Women have the most intriguing looks in videos at the moment, mostly because they're changing their own images and stereotypes.
Madonna Redone: The chameleon takes on yet another persona with her latest video, "Rain," from the "Erotica" album. Because the song is a gentle, sad-sweet tune, there was no room for loud platinum blondes, martyrs, silver-screen sex goddesses or '70s disco queens.
"Madonna was at a loss on this one because it was very romantic," says Mark Romanek, the video's director. "I came up with the basic idea of setting it in Tokyo and showing the film crew. It was very Zen, very stripped away. She was this accessible, vulnerable creature surrounded by the high-tech and the global."
Madonna's look in this one is striking. A wig provides a waif-like cap of short black hair with spiky bangs. Special film makes her blue eyes appear a startling azure and her makeup is porcelain-doll perfect in velvety peaches and pinks. The delicate colors of makeup are so important that the director resorted to advance screen tests to make sure everything worked.
One other change: "I wanted her to have eyebrows back," Romanek says. They've been virtually invisible in her recent videos.
Inspirations for Madonna's total look included Paris in the '40s, cabaret singer Edith Piaf and ingenues in general. London stylist David Bradshaw, brought in minimalist black clothes by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, which enhanced the video's Zen mood, and the finale's ethereal white Vivienne Westwood dress that any jeune fille would love.
Romanek, who is with L.A.'s hip Propaganda Films, has done some of the most enduring videos in the short history of the medium, like En Vogue's "Free Your Mind," Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" and k.d. lang's "Constant Craving."
Cyndi Lauper's New Looks: Lauper is another constantly evolving artist. Her former brilliant rainbow punk hair and wild clothes are gone. In their place, she's gone vintage, tailored and street, though if you look closely, you'll still see the same inventive sense of humor. In one of her upcoming videos, she decided her arms were too pale, and she clipped off a pair of fishnet hose to make sleeves.
Don't ask Lauper if she's getting more serious because that hits a nerve. "I'm still having fun. And I always was a very serious artist." she says. "People just didn't take me seriously. After 'We Are the World,' people came up and said, 'I didn't know you could sing.' "
Her clothing style, she says, is a natural evolution of what she likes. In "Who Let in the Rain?" which she edited, Lauper wears a baggy white vintage suit from the '30s and her hair is blond. The video, she says, is a study of color and show of alternative beauty. It takes its inspiration from Ingmar Bergman films and sets up tableaux resembling paintings.
In the video "Sally's Pigeons," Lauper does some scenes in jeans and others in a '30s vintage floral dress found in a Paris flea market.
Much of Lauper's wardrobe is from Screaming Mimi's, a New York shop that sells vintage alongside young downtown designers. The boutique's co-owner, Laura Wills, acts as stylist on the videos.
Lauper's next release is likely to be "That's What I Think," in which she wears authentic Yugoslavian combat boots with a long black fishnet skirt, a vest and the makeshift fishnet sleeves. Her hair went from a bob to a shag, but is still light blond, which she says is simple and easy to manage. "I went on a tour and my hair was black. It felt awful. Someone suggested I go to brown, my natural color, but I skipped that. I'd feel like a plain Jane." Lauper says going back to bright Technicolor hues is probable. "I still get the shakes when I pass the counter and see the purple."
Janet Jackson's Transformation: Evolution from little sister of the clan to her own identity is reflected in Jackson's new look. She doesn't wear the masculine clothes of her brothers anymore, and her look has been refined and softened to a model-perfect feminine image. While no one at Jackson's management was available for comment, it's easy to see through her two current chart-topping videos that Jackson has also separated herself from her former tough, robotic images. The new look is still strong, but now it's far more sexy and alluring.
The outfits Jackson wears in the two current videos are almost identical despite the diversity of the songs. The gentle love ballad "That's the Way Love Goes" shows Jackson lounging with her pals. "If" is a sexy, fast-paced, fantasy video that resembles an Asian version of "Blade Runner" with extras in full-body tattoos, futuristic haircuts, 5-inch nails and elaborate clothes.
In both videos, Jackson's svelte figure is poured into black bell-bottoms and crop tops. She wears silver hoop earrings and wide cream and silver chokers that have sent adolescents streaming into stores asking for "Janet Jackson necklaces."
Her hair is a cloud of long, lightened, spiral curls and her no-makeup makeup uses little liner, mascara or color on lips. She shows off her perfect bone structure and model cheekbones with highlighting and shading, and has delicate brows penciled in. This is Jackson in her most beautiful incarnation to date, and even though "If" is a sexy, suggestive video, this wholesome makeup gives her the aura of the girl next door.