New Orleans has established itself as a hot spot for the movie industry thanks to Louisiana’s generous film tax credits. While I have written about the numerous A-list actors that have made Louisiana their second home for movie shoots, the possibility of Jurassic Park 4 shooting in Baton Rouge, and Jason Statham’s return to New Orleans, I have not yet written about the numerous iconic music videos that have been shot in Louisiana’s most famous city.
Music videos are a perfect fit for New Orleans thanks to the convergence of the city’s majestic architecture and its rich contributions to the music landscape. The Big Easy’s diverse architecture provides a wade array of settings that can help cinematographers convey a range of emotions that suit any given song’s lyrics. The spectrum of artists choosing New Orleans as the setting for their music videos is nearly as diverse as the culture and music history of the city itself.
The Jonas Brothers are the most recent music group to shoot a major music video in the Crescent City. The band’s single “Pom Poms” was shot in New Orleans during the spring of 2013 and debuted on E! on April 2, 2013. While the Jonas Brothers did not make extensive use of the city’s iconic scenery, the music video does incorporate the talents of the Baton Rouge-based Southern University marching band.
“American Pie” by Madonna
Madonna covered the Don McLean classic, bringing her to New Orleans, Louisiana for the filming of the music video. The 2000 music video used regular people as featured extras to depict hard-working Americans.
“Brendan’s Death Song” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
This stunning 2012 music video from the Red Hot Chili Peppers paid tribute to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles punk band the Masque. The beautiful video is set in New Orleans and portrays a traditional second line funeral procession.
“Cadillac Style” by Sammy Kershaw
Sammy Kershaw’s 1991 music video for “Cadillac Style” is almost like a Louisiana tourism ad which seems fitting since he is a native of the Pelican State. Throughout the course of the video, the country crooner drives past picturesque backdrops that include antebellum mansions and the limestone buildings of Tulane University’s campus. He even strums his guitar in the French Quarter and in Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral’s majestic facade providing the background. Big Easy icons such as Camellia Grill, the Riverwalk, the French Market, the Superdome, Tipitina’s, and Pelican Stadium all make appearances in this classic country video.
“Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood
A French Quarter backdrop gives this 2009 music video a very appropriate and beautiful setting. The distressed appearance of the setting meshes well with the vintage wardrobe and burlesque dance routine, all of which are a perfect fit for the lyrics to this dance-driven country hit.
“Good” by Better Than Ezra
The band that got its start at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge had become a New Orleans-based outfit right around the time they struck it big. The band shot the music video for its 1995 debut single “Good” in a home full of Crescent City patina. The video’s exterior shots feature signs for the Coliseum Theater and Orleans Insurance Co., both iconic fixtures of the Big Easy that no longer exist.
“Hey Mama” by Mat Kearney
Mat Kearney descended upon Hollywood South to shoot the 2011 music video for “Hey Mama.” The black-and-white video is gritty and portrays a very organic visual representation of the Big Easy. St. Louis Cemetery, the Crescent City Connection, the Treme Brass Band, a Mardi Gras Indian and many other iconic characters are featured in this beautiful clip.
“King of New Orleans” by Better Than Ezra
Long before hipsters invaded New Orleans, the city was a destination for so-called “gutter-punks.” The debut single from Better Than Ezra’s sophomore album, “friction, baby,” told their story. The band’s hometown and a wise selection of filming locations laid the perfect visual representation of seeing beauty in brokenness.
“Life Goes On” by LeAnn Rimes
This 2002 single from LeAnn Rimes was promoted with a strikingly beautiful music video shot in the French Quarter and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 which is located in the Garden District neighborhood known for its palatial mansions. The scenes in the Quarter focus heavily on the city’s Spanish architecture including the intricate ironwork surrounding breathtaking balconies and the cinematography displayed throughout the video makes even the most jaded traveler want to hop on the next plane to Louis Armstrong International Airport. New Orleans veterans will notice the flambeau.
“Love Done Gone” by Billy Currington
The wrought-iron balconies of the French Quarter, St. Charles Avenue streetcar, Jackson Square, and the Steamboat Natchez riverboat all appear in this 2011 music video. Many of New Orleans’ iconic street performers are also heavily featured in the clip, as well as the haunting statue of Jesus that stands behind St. Louis Cathedral.
“Never Knew I Needed” by Ne-Yo
The 2009 music video for Ne-Yo’s single “Never Knew I Needed” contains very surreal imagery of the Crescent City. What really sets this video apart from the others on the list is that it eschews focusing exclusively on the city’s trademark architecture and instead gives the viewer insight into some of the beautiful geographic features of the region including the swampland and signature moss that hangs from the trees.
“Only God Knows Why” by Kid Rock
Kid Rock’s music video for the 2000 hit “Only God Knows Why” featured concert footage interspersed with scenes shot in the Big Easy. The Crescent City Connection and the iconic New Orleans skyline act as backdrops, while the singer also utilizes the trademark St. Charles Avenue streetcar line in the video. Vaughan’s, Kermit Ruffins’ favorite local venue, makes an appearance. While this music video might be the most nationally well-known footage of Kid Rock in New Orleans, locals also know about the commercial that he later shot for his friend’s trash company, SDT. Only in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“The Other Side of this Kiss” by Mindy McCready
The music video for this light-hearted Mindy McCready single was set on the legendary Bourbon Street. Throughout the video, the country singer dances with people in the legendary street known for its fun-loving spirit.
“Restless” by Alison Krauss & Union Station
Alison Krauss’ angelic voice lends itself to the setting for this 2004 music video. Her soothing vocals tell a tale of discomfort with a beautiful old mansion as the story’s backdrop. The home’s patina suits the lyrical content and the image of her ‘escaping’ on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line in the Lower Garden District drives the point home without seeming trite.
“The Right Stuff” by New Kids on the Block
Who knew that this smash hit music video from the original boy band was shot in New Orleans? Watching this 1988 video, it becomes clear that the Crescent City is the setting, but it’s still a bit of trivia that would surprise all but the most die-hard NKOTB fans. The boys crossing the Crescent City Connection bridge in a convertible is mildly amusing, but the shot of their vintage convertible breaking down in a rather rough New Orleans neighborhood is pure comedy gold. And then there is the apparent game of hide-and-seek in St. Louis Cemetery. Wow.
“Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey
Everyone in the world knows this classic Journey song, but the music video seems like it could be filmed in just about any port city. This classic rock music video from 1983 was shot on the wharfs on the Mississippi River adjacent to Uptown New Orleans.
More from this contributor:
Down Louisiana Way: A Playlist of Songs About Louisiana
The Top 10 Movie Soundtracks of the ’90s
The Top 25 Crime Films of All-Time