The Best Music Videos of 2018
If you'd declared a decade ago that music videos would be the most popular format on YouTube, you'd be gently maneuvered back to your room, given your meds, and told to resume your knitting project -- you always feel better when your hands are engaged.
But here we are: It's 2018, and music videos consistently rack up more views than any other "viral" hit, with the 10 most-viewed all cracking 2 billion and Psy falling behind Wiz Khalifa and Luis Fonsi in the race for Most Popular YouTube Video EVER. Turns out you weren't delusional about your media predictions!
Our project here, however, is not merely a popularity contest. The videos below showcase the best collaborative work between artists and directors, a list we'll update regularly throughout the year. While most matters of taste are subjective choices filtered through a funhouse mirror maze of cultural and personal experiences, you'll find that these selections are objectively correct by any reasonable standard.
Last place (TIE). Sting & Shaggy, "Gotta Get Back My Baby"Director: Michael Garcia
Release date: October 11
Why it's great: The collaboration between Sting and Shaggy -- each insufferable in his own right -- wants to be playfully ironic, an acknowledgment that they've completed their runs as "serious" artists and are now firmly in the fucking around phase of their careers. The video and song fail miserably in their attempts to be endearing, as the whole "bad boy cop partners" schtick feels lazy and pointless, much like the collaboration itself. Sting and Shaggy can do whatever they want, of course, but we should rarely, if ever, reward attempts by the uber-rich and uber-famous to maintain their status through humor and irony.
Last place (TIE). Drake, "In My Feelings"Director: Karena Evans
Release date: August 2
Why it's great: Ugh, Drake. On top of the horrible "viral challenge" this video has cynically inspired, Drake continues to menace the music world with his ubiquity and smarm. It's bad enough that we have to take him seriously as a musician, but he demands to be the center of online attention at all times -- leave the NBA alone! Ghostface Killah has said all there is to say about Drake's "3-ply softness", so all that's left for the rest of us to do is to win the hearts and minds of the public in order to usher Drake out of our lives and into some kind of quiet retirement as a maple syrup farmer in the Canadian wilderness.
Last place (TIE). John Mayer, "New Light"Director: Fatal Farm
Release date: May 24
Why it's great: Before you young whippersnappers fall prey to the revisionist history campaign John Mayer has apparently decided to wage, please take a moment to remember (or learn for the first time) that John Mayer is not now, nor has he ever been, any of the following:
- "Talented, except when applied exclusively to his ability to manipulate the strings of a guitar"
Last place (TIE). Justin Timberlake, "Man of the Woods"Director: Paul Hunter
Release date: February 1
Why it's great: It's not entirely clear what exactly Justin Timberlake is, like, doing on his most recent album, the hilariously titled Man of the Woods, but he somehow manages to pull off an unappetizing combination of corniness, sincerity, irony, and identity crisis. It's a concept album without a concept... unless you consider flannel shirts and beanies a concept. JT isn't funny or clever enough to pull any of it off, and taken in isolation the songs become comedically bad, on full display in this insane video for the title track, which plays like the musician explaining a joke that isn't funny, but that he just keeps explaining anyway. It would be more appropriate on a kids album -- perhaps a Trolls soundtrack?
Last place (TIE). Ansel Elgort, "Supernova"Director: Colin Tilley
Release date: January 11
Why it's great: Speaking of comedically bad, here's Ansel Elgort, the baby driver himself! Listening to music on your iPod in a movie does not make you good at producing music in real life, as the video for "Supernova" displays in cringeworthy form. To read more about Ansel and his ballerina girlfriend, check out this excellent Billboard profile.
75. Melody's Echo Chamber, "Breathe In, Breathe Out"Director: Dr D Foothead
Release date: April 3
Why it's great: Retro-animation fun gives Melody's Echo Chamber's new track (Melody Prochet fortunately seems to have recovered after suffering a "serious accident") a psychedelic sheen that's a welcome relief from much of the dire portraits of humanity many of the 2018 music videos have depicted. Sometimes, maintaining the possibility of other universes is enough to get you through your day.
74. One Bit + Noah Cyrus, "My Way"Director: WATTS
Release date: January 8
Why it's great: A little color goes a long way in this thumping pop video, which takes a simple concept and executes it well. Plenty of contemporary music videos use contrasting monochrome backdrops; animation is popular right now; pretty much every other video features some kind of low-key, anti-choreographed dance routine. "My Way" finds a fresh way to blend all these elements, without becoming overcomplicated.
