Thursday, April 21, 2022

A Brief History: The Lasting Legacy of the "Addicted to Love" Music Video

"Addicted to Love" was originally released in 1985 as part of Robert Palmer's Riptide album. It was issued as a single the following year and was a game changer for Palmer. "Addicted to Love" became Palmer's first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Mainstream Rock charts, as well as giving him a #1 in Australia and his most successful single in many other countries. But we're here to talk about the video.

Commemorative #14 by Patrick Nagel
British director and noted fashion photographer Terence Donovan was brought on board to direct the video for "Addicted to Love." His skills in the fashion photography field had been influential in the 1960s, when he photographed Twiggy, Marianne Faithful, Jimi Hendrix, and many others. His photography continued from the '60s into the '80s and beyond. His style was distinct: deep blacks and harsh contrast. He could capture a fashionable look with seeming ease, which made him key in creating such an iconic video. The look realized in the video is reminiscent of the paintings of Patrick Nagel, the artist responsible for the cover of Duran Duran's Rio, and the many stylized paintings of dark-haired, pale women with dark lipstick and angular faces that we have come to associate with the art of the '80s. This similarity helps to cement the video as the look of the era. 

The original video included five models: Julie Pankhurst as the keyboard player, Patty Kelly and Julie Bolino as the guitarists, Mak Gilchrist as the bassist, and Kathy Davies as the drummer. Gilchrist spoke on her experience with Q Magazine, saying: "I was 21 and got the part on the strength of my modelling book. We were meant to look and 'act' like showroom mannequins." Gilchrist had previously been in commercials in addition to modeling work. Bolino and Davies had played parts in other music videos. Pankhurst and Elias were fresh to the scene. Supposedly, a real-life musician was meant to teach the models to look like they were playing, but according to according the VH1's Pop-Up Video: "gave up after about an hour and left." 

The video premise is incredibly simple, yet because of all of the seemingly small decisions, it became an instant classic. Palmer used the concept again in three more videos, meaning it became something of a signature look for him. 

His next music video was for the song "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," a cover of a Cherrelle song written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The video featured even more models, some representing the camera crew, some dancing in formal attire, and of course the "backing band" of models. This time, the models in the pseudo band have a much more choreographed (or at least in-sync) dance routine. Donovan returned as the director. The song peaked at #2 behind Boston's "Amanda," definitely assisted by the music video. The intervening single, "Hyperactive" failed to make it into the top 30. Of course, in the mid to late '80s, much of an artist's success could be linked to having a music video in rotation and a great video could be pivotal in causing a single to take off. 

The success of the songs based on the quality or existence of a video could be considered put to the test over Palmer's next two single releases. A reissue of his 1985 single, "Discipline of Love" failed to chart anywhere other than Australia (where the song did move from #95 to #68 upon reissue). The following single was "Sweet Lies," a song from the forthcoming film of the same name. Even with a music video and an entire movie linked to the song, it only made it to #94 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Yet in 1988, Donovan was brought on board once again to direct the video for "Simply Irresistible," and once more, it became a high-charting single for Palmer, peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Mainstream Rock charts. In my opinion, "Simply Irresistible" was the most striking video in this series. The third Palmer/Donovan collaboration features a more colorful look, with more advanced choreography. The knowledge that music videos weren't just a fad also allowed for better production values and lighting than the previous videos. The downside is that there is no "band" in "Simply Irresistible," reducing the women to set pieces dancers, giving them less to do than in the previous videos. Julie Pankhurst, Julia Bolino, and Kathy Davies all returned for "Simply Irresistible."

"Simply Irresistible" would be the final collaboration between Palmer and Donovan, as well as Palmer's last Billboard Hot 100 top ten hit. The final video Palmer did in this style was "Change His Ways," a comical take on the other videos in which Palmer is accompanied by a backing band of sexy duck women in plain black dresses. 

VH1 ranked the video for "Addicted to Love" at #3 on their list of the top videos of the '80s and it immediately began to be visually referenced in other artists' music videos and sometimes parodied. Let's go through a few examples.

Weird Al Yankovic - "Addicted to Spuds" and "UHF"
Yankovic has always been great at spotting trends, which is the only explanation I can think of as to how he was the first in line to emulate the look of these iconic videos. In 1986, Yankovic parodied "Addicted to Love" with "Addicted to Spuds," a spot-on parody as always. For MTV's New Year's Eve celebration in 1987, he performed the song live with a backing band of sexy Mr. Potato Heads (they had legs with dark tights on like in the original video, I'm not attracted to potatoes). The potatoes stared blankly ahead like the women in the original video, and mimed playing instruments whilst swaying in place just as the women had in the original video. Honestly, it's pretty funny now, thirty-five years removed from the event. I imagine it would have been even funnier at the time.

Two years later when he wrote an original song for his movie UHF, Yankovic continued to recognize the video's importance in popular culture of the '80s. The music video for the song "UHF" features visual references to many iconic videos including "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan and of course, "Addicted to Love." The twist Yankovic puts on the look this time is that all of the models in his "band" sport Yankovic-style moustaches and glasses. If you've never seen the video for "UHF" but are a fan of '80s music videos, it's definitely worth a watch.

