Video Killed the Radio Star


Song Review by Heather Phares

One of new wave's most charming singles, the Buggles' prescient 1979 hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" is also one of the most knowing and ironic: A pop song about pop itself, it celebrates the golden days of radio with shiny, futuristic synths and then-contemporary studio techniques. The irony was complete when the song's video became the first clip aired on MTV. Fortunately, "Video Killed the Radio Star"'s ironies -- intentional or otherwise -- work in the song's favor. With its broadcast-quality vocals and bouncy rhythm, the song plays like an extended jingle, delivering hooks and sonic flourishes at every turn, appropriately enough for the story of a singer made obsolete by TV. The breathy, girlish backup singers, twinkly synths, and other intricate layers in "Video Killed the Radio Star"'s arrangement and production also foreshadow Trevor Horn's evolution into a first-rate producer. Subsequent covers, most notably by the Presidents of the United States of America, removed the song's poignancy and focused on its novelty appeal. But just as the song looks back on the radio songs of the '50s and '60s, now "Video Killed the Radio Star" can be looked on as a perfectly preserved new wave gem. It still sounds as immediate as it did when it was released, however, and that may be the song's greatest irony.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Age of Plastic 1980 Island 4:08