Fan Videos and the Hidden Gems of YouTube

YouTube fan videos are ubiquitous and almost entirely terrible. Often comprised of terribly cut-up anime “synced” (read: poorly slathered on top of) to the song you want to hear (effectively ruining the experience), they abound across the expanses of YouTube, waiting to unleash their shittiness on an unsuspecting viewer. Of course, you can always push play and switch to another tab thereby avoiding the visual experience entirely, but by clicking play in the first place you are helping support that person’s penchant for making horrendous videos. The more views they get, the more likely they are to make another.

Such was, and still is, my attitude towards YouTube fan videos. However, like anything in life, not all of it is entirely terrible. In fact, I have come across several fan videos that have managed to scrape together a song and a video to create an interesting new product. These videos made me reconsider the song, to hear it in a new light (as any good music video should do), to escalate the original product and allow my mind to approach it differently.

While basing music off of an existing piece of art is nothing new (e.g. The Ocean’Pelagial, Chroma Key’Graveyard Mountain Home), there was something special about the YouTube fan video – specifically, the artist’s lack of involvement in the combination of song and video. The creative input from a source outside of the video’s and song’s creative source allowed for both original pieces of art to take on a new meaning. Obviously most times removing the original creative inputs from the equation means the final product is poor – which is why this post is about the gems of YouTube fan videos, not the other 99.9%.

To compile a list, then, I needed a specific set of criteria through which to gauge any video’s merit. The merit would have to be entirely subjective, based on how I, specifically, felt about the video, yet broad enough for the list to contain videos with a greater public appeal.

So my criteria became:

  1. The video cannot be official. Both the visual footage and the music must be appropriated from two separate sources.
  2. The music and the video must be compiled by a third party; the music cannot have been based on the video (or vice versa).
  3. The visual footage must feel like it has come from one source. If multiple sources are used to compile footage, I need to be unaware. The key element here is the video must feel like a complete unit.
  4. The visual footage must feel, within reason, synced properly to the audio. No random cuts from the compiler’s favourite movie pieced together without thought of the music.
  5. While the lyrics do not have to correspond to the visuals, the finished product must feel like a new piece of art. It must convey some kind of new meaning.
  6. The video’s ability to convey this meaning can be purposed or accidental (as I have no way of figuring out whether or not the video’s creator meant to convey the meaning I derive from it).

Having these criteria as a starting place, I set out to find my favourite YouTube fan videos. After sifting through video after video, some of which were good (and most of which were bad), I was able to come up with six videos I felt fit into the criteria I had decided upon; six videos that broadened my perspective on the original tune and allowed me to experience it from a different place. Below is my list, each video with a short description of why I felt it deserved special consideration as one of YouTube’s hidden gems.

The videos:

1. Tool – The Pot / René Laloux – Les Escargots

By far the most popular video on this list, Tool’s “The Pot” synced with the 1965 French film Les Escargots was my first experience with a good YouTube fan video. It’s so good, in fact, when I first saw it I did not realize it was not the official video. While the lyrics have little to do with the message of the video, the two combined speak volumes about anger against the id, self-mutilation for the sake of material gain, and the futility of life (after all, do the snails not come and destroy all the farmer has gained through sacrifice?). In an odd way, it inverts the original message of the song (a railing against the hypocrisy of the government) by speaking to the futility of trying. A bleak message, but one worth pondering.


2. Boards of Canada – Everything You Do is a Balloon / Interlude Films – One Got Fat

An eerie, unsettling vibe permeates the “Everything You Do is a Balloon” mashup with this public domain film about bike safety. From the moment the children’s gorilla masks are revealed and the main groove begins, the entire video takes on an eerie, dreamlike quality. One by one the children are killed, signaled by cartoon explosions and a grisly countdown, all overtop of an ambient groove, exposing in its calm violence our indifference towards death.


3. Porcupine Tree – .3 / Footage of “Fat Boy,” the bomb dropped on Nagasaki

The most interesting aspect of this video is how well the music and footage work together. The first half of the video, showing the atomic bomb being manufactured, is set to an ostinato, woeful instrumental. The second half, peppered with Steven Wilson’s haunting refrain (“Black the sky, weapons fly/Lay them waste for your race”) as explosions rise into the atmosphere creates an oppressive sadness, a truly bleak look at the brutality of human nature.