Tone Lōc - "Wild Thing"
As early as 1988, Tone Lōc released "Wild Thing," the video for which was reportedly filmed for around $500. That budget was evidently enough to pay a group of girls to impersonate the Robert Palmer models. The girls in the "Wild Thing" video act as the "band" and sway slightly out of rhythm with one another just as in the original "Addicted to Love" video. Being only two years later than the inspiration and not outwardly comedic, it seems like a strange homage but I can only assume that director Tamra Davis was already aware that "Addicted to Love" featured a look to be reckoned with.

Paula Abdul - "Forever Your Girl"
In 1989, more mainstream artists were ready to make reference to Palmer's videos, as Paula Abdul did in the video for "Forever Your Girl." Directed by David Fincher of all people, the video sees Abdul coaching children in a variety of dance routines. Three of the young ladies are being shown moves from "Simply Irresistible" and are dressed in attire similar to "Addicted to Love." They are eventually able to perform in a color segment vs. the black and white the video is primarily shot in, presumably meaning it's the final version of the performance for the video. 

Die Prinzen - "Alles nur geklaut"
German pop-rock band Die Prinzen (The Princes) went to #4 in their home country and #3 in Austria with this 1993 single. The video is another that zips through a series of references to '80s videos, so of course they include a parody of the "Addicted to Love" video.

Mr. Blobby - "Mr. Blobby"
The disturbing children's television juggernaut that is Mr. Blobby had a Christmas #1 in the U.K. with this self-titled track (the song replaced Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love" at #1. That song is far from being my favorite song, but it didn't deserve that). The video (apart from being a fever dream) references at least four music videos, including "Addicted to Love" of course.

Stardust - "Music Sounds Better with You"
In 1998, French house music band, Stardust released the video for their song "Music Sounds Better with You." Michel Gondry directed the video, which follows a boy as he builds a model airplane. The TV in the background of the video plays a top five countdown of music videos, including the guys from Stardust singing the "Music Sounds Better with You." Along with the other four fully-fictional videos, one of them is for a song called "Hotlipz" by "Dave Stavros." The video for "Hotlipz" is an obvious visual reference to "Addicted to Love."

Shania Twain - "Man! I Feel Like a Woman"
Shania Twain was really the first artist to put her own spin on "Addicted to Love" for her 1999 single "Man! I Feel Like a Woman." Paul Boyd directed the video which features the iconic cloudy background- but this time, male models miming the instruments for her "backing band." The men are dressed in black as with the original female models, but with mesh shirts in place of short skirts with hosiery. The men stare blankly ahead while Twain rocks out in front in a stunning outfit far more memorable than Palmer's shirt-and-tie look. The video won video of the year in the MuchMusic Video Awards in 2000. It's also Twain's highest-viewed video on YouTube. 

Bowling For Soup - "1985"
2004 saw SR-71 release a song called "1985." Most people know the song better from the cover by Bowling For Soup which was also released in 2004. The video is another that pays homage to many '80s videos (although as far as I can tell, none of them are as early as 1985). What's interesting about this video is that the actual band dress up as the models, down to the dresses and smoky eyes.

Ingrid Michaelson - "Girls Chase Boys"
Like Shania Twain, Ingrid Michaelson's video puts a new spin on the concept of the Palmer/Donovan videos. Michaelson openly pays tribute with a video inspired by "Simply Irresistible" specifically. "Girls Chase Boys" is a song about how "no matter who or how we love, we are all the same." Michaelson stated "The video takes that idea one step further, and attempts to turn stereotypical gender roles on their head. Girls don't exclusively chase boys. We all know this. We all chase each other and in the end we are all chasing after the same thing: love." Her 2014 video includes both men and women emulating the dance moves from "Simply Irresistible," as well as perfect adaptations of the costumes. Michaelson herself stands in front in a suit, carrying herself much like Palmer, using his hand motions when possible. 

Luca Carboni - "Luca Lo Stesso
In 2015, Luca Carboni wrote a song about the contradictions of the world. Cosimo Alemà was brought in to direct the video, which features an all-female backing band with smoky eyes and matching dresses. Carboni told his YouTube audience: "I liked the idea of ​​having a band that was only symbolic. It is no coincidence that the 80s are mentioned with the video of my first single. There the roots of my music and my history lie. They are the roots of this new album, which reach up to here, to look to the future" (translated from Spanish). 

The impact of these videos doesn't end there: from covers like "Addicted to Love" by Black Heart Saints that also pays tribute to the video, to the music video being filmed in Love Actually with a band of model Santas for the band, to the many parodies of "Addicted to Love" that have sprung up over the years, even to the present day. Even in the early days of MTV when videos were somewhat scarce, there were winners and losers. It's clear that to this day the collaboration between director Terence Donovan and Robert Palmer has a lasting impact on the music video scene. Donovan suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1996 and Palmer died of heart failure in 2003, but people have still been referencing the videos. Their legacy outlived them.


  1. Who are the 4 dancers names in I didn't mean to turn you on?who are the 13 models names in Simply Irresistible?

    1. It's a little difficult to find that information. In "Simply Irresistible," IMDB lists only seven of the dancers ( One of the dancers, Kimberly Jones, is sometimes identified as Lil Kim because they have the same name, but Lil Kim would have only been 14 when the video was filmed. Kelly Brennan has identified herself as another model in the video, as has Ohio's own Marie Newberry, bringing the total names I can find up to nine ( and
      Apart from that, Imdb lists only Leigh Jaeger as a dancer in "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," so I'm not sure who else is in it.
      If you know of any more dancers, please let me know!