25 Years Ago, Jamiroquai Pondered Our Reliance on Technology with the Groundbreaking “Virtual Insanity”

Adrian GarroCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

Released Aug. 19, 1996 — 25 years ago today — “Virtual Insanity” marked a breakthrough moment for English funk band Jamiroquai.

The track, a delectably danceable tune with pointed lyrics from front man/figurehead Jay Kay that cast a critical eye on our communal reliance on technology, was topical at the time it was released, the internet still building its stranglehold on everything, a few years away from becoming an all-encompassing aspect of daily life.

Future’s made of virtual insanity
Now always seem to, be governed by this love we have
For useless, twisting, our new technology
Oh, now there is no sound
For we all live underground

(It’s worth noting the coincidence of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook choosing today — the anniversary of this particular song — to launch a virtual reality remote work app called Horizon Workrooms, featuring digital work meetings).

The track’s music video, premiered a month after the song’s debut, was a phenomenon on MTV, which at the time was still a significant force in the music world, and in this case it helped make Jamiroquai a global sensation.

The visually impressive video featured Kay dancing alone in a room in which the floor appears to move, while the rest of the room remains stationary. To this day, it’s an iconic snapshot of the time, and one of the ’90s most memorable music videos:

Director Jonathan Glazer broke down the behind-the-scenes magic of the “Virtual Insanity” video:

“Virtual Insanity” was the second single featured on Travelling Without Moving, Jamiroquai’s third studio album. Led by the track, the record was a hit around the world, selling eight million copies and helping Jamiroquai clean up at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1997 (again, a huge deal at the time), where it was named Video of the Year.

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The song also earned the group Best Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy Award, one of two nominations it picked up (Travelling Without Moving was up for Best Pop Album).

Synkronized, the 1999 follow-up record to Travelling Without Moving, was unable to capitalize on the previous record’s breakthrough success on a commercial level, though the inclusion of lead single “Canned Heat” a few years later in the 2001 comedy Napoleon Dynamite further helped Jamiroquai remain a relevant force in pop culture:

Though the mid ’90s breakthrough marked the commercial peak of Jamiroquai in the United States, at least, the band rode the momentum of “Virtual Insanity” to five more albums, the most recent coming in 2017 (Automaton), Jay Kay and his colleagues remaining a force around the world — and one whose most well-known mission statement remains relevant today.

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