73. 2 Chainz ft. YG and Offset, "Proud"Director: Howard Ross, 2 Chainz, Allen Parks
Release date: March 27
Why it's great: Everything about this video screams "stereotypical rap video," except for the moms lip-syncing and dancing to the lyrics. That's especially delightful when 2 Chainz's mother reminds the audience that "Momma ain't raised no hoe," because family is important. Call your mom!
72. Mitski, "Nobody"Director: Christopher Good
Release date: June 26
Why it's great: Many of the videos for songs off Mitski’s universally acclaimed album Be the Cowboy have the air of the film school student about them -- black and white, a lone figure gesturing, ambiguous emotions, no narrative -- so it’s refreshing to see her video for “Nobody” embrace a vivid aesthetic and cut loose a bit. Because Mitski’s music is fun! You don’t have to be sad and gazing out over a leaden sea to enjoy it!
71. Lavender Child, "Plutomania"Director: Stephanie Traplin
Release date: March 27
Why it's great: Plutomania is the excessive desire for wealth, and Lavender Child found an ideal blend of sensual pleasure and rotten decay to depict the temporary allure of pleasure, especially pleasure derived from lavishness. Even scenes of classical beauty plucked from a Dutch still life will wither and decay eventually.
70. Father John Misty, "Date Night"Director: Chad VanGaalen
Release date: July 15
Why it's great: Fellow musician Chad VanGaalen whips out his animation chops for this Father John Misty video, which is packed with psychedelic imagery, floating body parts, and intergalactic creatures. Sounds like a fun date night! Sexual undertones and scatology sneak their way into this tight two-and-a-half minute jam, which also represents a refreshing departure from the erstwhile Fleet Foxes drummer's more meandering work.
69. Muse, "Algorithm"Director: Lance Drake and Tom Teller
Release date: November 8
Why it's great: Algorithms! They’re everywhere! No one understands them! But they rule our lives! And make the livelihood of the people who work for this internet website possible! If only we internet peons could be arena rockers like Muse. Then we could comment on the desolate nature of a life ruled by algorithms without actually having to live that life.
68. Kendrick Lamar + SZA, "All the Stars"Director: Dave Meyers & the little homies
Release date: February 6
Why it's great: Kendrick and SZA have a knack for creating videos with strikingly memorable visuals, and this Black Panther-adjacent track is no different, with ink-blot explosions and galaxy-questing backdrops highlighting a big-budget production fitting of the blockbuster movie it accompanies. Some of the messaging is a little on the nose -- did you happen to catch the BLACK PANTHERS walking through the dead forest?! -- but it's sharp nonetheless.
67. Crumb, "Locket"Director: Haoyan of America
Release date: March 7
Why it's great: Playing like a party where lots of psychedelic drugs were passed around to everyone, the video for Crumb's "Locket" revels in tactile forms and fish-eye points of view. It's surreal, trippy, and laden with the kind of uncertain meanings typical of a transcendent drug experience.
66. Ciara, "Dose"Director: Ciara, Diane Martel, Jamaica Craft
Release date: October 25
Why it's great: Marching bands and dance routines aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but Ciara’s charisma works overtime in this high-energy gym class video. It isn’t easy to get a dance line and a drum line on the same page, folks.
65. A$AP Rocky ft. Moby, "A$AP Forever"Director: Dexter Navy
Release date: April 5
Why it's great: This almost received an automatic bid for allowing Moby and A$AP Rocky to meld minds in the collaboration the art world has clamored for for years. But A$AP went above and beyond thanks to some clever camerawork, extensive green screen use, and well-placed special effects that warp your sense of space and time. Bonus for having a genuinely creepy Moby head spawn from A$AP Rocky's jacket around the 3:06 mark.
64. Cash Lansky, "OPP"Director: + jacksonkarinja
Release date: October 19
Why it's great: Are you haunted constantly by the specter of death? Do you feel like it’s waiting for you around every corner, hovering behind you while you ride your bike? No? Well, Cash Lansky does, and if there’s one other theme besides the awfulness of the internet constant in this year’s music videos, it’s the kind of resignation to death that’s present in “OPP.” The world certainly seems more bleak than it used to be; whether or not it actually is depends on your perspective. And whether you have the embodiment of death chasing you around when you just want to ride a bike for god’s sake.
63. The Chemical Brothers, "Free Yourself"Director: DOM&NIC
Release date: November 14
Why it's great: A dystopian future in which artificial intelligence takes jobs and causes as many problems as it solves is certainly not an original concept, but have you ever seen robots dance like these? Probably not, and if you have, please share your story with the rest of the world, because this scenario does not end well.
