Many musicians have dropped the big bucks on their quest to create memorable visuals. From Cardi B to Michael Jackson, these performers spent millions on some of the most expensive music videos ever made.
Kanye West: Stronger, 2007
Starting off our list of priciest music videos is, perhaps not surprisingly, a Kanye West creation. Multiple sources report that Yeezy's Stronger music video cost around $1 million and earned the rapper multiple awards.
Thanks to the high-budget piece, West was nominated for countless awards and won a few, including Hip Hop Video of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards. The unique music video is set in a futuristic space-age world in Japan and was filmed in Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Duran Duran: The Wild Boys, 1984
Next is this gem by Duran Duran. The Wild Boys was the British band's twelfth single and no dollar was spared on hyping it up. According to various sources, the song's music video cost over $1 million. So what did that hefty price tag get the artists?
Well, for starters, the director used a part of the "007 Stage" at a film studio to construct some elaborate sets that included a windmill, a metal pyrimad, and an enclosed pool. Throw in computer graphics and elaborate costumes and the dollars quickly add up.
Britney Spears: Toxic, 2004
Britney Spears is no stranger to high-budget performances, but her 2004 release of Toxic was the singer's priciest music video to that time. Various sources report the masterpiece cost around $1 million. It got plenty of attention and it's not hard to see why.
In the video, the Princess of Pop acts as a secret agent seeking revenge against an ex. From risque airplane scenes to a diamond-covered bodysuit, the creation arguably cemented Toxic as one of Britney Spear's most memorable songs. It seems like the high price was worthwhile!
MC Hammer: Here Comes the Hammer, 1990
$1.3 million is a lot of money - and it was even more back in 1990 when MC Hammer was hard at work filming the video for Here Comes the Hammer. The large sum made the clip one of the most expensive of that time. So why did it cost so much? Well, in part because it was quite lengthy.
One version of the music video was almost nine minutes long, and another 15-minute version was also released. The recording takes viewers on an adventure as MC Hammer and his crew run around a haunted house. The special effects used in the creation was likely what added to over a million dollars.
Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson: Scream, 1995
Scream reportedly cost $7 million to make and became one of the most iconic videos of the decade. But according to some of those who worked on the set, it also brought out some sibling competitiveness between the Jacksons and introduced Michael's level of perfection to some frustrated producers.
"We'd spend a day just on the volume of the handclaps. I mean, literally," recalled producer Jimmy Jam. "And we'd turn them up and he'd say, 'Okay, I'll come back tomorrow and we'll listen to it again.' We come back the next day, and he'd go, 'Can we turn that up just a little more?'" But it looks like the perfection paid off.
Kanye West: Touch the Sky, 2006
Before creating the music video for Stronger, Kanye made Touch the Sky. While the two pieces are creative in their own right, they have one thing in common: a hefty price tag. Sources put this music video cost at around $1 million. And some might be surprised to hear who paid for it.
Kanye himself did! After he was dissatisfied with the initial music video for the hit song, Yeezy spent his own money remaking the visuals. "I remember him pulling me to the side when wew ere on the Touch the Sky video set and being like, 'Yo, I spent my last dime to re-film this video,'" producer Just Blaze revealed.
Guns N' Roses: November Rain, 1992
November Rain was one of the hit singles from Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I album. Released in 1992, multiple sources list the music video as one of the most expensive of all time at a pricetag of around $1.5 million. In 2018, the video made history in a very big way.
It became the first video before YouTube's founding to surpass one billion views. It also became the first music visual from the 1990s to hit more than a billion streams on YouTube. It seems like the piece's popularity hasn't been affected much by the passing of the years.
Madonna ft. M.I.A. & Nicki Minaj: Give Me All Your Luvin, 2012
Nicki, Madonna, and M.I.A. all in one track together? A million dollar price tag definitely makes sense when these powerful artists join forces. The women released Give Me All Your Luvin in 2012 and sources report they spent around $1.5 million on the music video.
The video has a football-cheerleader American Dream theme happening, and was later recreated on the stage of the Super Bowl halftime show. The expensive creation was filmed over two days in New York, and much of the ideas came from the Queen of Pop, Madonna.
TLC: Unpretty, 1999
It's hard to imagine the late 1990s without this girl band. And it's even harder to imagine TLC without their music video for Unpretty. The beautiful and artistic project cost about $1.6 million to create, from pre to post-production. The stunning visuals were well worth it.
Throughout the clip, the camera continually goes back to the TLC members as they are seen meditating in a field of pink and purple flowers. While these visuals might not seem extraordinary now, they were an expensive endeavor back in 1999. Unpretty goes down as one of the priceist videos of all time.
Janet Jackson ft. Nelly: Call on Me, 2006
What happens when you bring two icons together? Well, at least when Janet Jackson and Nelly join forces, the result is a million-dollar-video. Multiple sources value the 2006 musical hit at $1 million. The track was from Janet's 20 Y.O. album and some might argue it was the song of the summer.
