Five high-tech music videos that put you in charge

Good evening Internet -- are you ready to rock? We're going around the world, invading your childhood memories and even controlling the weather in our favourite high-tech music videos.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
3 min read

Good evening Internet -- are you ready to rock? The power of our old friend, the World Wide Web, offers you the next best thing to rock glory with a recent spate of innovative interactive music mash-ups that you control, pushing the boundaries of the music video as we know it.

We've selected our favourite mash-ups that take you around the world with the Chemical Brothers, invade your childhood memories with Arcade Fire, and build Thom Yorke's face out of raw data. Crank your speakers all the way up to 11 for five of our favourite high-tech music videos that you control.

Arcade Fire

Foot-stomping troubadours Arcade Fire show off the video skills of HTML5 with the The Wilderness Downtown, directed by Chris Milk. It works best in Google Chrome. Type in the address of the place you grew up, and the stabbing piano of Arcade Fire's We Used to Wait kicks in. A hooded figure begins to run down the streets you knew so well, taking you almost literally for a trip down memory lane. Sinister birds swoop over the Google Map showing your home, and dive-bomb to the ground in a gobsmacking climax as trees explode from the familiar road.

The Chemical Brothers

Big-beat legends the Chemical Brothers showed some global thinking with the video for their slice of coruscating disco noise -- Midnight Madness, the first cut from the recent Brotherhood album. The video zooms around the globe courtesy of Google Earth, flashing on geotagged photos and video clips submitted by Chemical fans.


Indie goth miserablists Editors also took to the streets to launch their new album In This Light And On This Evening. Explore London from Primrose Hill to Parliament Square on Google Street View to discover photos and songs from the album.

X Japan

Technically, veteran Japanese rocker Yoshiki's video for hard-rockin' future single Born To Be Free isn't actually out yet. But the video for Yoshiki's band, the hugely popular X Japan, earns a place on the list by dint of sounding like it's going to be utterly barking. The video was shot in Los Angeles on a prototype Panasonic 3D camcorder -- and stars Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. See? Bonkers.


The video for US folk-rocker Lissie's MOR jangle Cuckoo proves that everywhere you go, you take the weather with you. Click your location on the Google Map on Lissie's website, and the video unfolds according to the weather where you are. If it's sunny in your neck of the woods, a barefoot Lissie wears a sundress and shades as sunflowers emerge. If it's rainy round your way -- and let's face it, if you're British, it probably is -- the band rocks out in wellies and waterproofs.


The beautiful video for Radiohead's actually quite jaunty House of Cards was made without cameras or lights. Instead, Lidar technology was used to build data maps of Thom Yorke and friends, lasers rotating 360 degrees to capture the scene. Beautiful blues, greens and yellows slip away as lines and pixels sketch waveforms into human shapes.

Here's how they did it:

If you want to have a crack at making your own visualisation of the song, you can dive into the data yourself. Radiohead are no strangers to innovative thinking: House of Cards originally appeared on the In Rainbows album, sold for as much as you wanted to pay for it.

Bonus track: Hurts

It's not just videos that are bringing high-tech interactivity to pop music. Sharp-suited British angst-peddlers, Hurts, recently showcased their album Happiness as part of an audio novel on Spotify. In a kind of pop-music Choose Your Own Adventure, snippets of the band's music accompany chapters of Don't Let Go, written by Joe Stretch and read by Anna Friel. Each chapter offers you a choice of what to do next, leading you to the next track and the next chapter.

If all this musical musing has got you in the mood for more duets between music and technology, tune up with our history of musical technology firsts.