These days, the lines between indie and mainstream music are difficult to pinpoint. With indie artists featured prominently in mainstream media (I'm looking at you, Twilight soundtrack), it's hard to see what makes indie music, well, indie. When you add celebrities to the mix, it becomes even more difficult to separate the two.
Nonetheless, it's still kind of cool when an A-List actor adds his or her talent to a lesser-known band. Here are ten of the best appearances by celebrities in indie rock (and not-so-indie rock) videos, new and old.
10. Joanna Newsom in MGMT's, "Kids"
This may not count, because she, herself, is an indie chanteuse, but it's still kind of amazing to see the darling of Pitchfork dressed up like a Paris Hilton-style evil mother, who totes her kid around like a new, hot accessory. Babies are the new black, after all, and Newsom owns the part in this disturbing video from Brooklyn rockers MGMT.
9. Jack Black in Beck's "Sexx Laws"
This video came out in 1999, before Black was more widely known for his roles in High Fidelity and School of Rock, and starts out showing a men's group talking about their hopes and dreams. It quickly devolves into a surreal orgy of a dream, while the men in sweaters (Black among them) look terrified. It ends up with Black as a Tony Robbins-esque motivational speaker, urging his audience to defy "sexx laws." It may not make much sense, but it's Beck, after all.
8. David Cross in The Strokes' "Juicebox"
In this tribute to debauchery, Cross plays a smarmy radio DJ presiding over a studio visit from The Strokes. As Casablancas and Co. play the song, Cross instead focuses his attention on checking out porn. My favorite line is when he says fellow DJs "Fat Reggie" and "The Dumb Bitch" are at the Kids Who Care concert, with perfect straight man delivery. I just blue myself.
7. Evan Rachel Wood in Bright Eyes' "At the Bottom of Everything"
This is the story told to music by Conor Oberst about a girl on a plane whose engine fails and they plummet into the sea. Sounds morbid? The video's actually not, with Wood (Across The Universe, HBO's True Blood) and the other passengers taking their last moments to rejoice, get drunk, and hug, and features quirky animation of cardboard airplanes and felt clouds.
6. Michael Cera in Islands' "No You Don't"
It's great to see George Michael tripping his balls off. No, not the singer George Michael, which would be less surprising, but George Michael Bluth, of Fox's dearly departed Arrested Development. The video shows him less as a bumbling, unlikely romantic lead and more as an angry kid in Canada who likes taking drugs he bought off of sketchy dudes in pick-up trucks and looking at his hands.
5. Natalie Portman in Devendra Banhart's "Carmensita"
What's the point of having a super famous, Oscar-nominated girlfriend if she won't be in your music videos? Natalie Portman is certainly not one to take herself too seriously, and if you've seen the "Natalie's Rap" SNL Digital Short, you'll know what I mean. This video shows her in a different light than the characters she plays in her film roles--as a Bollywood princess, despite the fact that the song is sung in Spanish. The subtitles are a nice added touch, as well.
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4. Christina Hendricks in Broken Bells' "The Ghost Inside"
Though the year's not over, Esquire magazine named the voluptuous ginger (known for her work in Mad Men and Fox's Firefly) the "Sexiest Woman of 2010." In Broken Bells video for "The Ghost Inside," Hendricks plays a super sexy robot in the future, trying to fly her spaceship to another planet so she can live the life of luxury. The problem? She doesn't have enough money, so throughout the video, she pawns off her mechanical limbs one at a time until there's nothing left.
3. Bruce Willis in Gorillaz "Stylo"
Who cares if your ex-wife marries a dude half your age when you can be in a Gorillaz video? Bruce Willis is at his most badass here, playing a bounty hunter-type in a cherry red El Camino chasing down the outlawed CGI Gorillaz, laughing as he shoots at them and chases them over a cliff. The video itself was nominated for best breakthrough video, but lost last weekend to The Black Keys' "Tighten Up."
(Embedding of this one was disabled, but here's the link to the official video)
2. Kristen Bell in Yeasayer's "Madder Red"
This is the story of when a pet becomes a part of our family, then falls ill. Except in this bizarre video, the pet is more of an oozing monster, really, with random patches of hair and flailing limbs that only a mother--or owner--could love. Those of us who faithfully watched Veronica Mars (all twelve of us), Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or tuned in to Gossip Girl just to hear Bell's voice will see her more emotional than she has generally been in those roles, which is quite a treat.
1. Joe Jonas, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lil Jon, and RZA in Vampire Weekend's "Giving Up The Gun"
Four preppy guys in a band+tennis+Lil' Jon+Wu-Tang Clan's RZA+a Hollywood heartthrob+a Jonas brother=The best set of celebrity cameos in an indie rock video. This video shows a girl playing a sort of tennis death match, and while Lil' Jon plays a great Miyagi to her Daniel-san and Jonas plays a great sore loser, the best part of this video is easily JGyll, playing a cocky opponent who takes belts from his ass-pocket of whiskey throughout. Game, set, match, Vampire Weekend.