62. DRAM, "Best Hugs"Director: Sam Hibbard
Release date: August 8
Why it's great: DRAM imagines a conventional song theme -- a lost love who's with someone new -- as a swinger party filled with people truly comfortable with admitting that your girl (or guy, or person, or man, or woman! Depending on whose keys you pick up!) does give the best hugs. Why fight it?
61. Galantis, "Emoji"Director: Dano Cerny
Release date: November 2
Why it's great: While most of the 2018 music videos dealing with internet culture paint a dire portrait of the online world, Galantis’ “Emoji” takes it at face value and celebrates the irony of anthropomorphizing an emoji. After all, it’s what we do every day, substituting stock images for real emotions and thoughts -- you might as well put a dance beat on and enjoy it.
60. Joey Dosik, "Inside Voice"Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Release date: May 30
Why it's great: A slow jam with a classic R&B mold heads to an Italian restaurant for a scene Billy Joel would definitely not recognize. What begins as a banal date night over a bottle of red quickly becomes absurd when a clam jumps off a plate of spaghetti and sings to a meatball across the table. The meatball sings right back, and the result is so stupid it's hilarious, because a clam and meatball embarking on a passionate love affair is exactly the kind of narrative that belongs in a music video about making sweet, sweet love.
59. Lil Jon ft. 2 Chainz and Offset, "Alive"Director: Elliott Sellers and Erik Ferguson
Release date: March 14
Why it's great: 2 Chainz does it again! The man is on a streak of reimagining the rap video. Here, Lil Jon comes to life as a goopy computer simulation as the trappings of a wealthy life materialize and bounce off him.
58. Young Thug ft. Gunna and Lil Baby, "Chanel"Director: Elliott Sellers and Sam Shea
Release date: November 26
Why it's great: The image of the snake uncoiling from Young Thug’s neck will not leave you for a long time. As with his videos from 2017, Young Thug has shown a willingness to embrace the esoteric and the weird -- he truly doesn’t give a fuck, and that’s a good quality to have as a musician, because it frees you do things like make a video where all the backdrops look like Salvador Dali went through a reptilian phase.
57. Parcels, "Withorwithout"Director: Benjamin Howdeshell
Release date: October 17
Why it's great: When in doubt, bring out the star power, this time in the form of Milla Jovovich. What seems like a classic horror story -- woman trapped in a house, fearing for her life, desperate to get help -- reveals itself over the course of seven minutes to be more nefarious. Milla certainly does not seem satisfied with her current domestic situation, and will go to great lengths to alter it.
56. Garretson & Gorodetsky, "Insambia"Director: Alex Italics
Release date: November 8
Why it's great: If there’s a condition, there’s likely a pill that purports to treat it. In this fake commercial for a drug called Insambia, Garretson & Gorodetsky play with the fact that America is one of only two developed countries that allow television drug advertising. New Zealand is the other. Which is weird.
55. Cherry Glazerr, "Daddi"Director: Danny Cole
Release date: November 8
Why it's great: The unsettling nature of the claymation figures in this video with their faceless, yet still humanoid, forms, matches the tongue-in-cheek song title. “Daddi” nods to the mainstreaming of “daddy” as a psychosexual term, but spelled with an i, it becomes less loaded and more fun. Leave it to a band that spells “Glazerr” with two r’s to pull off “Daddi.”
54. Bishop Briggs, "Baby"Director: Malia James
Illustrator: Anja Slibar
Release date: September 6
Why it's great: "Baby" features the kind of intricate, Illuminati-inspired illustration that pays off if you're looking for a spot among Thrillist's Best Music Videos of the Year. Briggs' titular baby may be misunderstood, but that might be because he's an actual lizard person and not just because he's "fucking crazy."
53. LSD, "Genius"Director: Ben Jones, art by Gabriel Alcala
Release date: May 3
Why it's great: Please turn off your Pretentiousness Radar, because LSD is: Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo. What an electropop supergroup! The artwork of Gabriel Alcala deserves recognition, regardless of your feelings about Diplo (and ONLY Diplo), as the trippy, meta-animation matches perfectly with the group's name and song's tongue-in-cheek title.
52. OrelSan ft. Damso, "Reves Bizarres"Director: Adrien Lagier & Ousmane Ly
Release date: November 14
Why it's great: These are indeed bizarre dreams, as OrelSan and Damso jump through strange scenes that include melting guns and kaleidoscope camera work, with the aspect ratio varying throughout to give viewers the sense that they’re really in a dreamworld with the artists themselves.
51. Róisín Murphy, "Jacuzzi Rollercoaster"Director: Róisín Murphy
Release date: October 3
Why it's great: It's a human kaleidoscope! The parade of bodies and faces doubling, tripling, and quadrupling in rhythm with Murphy's beat takes a simple technological concept and executes it without feeling repetitive or self-serious. Also, floating heads will almost always find their way onto this list.