4. Amon Tobin – Keep Your Distance / Richard Stanley – Hardware

It is only natural Amon Tobin’s field music would go so well with the 1990 horror sci-fi film Hardware. Its otherworldly, tribal groove only serves to emphasize the harsh and uninviting atmosphere of a dying world. The solitary feeling of being alone on a hostile planet, of scrounging against the odds to survive, feels real and immediate. While not a typical view, one could liken it to living with depression, where every day is a struggle in a wasteland of loneliness to scrounge out the bare essentials to live.


5. Meshuggah – Dancers to a Discordant System / Bo Mathorn – The Backwater Gospel

One of Meshuggah’s harshest pieces, “Dancers to a Discordant System,” set to the animated short film The Backwater Gospel, creates a terrifying, vivid world – a world of visages twisted by cruelty, of horrendous, bloody violence, of the angel of death reveling in the senselessness of nihilistic annihilation. Jens Kidman’s voice screams and whispers the priest’s controlling lies; the guitars weave a tapestry of confusion and anger, all culminating in an absolute bloodbath set to an ostinato groove and hair-raising guitar solo. Evoking the same horror at humanity’s propensity toward violence as Lord of the Flies is no easy task; yet the senseless brutality tangible in the video manages to do just that.


6. Massive Attack – Pray for Rain / Blutch, Charles Burns – Peur(s) du Noir

My favourite video on this list’s strength relies in its odd juxtaposition of a dark, brutal video combined with a relaxed Massive Attack track. The video tells the tale of a dog handler unable to control the savagery of his dogs – yet it is not the viciousness of the dogs that is so horrifying, but rather the look of glee on the handler’s face as they intimidate and attack random individuals. After an odd, perspective altering visual switch halfway through the video, coupled with a gradual escalation of the music, the final dog realizes what he has become and turns on his cruel master, ripping his body to shreds. A commentary on the evil that controls us, let it serve as a reminder to examine our impulses to cruelty, and instead destroy that which would make us beasts.


Header image from Peur(s) de Noir.

  • COAL ROLL
  • “Often comprised of terribly cut-up anime “synced” ”

    I found Motorhead through a DBZ AMV. I also found Hoobastank, so uh

    • I am unsure what to do with this information

    • Dubs

      Wait, it took anime to show you Motorhead?

      • My dad was never a big fan of Motorhead. He gave me Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell though, so that more than makes up for it as far as I’m concerned

        • Dubs

          Fair. I think I first heard Motorhead because of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.

          • THPS led so many kids to their favorite music

          • RustyShackleford

            This could not be a more true statement! I think it was THPS3 that led me to System of A Down, which has been one of my favorite bands forever now!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTEnnyqA71k

            SHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMYSHIMMY

          • Owlswald

            BOUNCE! JUMP!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            The first two SOAD albums are so fucking great. For some reason I really really disliked every of their following albums though.

          • RustyShackleford

            You aren’t the only one. They definitely get poppier (not so much Steal This Album to me but definitely Mezmerize/Hypnotize) and Daron was doing almost all of the writing. Basically became Scars on Broadway at that point. I still dig it, but it’s not the weird stuff that Serj was doing on the first two.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Especially on the S/T Serj vocal exploits were apeshit crazy, which I thought was awesome. Toxicity had a good dosage of both Serj and Daron vocals and, most of all, had really memorable songs.

            I thought the songs itself on Steal This Album were not so memorable. And Mezmerize/Hypnotize had WAY too much Daron vocals for my taste.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            I always kinda liked (and still do) Serj Tankian’s first solo album.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I haven’t even listened to any of Serj’s solo stuff to be honest.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            It was more of an alternative rock album than an all over the map SOAD album, I recall only one song having pretty crazy dynamics; nonetheless, it was solid. It was called Elect The Dead – I never listened to any of his other solo stuff.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I’ll give it a listen. Though while I can dig quite some alt-metal, there’s very little straight-up alt-rock I can get into.

          • brokensnow

            steal this album were extras and b sides from the first 2 albums. still far better than their later stuff and most of their peers and contemporary’s.

      • …does this explain everything?

  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    I have seen The Pot one before, but never knew the context. I thought it was just some fan-made animation. I’ll have to check out the rest of these today, but I just can’t hear anything over all this Arktis at the moment.

  • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross
    • i love the band Cake and i want everybody to make fun of me for it.
      uh-oh, i pulled a JJD.

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        I’m more of a pie person, but i enjoy Cake as well.

        • if i wasn’t afraid of being slain with steel, i’d give you crap for that joke.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I like how backhanded your comment is.

          • a person who likes Cake (like myself) is probably not allowed to backhand others.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I like Cake as well man.

