The “On Top of the World” music video by Imagine Dragons is my most favorite music video of all time. The video portrays a faked moon landing while referencing Stanley Kubrick and late 1960s pop culture. It was written and directed by Matt Eastin and Corey Fox. In addition to Imagine Dragons, it features the lead actor from Napoleon Dynamite, Jon Heder, and many from the cast of StudioC, BYUtv’s sketch comedy show. Guest appearances also include Whit Hertferd, Marvin Payne, the monkey from Friends, members of New Electric Sound, and Robert Connolly from Fictionist. Also appearing is Alex Sermon, wife of lead guitarist Wayne Sermon, and Aja Volkman, wife of lead singer Dan Reynolds and from the band Nico Vega.
Some great coverage regarding the making of the video includes:
- Costume/Fashion designer Lindsey Shores outlines in a Herald Extra Article the costumes, and her website has great photos from the shoot.
- A Salt Lake Tribune article has great behind-the-scenes info
- A Fox 13 TV article has a great feature and reports that co-director Corey Fox claims that there are over 50 hidden 1960s references in the video
- UtahValley360 article: “15 things you didn’t know about Imagine Dragons’ music video“
- iluminatiwatcher.com article on hidden symbols in the music video
Studio C and Matt Meese
Interestingly, many of the StudioC cast members are in the video, but not all of them! Here is a list of Studio C cast members and their roles along with a link to their twitter accounts:
- Mallory Everton is a hippie.
- Jeremy Warner is another hippie.
- James Perry is the boom mic operator.
- Whitney Call is an assistant to Stanley Kubrik (or President Nixon?).
- Jason Gray is a Man in Black.
- Adam Berg is a TV-in-the-shop-window viewer.
- Natalie Madsen is another TV-in-the-shop-window viewer.
Curiously missing are Matt Meese, Stacey Harkey, and Stephen Meek. It’s possible that with a tight shooting schedule that the three of them were out-of-town or otherwise disposed, but is that likely? Sure, neither Stacey nor Stephen are the creator of Studio C, so they may not have been asked to be in the music video. (However, why not??!!!??? What is wrong with you guys? Will Stacey and Stephen ever speak out about this injustice?) Now, Matt Meese on the other hand created Studio C. Why wouldn’t he be in the Imagine Dragons music video with almost all the other Studio C cast?
Well, it turns out Matt may be in it after all. Take a careful look at this image.
I propose that the guy in the brown fedora wearing sunglasses is none other than Matt Meese!
Notice the face in question is baby smooth with faint lips just like these photos of Matt Meese trying not to laugh:
[UPDATED: IMDB now says, :(13 Nov 2013) Music video released for Imagine Dragons "On Top of the World" - Window Watcher" I had previously been informed that IMDB said he was a Russian cosmonaut, which he clearly wasn't. Sorry about the much-ado-about-nothing.]
So I apologize to Matt Meese for accusing him of not being in the video when he actually was. It’s possible that Stacey and Stephen were in the video but their scene was cut. I would really like an explanation. It’s curious that more people involved in the making of the music video haven’t blogged every detail about their involvement. The only one to do so that I’ve seen is the costume designer (see link above). Did they have to sign non disclosure agreements or something?
Imagine Dragons currently have four official videos. This narrative could be considered controversial because, well, just ask anyone, “Do you think we put men on the moon?”
You are likely to get strong responses for Yes and No, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Meh, I don’t know one way or the other.” The frequency of responses for believed faked moon landing are only 6% according to a Gallup Poll while only 5% had “no opinion.” It’s actually quite daring of Imagine Dragons to produce a video narrative that goes against the grain of mainstream thinking.
Telling a story doesn’t necessarily imply belief. The music video is perfect because it allows for plausible deniability for either opinion. If the band thinks we put men on the moon, it’s just fun to pretend there is a conspiracy. If they actually think it was faked, its a clever way to put it out there. Although, in the video, the voice-over for the astronaut says, ” That’s one small step for man, one giant deceit for mankind.” I interpret that as the theme statement for the video, so I think it crosses the line towards belief in a faked moon landing. Just my opinion. Perhaps it’s just part of the story. Just like the band doesn’t pick every costume or prop, they probably didn’t have much to do with this line of voice-over dialog performed by someone who vaguely sounds like Neil Armstrong.
I think the band is being rather coy about what they actually believe. The only mention of a band comment is a press release that says, “We had a good time shooting this video. It was inspired by some of our favorite movies, bands, and directors. We’ve always been into conspiracy theories, so we thought we’d create one of our own.” Pretty benign. Not endorsing anything. Interestingly, I can’t find any interviews with follow up questions.
I think directors Matt Eastin and Corey Fox are genius for fitting so many inside jokes, conspiracies, cultural references, Easter Eggs into such a small amount of screen time. They should be getting awards and interviews about this, but I can’t find any interview of them. In this day and age of self publishing, you would think one of them would expound on the narrative in their masterpiece music video. But it’s like a vacuum…in space. Nothing. No Mention. So I am inclined to believe that they can’t publicly speak about it because it’s controversial.
If you would like more background info on this topic, here are some good links:
- Info on Kubrick and the Shining and Moon Landings
- Video on faking the moon landing: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon
- Wagging the Moondoggie, Parts1-14 (Also check out the hippie stuff while you are there. Turns out, the whole movement was spawned by the CIA as a distraction!)
- Hoax allegations and responses at Wikipedia.org
- NASA responses to Hoax allegations
- BadAstronomy.com’s response to Fox TV’s 2001 show “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?”
I wondered if the controversial nature of the video might be detracting from its popularity. Here is a table comparing views, likes, and dislikes on YouTube. (Sorry about the weird leading zeros in the table, but it helps if you want to sort the data.)
|Song Name||Peak Popularity/#weeks on chart||Date Published||Days on YouTube (as of 6-19-14)||Total Views||Ave. Views/day||Total Likes||Ave. Likes/day||Total Dislikes||Ave. Dislikes/day|
|On Top of the World||79/19||11/13/2013||218||020,273,753||092,999||0,117,556||0,814||03,454||16|
(I can’t believe they didn’t upload the On Top of the World music video on 11/12/13. They missed it by one day!)
Overall, I was disappointed that my favorite video doesn’t have more views. Is it due to the controversial nature of the video?
While the table is pretty neat, it’s difficult to interpret since many people use YouTube to play music instead of just supporting the artist by purchasing the song on iTunes or Amazon. The total views could be a function of the popularity of the song. Also, the likes or dislikes could be based on the audio of the song itself instead of the art/craft/narrative of the video. That said, On Top of the World seems to be their poorest performing video although it’s about even with It’s Time. No one should allege that the controversial On Top of the World music video is being actively shunned since the song itself isn’t nearly as popular as the other three according to Billboard.
So, while it’s crazy to me that more people aren’t watching my favorite video of all time, I hope that this post will prompt you to go watch On Top of the World over and over again while finding as many of the Easter eggs as possible. Here is an easy link to search Imagine Dragons on Google.
Questions I still have:
Why does the boy on the big wheel hold a blue toy gun in his left hand?