50. J. Cole, "ATM"Director: Scott Lazer, J Cole
Release date: April 20
Why it's great: The conspicuous consumption that once defined much of mainstream rap's video output has been in decline for years now, but it feels as though more and more artists are injecting overtly political and social messages into their work. J. Cole takes the iconic imagery of the Nevermind album cover, which features a baby chasing a dollar, and updates it for the Adderall age, with kids riding prescription bottles. Chasing cash simply doesn't cut it in a world where indiscriminate chasing of cash has created all sorts of problems from which we can't seem to extricate ourselves.
49. Gesaffelstein, "Reset"Director: Manu Cossu
Release date: November 29
Why it's great: French DJ and producer Gesaffelstein has worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Kanye West, so he’s no stranger to the rap video and its evolution. “Reset” is both parody and homage, as the Eminem-like main character gradually becomes more and more ludicrously dressed, adding excess to an already excessive genre.
48. rm, "forever rain"Director: Choi Jaehoon
Release date: October 22
Why it's great: Simple, hand-drawn, black-and-white animation lends "forever rain" a haunting, serious vibe that works for RM, the rapper better known as a member of Korean superstar group BTS. It took an entire animation team of a dozen people to put together what appears to be a straightforward four-and-a-half minute video, yet the attention to detail shows. As usual, hard work lands you a place on this list!
47. Novo Amor, "Birthplace"Director: Sil van der Woerd & Jorik Dozy
Release date: June 14
Why it's great: This video won the 2018 Camerimage Cinematography award for Best Music Video, and it’s easy to see why. It’s shot beautifully, and though it doesn’t necessarily make a dramatic statement of intent, its subtle beauty washes over you.
46. Kali Uchis ft. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins, "After the Storm"Director: Nadia Lee Cohen
Release date: January 25
Why it's great: Bootsy Collins makes everything at least 20% more fun, and the legendary bass player gives Kali Uchis' track the edge over everything below it. It's not the most original offering you're likely to see in the music video space this year, but the animated versions of the featured stars, sheen of stale consumerist backdrops, and the sheer weirdness of Tyler, the Creator make this an enjoyable ride.
45. Kelela, "Frontline"Director: Claudia Matè
Release date: February 28
Why it's great: Inspired by The Sims, this Kelela video prefers to exist in a virtual world, like many of the others on this list. It's a spiritual cousin of the Lil Jon and 2 Chainz collaboration, taking what would be an unremarkable concept in live-action and upping the ante through animation. Is this the kind of world you'd want to inhabit? The question has been rendered somewhat irrelevant, because it's the kind of world plenty of people choose to live in whether they realize it or not.
44. Gengahr, "Before Sunrise"Director: Not listed
Release date: February 6
Why it's great: Dirt bike tricks rule, and if you disagree, this is not the list for you. OK, good. Now that we're all among friends, let's reiterate the thesis that dirt bike tricks rule. Proof is in this video, which is the kind of lo-fi, slice-of-life fare that more bands should employ when they're short on time, budget, or both. Everyone knows that the artist is singing and/or playing an instrument, so why simply repeat that? More tricks in videos, is the point, as long as they don't involve those annoyingly enthusiastic trick-shot guys.
43. Superchunk, "Cloud of Hate"Director: Taiyo Kimura
Release date: March 5
Why it's great: If you want 88 seconds of melting, surrealist, stop-motion, power-pop-punk, you're in luck. Merge Records veterans Superchunk have been making rock-solid music for almost three decades, and their surefootedness shows in this Taiyo Kimura-directed work. It's beautiful, disturbing, and perfectly complements the song's frenetic energy.
42. Kaskade, Brohug, and Mr. Tape ft. Madge, "Fun"Director: Will Kindrick
Release date: May 11
Why it's great: At this point in our uber-connected culture, the only way to use iPhones for "fun" is by strapping them to your face, turning them into projectors of eyes and mouths, and pretending they're singing a song. People seem to like hookup apps, too, I suppose. In this case, the promise of the song's title is fulfilled, and you can have a laugh before responding to the urgent work email that shows up in your inbox just as you're about to fall asleep.
41. Bas, A$AP Ferg, "Boca Raton"Director: Scott Lazer for The Fiends
Release date: August 9
Why it's great: The 1960s vintage postcard aesthetic of "Boca Raton" reflects the catchy, though somewhat dissonant, beat that serves as the backdrop of a not-so-happy story that takes place in the Sunshine State. It's a party, but it's also wallpapering over the problems of the real world outside of a resort city.