          • holy cow!! another mutual interest betwixt us <3
            we got to see them live about 3-4 years ago and it was spectacular.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Warbringer, Pacific Rim and Cake. Nice!

          • ..eventually i’ll like more power merol and you’ll like moar Limp Bizkit (?) huehue

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Easy there buddy…

      • brokensnow

        last album was meh.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY
    • Eliza

      That movie is Drive, right?

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Yep. Great movie.

        • upvote x ∞

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            ❤️ x ∞

        • Eliza

          It fits with the song quite well. Obviously, I love the song itself, so that maybe makes me like the video too.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus™

          GREAT movie.

          We got trolled by Only God Forgives though.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Only God Forgives provoked one of the strangest feelings out of me; I didn’t like it, but I didn’t really dislike it either. It was…”eh”

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            I love many of Refn’s films, but not that one! Even after reading about it more and discovering his idea/message, still, meh.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I’m still curious to see how The Neon Demon will turn out though.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            I don’t even know what that is but I’m gonna Google it now.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            That sounds interesting. I remember reading about that a couple of years ago when I was obsessed with his movies, i.e. that he would make it and that Christina Hendricks would be in it.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I think Christina Hendricks is in it. I dig the concept, though I have no idea how it’s going to turn out on film.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            Now that I think about it, I recall reading that Ryan Gosling was going to direct a fantasy horror and she would be in it. Wonder whatever happened to that.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Lost River? It’s been out for quite some time. It was ok. Had some good ideas and moments, nothing too memorable though.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            Yup, that’s it, I had no idea that came out.

          • I dig Christina Hendricks.

          • Eliza

            I get the “eh” feeling all the time.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Valhalla Rising is perfection.

          • i have that movie but have not watched. hearing you say this makes me want to watch it asap. may do this weekend / 10

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            That was a cool flick, a little hard to wrap my head around.

  • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

    Excellent write up Guacman Jim! I will definitely give these a watch when I have time to concentrate on them. Thanks man!

    • Guacamole Jim

      Thanks dude!!

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        No, thank you!

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Unique topic, dip. Nice writeup. Here’s my current favorite fan vid – they fit perfectly.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aa7wGU0-P40

    • Guacamole Jim

      I’m not in a place where I can stream anything at the moment, but I’ll check this out tonight!

  • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross
  • Stanley

    Massive Attack’s album, “Protection” was the first CD I bought for my future wife. 1996. How time flies!

    • Dubs

      Whoah.

    • Owlswald

      I’m a huge Massive Attack fan. Mezzanine and 100th Window were amazing albums. Seeing them live is still on my bucket list.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I’m very glad to see the Massive Attack love.

  • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

    OT: getting my first listen thru the entirety of Arktis. while im at work today. Jeebus.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      On the last track now. I agree with your analysis.

      • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

        ill save my opinions for the article but . . . just cmon man. wow.

        • Owlswald

          I hope this means its good..because I REALLY want it to be good.

  • Stanley

    The album’s concept was based on Metropolis, so it would seem fitting that somebody would set the best song to scenes from the movie.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-iqGXQW_mk

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      Have you already listened to Mariner? Not bad, but I wasn’t really feeling it.

      • Stanley

        Shush. You’ll wake the Beargod.

        I’ve only heard the first two that were released, I’m withholding judgement until I’ve sat down and listened to it a few times.

    • RustyShackleford

      This is really cool. As a film’s studies student (also known as a loser probs lol), this film is so good it fucking blew my mind when I saw it. Fritz Lang was better before he came to the US later in his career haha

      • Stanley

        Whomever put it together did a really great job of conveying the vibe with their choices in scene selection. I’ve not watched the whole movie. One day.

    • Max
  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    That bike safety thing is absolutely horrifying. WTF is that girl doing with her arm!?!

  • Porcupine Tree, Massive Attack, a little Meshuggah… Guac when did you find out you and i were the same person?

    • Guacamole Jim

      I think it was when I saw how sexy you are.

  • brokensnow
  • brokensnow
  • Waynecro

    This is a very interesting topic. Great article. Thanks!

    • you are a very interesting person. Thanks!

      • Waynecro

        Thanks, man. Right back at ya!

  • Lacertilian

    I like this topic quite a bit, would be interesting to see some more. It’s also nice for someone else to do all the painful sifting through swathes of shithouse fan vids to find the decent ones.
    I remember seeing some great Tool ones a long time ago, have to dig around for them..