Music videos have long been big-budget vessels for artists and directors to dream up fantasies, some of them all-out utopian visions of the future. With so many films and books depicting a modern world gone awry—think The Hunger Games or District 9—we’ve rounded up five music videos that take a more hopeful view, complete with digital emoji butterflies.
Mariah Carey feat. Cam’Ron, “Boy (I Need You),” 2012
Mariah Carey’s “Boy (I Need You)” video is a fully formed imagination of a not-so-distant utopian future—Carey teamed up with director Joseph Kahn for a Japanese-inspired glittering dreamscape in which robots help apply your lip gloss, digital butterflies frame your face, and speeding cars race through Tokyo.
Lady Gaga, “Born This Way,” 2011
At the peak of her anti-bullying, pro-gay crusade, Lady Gaga created a visual utopia in which she was Mother Monster of an entire universe that had no prejudice but at least one male model covered head-to-toe in a tattoo of his skeleton.
TLC, “No Scrubs,” 1999
TLC dared to imagine a perfect world in which scrubs were an endangered species, with three badass ladies to protect us from any remaining broke, big-talking jerks. In fact, the entire FanMail album was a sort of musical cyborg manifesto that predicted Twitter and saw the future as a promised land of connectedness and community. “Communication is the key to life,” says Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes on an album interlude. “Communication is the key to love. Communication is the key to us. There’s over a thousand ways to communicate in our world today. And it’s a shame that we don’t connect.”
Björk, “All is Full of Love,” 1997
Robots could be sources of anxiety and fear for some, but in Björk’s groundbreaking music video directed by Chris Cunningham, two cyborgs have a capacity for romance just like humans.
Michael Jackson feat. Janet Jackson, “Scream,” 1995
At the time the most expensive video ever made: Michael Jackson created a beautiful monochromatic spaceship that was like a pleasure cruise of leisure. He and his sister floated in a zero-gravity paradise in which you could conjure up famous works of art like they were TV shows with a remote control, meditate in an outer-space Zen garden, and play what looks like the most fun game of solo racquetball the future could dream up.