40. Pig Destroyer, "Mt. Skull"Director: Joe Stakun
Release date: August 29
Why it's great: Leave it to Pig Destroyer to totally desecrate a man's funeral with a deluge of banana peels, which somehow sends the coffin sliding off around town in a parody of Tony Hawk skateboarding games. All in less than two-and-a-half minutes, with the sly skater stats informing us at the end that poor Stanley has achieved 0 of 62 life goals.
39. Tove Lo, "Blue Lips"Director: Malia James
Release date: October 18
Why it's great: Yes, it is inherently pretentious to make your music video a 25-minute short film, but pretentious doesn't have to mean bad. On this list, effort receives rewards, and Swedish pop star Tove Lo has certainly put effort into the 25-minute tale of a night’s debauchery and intimate connection.
38. The 1975, "Sincerity Is Scary"Director: Warren Fu
Release date: November 21
Why it's great: Maybe the marching band trend in 2018 music videos is a frontal assault on the other trend in 2018 music videos: internet nihilism. After all, marching bands offer music in real time to a live audience, using instruments that are frequently as old as modern Western music itself. The 1975 may be a self-consciously obnoxious band, but they’ve captured something true about the online experience -- “Sincerity Is Scary” comes from their album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships -- and it’s fitting that a stylish, overtly positive video, which looks both cheesy and endearing, would embody the peril of sharing your actual feelings.
37. LCD Soundsystem, "oh baby"Director: Rian Johnson
Release date: September 27
Why it's great: I clicked on this LCD Soundsystem video fully expecting to hate it, but the star power of Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn, plus the blockbuster filmmaking of Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) won me over with a story of teleportation and grisly murder. Also, those pencil-on-paper shots at the beginning are like visual ASMR, and the song from the unretired Jay Z of hipster dance music ain't half bad either.
36. Justice, "Heavy Metal"Director: Filip Nilsson
Release date: December 13
Why it's great: Hell yeah, Justice is getting in on the marching band trend. Though it lacks the visual (and physical) punch of the French group’s other entry on this list, there’s still a viscerally satisfying feeling of watching a marching band keep time with Justice’s crunching beat. It’s fist-pumping music in the best way possible.
35. Billie Eilish, "When the Party's Over"Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Release date: October 25
Why it's great: Billie Eilish is only 17! It’s difficult to separate her youth from her music, which sounds even more mature when you know it’s coming from a high schooler, and this video shows she has sensibility in the visual arts as well. The stark, muted tones match the theme of the song, which, again, seems like it’s sung by someone who’s been to all the parties, had all the fun she’s going to have in this life.
34. Jarami, "No Chance"Director: Pensacola
Release date: November 13
Why it's great: The tale of a kebab stand worker who finds himself magically trapped inside a stolen kebab -- who among us can’t relate? The purloined sandwich causes a chase, which leads to physical violence, all while the unfortunate hero of the story finds himself thrown around at the mercy of forces much bigger than he is. Now that is relatable.
33. SonReal, "Have a Nice Day"Director: Peter Huang
Release date: July 25
Why it's great: The simplest graphics tricks are often the funniest and most effective, as SonReal proves in this cheeky video for the infectious "Have a Nice Day." The visual gag of putting a man's head on a dog's body, or seeing abs that lip sync, doesn't really warrant belly laughter, but it's more than enough to carry a video for three minutes of upbeat, organ-filled pop music.
32. Hobo Johnson, "Father"Director: Claire Marie Vogel
Release date: September 28
Why it's great: Sacramento is blowing up! There's Lady Bird, and Hobo Johnson is from there, the Kings aren't as bad as everyone thought, and… well, that's all that's coming to mind, but it's a start! Videos that feature the artist simply lip-syncing the song tend to find themselves disqualified from this venerable list, but Hobo Johnson doesn't content himself with his jerky, charismatic delivery winning the day. It's a DIY approach that goes the extra mile to make breakfast freak everyone out by growing a mouth and screaming repeatedly.
31. Confidence Man, "Don't You Know I'm in a Band"Director: Schall & Schnabel, Julian Lucas
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: Dance music should be fun, and Aussie group Confidence Man knows that better than anyone, channeling the spirit of the B-52s into 21st-century personal brand culture. It's an upbeat ride through magazine culture and megalomaniacal entitlement fame produces, and above all, Confidence Man goes full throttle into their music while avoiding the trap of self-seriousness.