Why'd the music video require the big bucks? For starters, it took ten days to complete. It also included live action mixed with some high-quality animation. Add in five costume changes and custom-designed pieces, and the money quickly adds up. "We wanted it to feel like we were painting a beautiful picture," said director Hype Williams.
Missy Elliot: She's a B****, 1999
Missy Elliot's She's a B**** might've only reached number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 but the music video for the song has a special place in our artistic hearts - and not just because of the large budget. Multiple sites report the video cost around $2 million.
The result? A unique and captivating visual experience. The multi-million dollar video was directed by renowned creator Hype Williams in 1999. Among other things, the project included a set made from electroluminescent lighting and a platform that rose from underwater.
Will Smith: Miami, 1998
When Will's Miami music video came out, it graced our screens with vibrant colors, locations, and people. The total jam followed Smith and his crew as they traveled from cold Philadelphia to the steamy coast. But as it turns out, we could've almost missed out on this late 90s clip.
"I wanted to do a more personal video after Just the Two of Us, you know, something that really would make people feel things," Smith explained. "So, I took the tracklist of Big Willie Style and threw gold darts at it and hit Miami, which was a song I sort of remembered recording."
Michael Jackson: Remember the Time, 1992
With the endless list of hit songs and visuals that Michael Jackson left us with, it's hardly surprising to see the King of Pop's work on this list of priciest music videos. Up next is MJ's Remember the Time, which cost around $2 million according to various sites.
The nine-minute video was set in ancient Egypt and included never-before-seen visual effects. And, as with many things the late performer did, the creation left its mark on the world. Janet Jackson later recreated it in honor of her brother and Lil Nas X used it as inspiration for his 2021 BET Awards performance.
Puff Daddy: Victory, 1998
One look at the performers who contributed to this song and it's probably understandable why millions were spent on the music video. Puff Daddy's Victory featured none other than The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes. According to various sources, the music video cost nearly $3 million.
From the airplane explosion in the opening scene to Puff Daddy rapping in the rain and Busta Rhymes rapping from the top of a huge statue, there is never a dull moment in this visual project. Diddy acts in the leading role and the video follows him in a series of action-packed adventures.
Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life, 1999
Back in the day, the Backstreet Boys were pretty much boy band royalty. So it comes as little surprise that one of their music videos went down among the most expensive of all time. Various sources report that the Larger Than Life visuals cost around $2.1 million.
The popular video was filmed in Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios and is set in a futuristic space setting. Watching the clip, it's not hard to see that it was influenced largely by Blade Runner and Star Wars. And that might explain it's big pricetag (hello, special effects).
Celine Dion: It's All Coming Back to Me Now, 1987
Up next is this big-dollar project, which sites report cost around $2.3 million. The 18-minute music video was written by renowned screenwriter Richard Price and directed by Martin Scorsese. Shot over six weeks, the project was inspired by the 1960's film West Side Story.
And lucky for us, the Hollywood icon recreated the famous music video for an Instagram partnership in 2019. "Honey, over the top music videos never went out of style," Dion wrote alongside the latest version. "Had so much fun working with my friends... to make '90s style back for the holidays."
Michael Jackson: Bad, 1987
Leave it to the King of Pop to be his own best competition. Michael Jackson never ran out of ways to impress audiences and take our breaths away. And the $2.2 million music video for Bad was no exception. The 18-minute film was shot over a six-week period and had Wesley Snipes and Prince competing for a role.
"Me and Prince were auditioning together, and I blew Prince out of the water," Snipes recalled. "Michael had told Prince that he had the role, and then he met me." We love the Purple One, but we can't imagine Bad being any different from how it turned out.
Busta Rhymes: What's It Gonna Be?!, 1999
According to the rap legend himself, the music video for What's It Gonna Be?! cost a whopping $2.4 million. The 1999 hit featured the iconic Janet Jackson and is arguably one of the most memorable projects of the late 90s. So why exactly was it so expensive to make?
The project cost over $2 million largely because of the special effects it used, which were incredible for its time. From beginning to end, there's not a moment where viewers are not entertained by eye-catching effects, colors, and costumes. Plus the timeless tune, and we'd say it was well worth the moolah.
Mariah Carey ft. Jay-Z: Heartbreaker, 1999
Featured on Mariah's Rainbow album, this 1999 song's music video had a budget of roughly $2.5 million, according to a few sites. The film followed Carey as she and a girl crew spy on her cheating boyfriend. Viewers got a special surprise when it was revealed who the other woman was.
Dressed in an all-red outfit and a black wig, Mariah played an alter ego, Bianca. The video culminates in a fight between Carey and Bianca (AKA Carey and Carey). The physical altercation was even directed by Jackie Chan! Maybe his paycheck took a big chunk of the budget.
Cardi B: WAP, 2020
Cardi B is no stranger to pricey music videos. The Grammy-winning rapper spent 400K on Money and 900K on Please Me. But she reached new heights with the iconic visuals for 2020's WAP. Cardi revealed in 2021 that the music video cost around $1 million.
The video cost a lot of money - and resulted in much controversy. But we'll always remember it as the time when Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion steamed up our screens like they'd never been steamed up before. This is one video we won't be forgetting anytime soon.
