings of Rock in their heyday, “It’s Like That” shows two crews throwing down in a surprisingly vagrant-free, linoleum-covered abandoned warehouse.
With it’s iconic throwback look and high-energy battles, “It’s Like That” inspired countless young dudes to attempt to learn how to pop and lock – often with regrettable results.
1. “Beat It” – Michael Jackson
While there are any number of Michael Jackson videos that could have topped this list (“Bad”, “Smooth Criminal”), we’re going with “Beat It” – primarily because it’s the only dance battle video we’re aware of that features real L.A. gang members.
Directed by Bob Giraldi (who later helmed Jackson’s ill-fated Pepsi commercial), “Beat It” follows two gangs of moderately effeminate street toughs on a collision course – culminating in the most elegantly choreographed knife fight ever captured on film.
Rivalled only by Jackson’s own “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” in it’s stylistic influence, “Beat It” helped launch the big budget video era and succeeded in achieving the impossible: making Michael Jackson look like a legit badass.
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