30. A Place to Bury Strangers, "Execution"Director: Evan Fellers
Release date: September 20
Why it's great: The frantic, unnerving 2:22 of "Execution" is matched by a frantic, digitally rendered running humanoid (sounds like an average day on the internet) in a strobe-lit landscape packed with incredible detail for the scant amount of time alotted. It's not the kind of video you can watch over and over if you value your retinas, but like so many other entries on this list, it succeeds in capturing a sliver of truth about the contemporary online experience.
29. Janelle Monáe, "PYNK"Director: Emma Westenberg
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: Golly, what do you think the symbolism is here? It’s impossible to say. Despite the lack of subtlety, Janelle Monáe always has a sense of what looks good, and “PYNK” definitely looks good. It makes you feel like Janelle Monáe is the kind of person who’s always having a better time than everyone else, and the mood is infectious.
28. Janelle Monáe, "Make Me Feel"Director: Alan Ferguson
Release date: February 22
Why it's great: Damn, Janelle Monáe's got style! Prince's influence dominates the music of "Make Me Feel," and the aesthetic of the video recalls the '80s, when the Purple One was at his peak. But more than anything, this is fun proof that big-budget, mainstream music videos don't have to be stale.
27. FAN, "Velour"Director: Joe Baughman
Release date: April 4
Why it's great: One of the ways the post-World War II technology and entertainment era has fundamentally changed the human experience is the way it has made voyeurism available on a global scale. You can watch, follow, drop in on, surveil, or otherwise track people virtually at will, and FAN understands the visceral creepiness of watching someone watch someone. And then there's the roller skating, which really should make its way into more music videos.
26. Oneohtrix Point Never, "Black Snow"Director: Daniel Lopatin
Release date: April 26
Why it's great: If you thought you'd scan through this list of music videos and find some happy-go-lucky visuals to go with upbeat pop songs, you were sorely mistaken! For the next piece of content you enter, leave your expectations at the door with your cookies as you open up an incognito window and peruse the corners of the internet with a false perception of anonymity. Anyway, "Black Snow" does not take an optimistic view of our planet's toxic future, but as long as there are dancers, there will be a reason to live. Even if it's living and dancing in hazmat suits.
25. Margo Price, "All American Made"Director: Kimberly Stuckwisch
Release date: November 13
Why it's great: There’s a lot of self-righteous talk during the Trump administration about civility, American unity, the need to return to an imagined era when everyone could discuss their differences in an even-handed manner, and so on. Most of this talk is deluded, self-serving smarm, but in choosing subjects like Leona Tate, one of the first people to integrate into white schools in New Orleans, and The Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition in Nashville, Margo Price simply and clearly indicates what matters to her, defying the stereotype of country music as the soundtrack to red-state, conservative America. These are troubled times, but the historical perspective present in the video is a reminder that America has always faced troubled times. The question is how to face them.
24. Kunzite, "Vapors"Director: Dugan O'Neal
Release date: January 31
Why it's great: Meta alert! Here we have a casting call for -- you guessed it -- a music video, and fans of Tim & Eric-style humor will recognize echoes of the duo's penchant for using non-actors in comedic roles. It touches on the aforementioned low-key anti-choreography making the rounds in the music video world, and, like most good music vids, it doesn't make the fatal mistake of taking itself too seriously.
23. Bashton & Megalopolis, "Scandal"Director: Pablo Mengin
Release date: March 1
Why it's great: Never let it be said that hard work goes unnoticed! More than 2,000 paintings combine to create the stunning animation in this Bashton & Megalopolis video, and if you can get over the stifling pretentiousness of the description on YouTube -- "'Scandal' is an award-winning music video that also won several best music video awards," and, "Scandal is a manifest to The City versus Man, Pop Culture, Love, and Death." -- you'll find that it is, in fact, a very good music video. Take or leave the whole "The City vs." stuff.
22. The Hellp, "Feel"Director: The Hellp
Release date: October 31
Why it's great: The images and feelings of the 21st century have yet to be fully processed by most artists, and doing so in a music video would be impossible. Hopefully that’s not why you watch music videos. Anyway, The Hellp’s “Feel” video simply inserts many of the iconic images we’ve seen over the past two decades without attempting to process or find meaning in them, which is a welcome relief in an online environment dedicated to takes, explanation, and answering rudimentary questions asked of a search engine.
21. Peach Kelli Pop, "Los Angeles"Director: Not listed
Release date: April 4
Why it's great: What is the English word for a combined feeling of sympathy, revulsion, and despair? There isn't one, but Peach Kelli Pop's "Los Angeles" video sums it up pretty succinctly. You want to hate the dude for his complete failure as a partner and human being, but then you realize he's just lonely and sad, and THEN you realize he has literally no tools to improve the situation, hence the despair. It's not exactly a hopeful vision for the future of lone-wolf toxic masculinity. This is one uplifting year for music videos, that's for sure, as you will see with the upcoming selections.