Madonna: Die Another Day, 2002
This hit single was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and two Grammy Awards for Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video. Die Another Day was created for the James Bond film of the same name and included in Madonna's American Life album.
According to various reports, the music video cost a hefty $6.1 million to put together. But we'd say the awards made it well worth it. While the visuals were independent from the Double 007 movie, it still had a lot of James Bond inspiration with Madonna trapped in prison and trying to escape.
Britney Spears: Work B****, 2013
This hit by the Princess of Pop became a fall 2013 anthem. "A little dirty, a little flirty," Britney told fans of the project after filming the first day. In the end, the "dirty" video had quite the price tag: $6.5 million, according to multiple sites. But the final result was actually different from what producers initially intended.
"Oh my god, we showed way more skin and did way more stuff for the video than what is actually there," Spears revealed. "Like, I cut out half the video because I am a mother and because, you know, I have children, and it's just hard to play sexy mom while you're being a pop star as well."
Taylor Swift: Me!, 2019
Nowadays, extravagant music videos aren't as expensive as they used to be. What was previously ground-breaking technology is now everyday production practices. But every once in a while, today's artists spend the big bucks on their visuals, as Taylor Swift did with Me!
Multiple sources put the radiant video, which featured Brendon Urie, at a cost of $1 million. And it's not hard to see why: Taylor went all out for the colorful visuals. Multiple wardrobe changes for the whole crew (which was a big one), visual effects, and lots of umbrellas.
Janet Jackson: Doesn't Really Matter, 2000
Janet Jackson's Doesn't Really Matter might've been part of the soundtrack for Nutty Professor II, but that doesn't mean the artist spared any money on creating her own visual representation of the hit, which topped Billboard charts. In fact, according to various sites, the music video cost about 2.5 million.
In the visual masterpiece, Janet is seen in a little studio apartment filled with gadgets and colorful, futuristic outfits. The then-groundbreaking special effects plus Jackson's unforgettable dance moves made this costly music video one to remember.
Limp Bizkit: Rollin', 2000
Filmed in September 2000, the Rollin' music video was filmed atop the then World Trade Center in the Big Apple. Multiple sites put a price tag of around $3 million on the Limp Bizkit creation. That might have something to do with all of the celebrity cameos.
Actors Ben Stiller and Stephen Dorff open the multi-million-dollar video, and renowned dancer Mr. Wiggles later joins in on the fun, too. The video won Best Rock Video at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards and is remembered as one of the last times the World Trade Center was featured in music.
TLC: Waterfalls, 1995
TLC's 1995 Waterfalls was an international hit and spent seven weeks as number one on the Billboard Hot 100, plus two Grammy nominations in 1996. The music video reportedly cost around $1 million and while it had beautiful visuals, the message was a sad one: it told a cautionary tale about HIV and AIDS.
The piece centered around a man whose health is deteriorating after an HIV diagnosis. "The video spoke for a whole epidemic," said T-Boz. "We used to have so many patients come up and say, 'Thanks for being our voice and getting the message out there to let people know how easily this is contracted."
Guns N' Roses: Estranged, 1993
The Estranged music video, which reportedly cost about $4 million, was the final part of Guns N' Roses November Rain trilogy. "I don't necessarily know of anyone who's made a video like it," Axl Rose said about the piece in a 1994 documentary. "You know, showing their own emotional destruction.
Rose added, "And their process of transcending that." But not everyone approved of the over-the-top budget and efforts put into the music video. "Everything had to be bigger and better and grander, more majestic and more money," critiqued former Guns N' Roses publicist Arlette Vereeke.
Michael Jackson: Black or White, 1991
When Michael Jackson's Black or White visuals were released in November of 1991, controversy followed. But, according to some, even the scandal surrounding the project couldn't stop people from being enthralled by the reportedly $4 million music video.
"Even people who didn't like it couldn't take their eyes off of it," claimed radio talk show host Mark Davis of the video. "Michael really is the king of pop." The project was directed by John Landis of Twilight Zone and Animal House and ended up being eleven minutes long.
Gwen Stefani: Make Me Like You, 2016
Wondering why Gwen Stefani's Make Me Like You music video cost so much money (around $4 million according to multiple sources)? It might have something to do with the way in which the project was filmed: it was the first-ever clip created live on national TV.
That's right - Gwen took her 2016 Grammy Awards performance as a chance to simultaneously create a multi-million-dollar video for the hit single. Featuring various sets, plenty of costumes, body doubles, and lots of bright colors, filming it live was no easy feat.
Madonna: Bedtime Story, 1995
Madonna's music video reportedly cost a whopping $5 million to make back in 1995. But it looks like the millions paid off in more ways than one: the masterpiece received critical acclaim and went on to be displayed in New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
We'd say that's a pretty big deal. To promote the Bedtime Stories album, Madonna did a series of promotional performances that brought audiences into the music video's magic. Above she is seen at one of these shows in New York City, where the singer sang and read bedtime stories from an on-stage bed.