20. AronChupa and Little Sis Nora, "Rave in the Grave"Director: Aron Ekberg
Release date: May 4
Why it's great: Holy shit, this video and song are insane. The rave in the grave is exactly what you expect: a rave in the world of the dead. Swedish EDM producer AronChupa and his real-life little sister Nora do not go for subtlety in depicting the rave in the grave. Dying is easy when you have a sick rave awaiting you in the afterlife, as these senior citizens realize over the course of a song that gets into your head and devours every last brain cell you have. It's so stupid it's genius.
19. Vince Staples, "FUN!"Director: Calmatic
Release date: November 1
Why it's great: Vince Staples, who somehow achieves a tone that’s both ironic and sincere, has put out some of the best hip-hop of the past few years thanks to his lyrical precision and willingness to experiment sonically. In the video for “FUN!”, Staples interprets the meaning of “street view” differently than the overlords at Google do, making for a Maps experience that might not be “fun,” but is at least a truer representation of what a view on the street would actually look like.
18. Tierra Whack, "Whack World"Director: Thibaut Duverneix, Mathieu Leger
Release date: May 30
Why it's great: Tierra Whack's weirdo aesthetic landed her a highly coveted spot on Thrillist's "Best Music Videos of 2017" list, which hopefully gave her the encouragement she needed to continue her music career instead of taking a soul-sucking gig dictated entirely by opaque algorithmic demands, or, like, a stockroom worker. Instead, she's making videos that involve incredibly elaborate nail art and a hoodie mask that will make you question the nature of your reality. Just enjoy the Whackness.
17. gv.grace, "Fuck Golf" (NSFW)Director: Elise Mesner
Release date: September 7
Why it's great: Fuck golf! gv.grace offers a compelling thesis statement for her video -- the sport designed by and for wealthy white guys deserves no love in this world. The version above is the officially the censored version (you have to make your way to Vimeo for the nudity), but "Fuck Golf" is less about shock value and more about astroturf clothes and the shocking entitlement complex of the elite.
16. XXXTentacion, "Sad!"Director: JMP
Release date: June 28
Why it's great: XXXTentacion's tragic murder on June 18 adds an extraordinarily haunting, melancholy tenor to this video, which shows the rapper brawling with a version of himself who pops out of a casket. Released just 10 days after his death, the video for this number-one single shouldn't be read as some sort of prophecy, tempting though it may be. Instead, it's a striking representation of the mental energy expended on internal struggle, and the excruciating effort required to break cycles of violence.
15. The Carters, "Apeshit"Director: Ricky Saiz
Release date: June 16
Why it's great: Beyonce and Jay-Z have always positioned themselves as pop royalty, but in the video for "Apeshit," a track off their recent collaborative album Everything Is Love, they make it clear that "pop" doesn't cut it: They're after no less than historical royalty. The iconography and choreography of the video is striking, but that's not the point. What other musicians have the audacity, money, and clout to shoot a video in an empty Louvre? None. The Carters exist on their own rarefied plane, and while the obscene wealth on display leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, it's tough to think of another .00001-percenter who could even attempt to pull off shutting down the Louvre and expecting the world to celebrate it.
14. MGMT, "Me and Michael"Director: Joey Frank, Randy Lee Maitland
Release date: February 7
Why it's great: MGMT is BACK, baby! Hopefully you spelled out "back" when you said that to yourself, and maybe even "baby." The video for "Me and Michael" offers layer after layer of wry cultural commentary from a group that has tried its damndest not to sell out in the wake of its absurdly successful debut album, Oracular Spectacular. After getting the music business gods to score them a hit record, MGMT get showered in all the sex, drugs, and shampoo rock 'n' roll can buy -- until it turns out they ripped off their hit from True Faith, a hugely popular Filipino band (true!) that actually wrote the song (false!). MGMT didn't know that "taking things on the internet was bad," and it's hard to blame them, because no one even wants most things that are on the internet, though some of the stock art design highlighted in this video makes you realize just how far we online denizens have come in the field of user experience. Somewhere along the way, Steve Buscemi's brother, the titular Michael, became a chauffeur. Just watch the video.
13. A$AP Rocky ft. Juicy J, "Gunz n Butter"Director: James Mackel
Release date: November 30
Why it's great: What does America sell to its people? Gunz and butter, apparently, and A$AP Rocky isn’t wrong. Matching the violence of firearms with the quotidian dairy product shows just how accustomed Americans are to being sold, regardless of the product. In fact, by making the product a pure commodity it loses its connotation altogether, and average consumers don’t fully grasp the implications of theirs purchases. A gun, butter, SUV, loaf of bread -- if they can be bought, they will be sold.
12. Justice, "Love S.O.S."Director: Edouard Salier
Release date: September 19
Why it's great: If you put a bodybuilder in high heels and a sequined speedo, then spin him around a stripper pole before he goes on a violent melee and destroys everyone in the club, you're getting on this list. This checks every box in the cryptic, yet rigorous, formula used to determine placement on the Best Music Videos of the Year, and while it's not THE best, French electronic legends Justice know a thing or two about style.
11. Superorganism, "Reflections on the Screen"Director: Robert Strange
Release date: February 19
Why it's great: Superorganism is far from the only musical artist using videos to depict the contemporary hellscape that is the internet, but they're among the best. Like the video for "Everybody Wants to Be Famous," this Robert Strange-directed video gives the online experience an analog makeover to show just what a nightmare the internet has become. Floating screens, flashing images, depersonalized humanity buzzing around in messages: This is what contemporary, hyperconnected life looks like, and it's not as utopian as it once seemed.
10. Superorganism, "Everybody Wants to Be Famous"Director: Robert Strange
Release date: January 3
Why it's great: Yes, a Superorganism has more videos on this list than any other band. They're that good. First off: Very serious trigger warning for people with photosensitive epilepsy. The flashing visuals are obviously not what makes this video great, though if early trends are any indication, it seems like music videos in 2018 probably should have more photosensitive epilepsy trigger warnings. Superorganism's video for "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" treats viewers to a harrowing visual cacophony on the way to a total sellout, with ads for a seafruit-flavored soda taking over a streaming site that disconcertingly looks a lot like YouTube, which is where most people will watch the video. Kids, take note: the brands will come for your personal brand if you get famous.
9. Superorganism, "Night Time"Director: Robert Strange
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: Is Superorganism the best band of 2018? Maybe! We don’t do that list here, so there’s no way to know. In any case, the group has put out some of the most coherent, thought-provoking music and music videos of the year, so do yourself a favor and get on board with Superorganism before they get on board with YOU. Not sure what that means, but just listen to them and watch them!
8. Superorganism, "The Prawn Song"Director: Robert Strange
Release date: August 8
Why it's great: More Superorganism! The people want Superorganism, and we're here to give the people what they want! Obviously these are all part of the larger Superorganism anti-internet suite, or whatever you want to call it, but "The Prawn Song" gets the nod as the highest ranked because "The Prawn Song" is the best name of the lot.
7. Childish Gambino, "This Is America"Director: Hiro Murai
Release date: May 5
Why it's great: If there's one thing we've learned about America over the past, oh, couple hundred years, it's that pointing out how violent we are as a nation -- especially toward minorities and marginalized groups -- does little to change the fact that we are a violent nation resistant to change. The starkness of Donald Glover's video, which juxtaposes self-aware, upbeat music video tropes with unadorned images of murder, shocks the viewer; the only thing more depressing than the American reality he depicts is the fact that it needs to be restated again and again and again, to seemingly no avail. In a sign of the times, the furor surrounding the release of this video died down as soon as the internet content cycle found another outrage to glom onto, which only hammers home the disturbing nature of the smile plastered over Glover's face as he alternates between dancing and shooting people.
6. SOPHIE, "Faceshopping"Director: SOPHIE, co-directed by Aaron Chan
Release date: April 4
Why it's great: This song is like anti-ASMR -- difficult to listen to, alienating in form and content -- and the video follows suit. It's a harsh reminder that in a brand-dominated culture of superficiality, everything is mimesis, including your face. Your face can mean your actual face, or the face you choose to present to the world, which in a market-based economy, you feel compelled to buy. More positive vibes from the music video world!
5. Aphex Twin, "T69 Collapse"Director: Weirdcore
Release date: August 7
Why it's great: Fast Company has a good account of director/artist Weirdcore's use of neural networks to create the trippy, 3D, and computer-glitch-inspired video for "T69 Collapse," most of which will remain incomprehensible to those of us who do not use neural networks to create music videos. But Weirdcore's (Nicky Smith) technique is likely the only way to create an appropriate video for experimental electronic genius Aphex Twin, who claims he first started making electronic music when he managed to manipulate a Sinclair ZX81, an early personal computer that couldn't, technically, produce sound on its own. So, yeah, give this guy the neural networks he deserves.
4. Belle Game, "Low" (NSFW)Director: Kevan Funk
Release date: January 30
Why it's great: You haven't lived until you've seen a factory worker slice excess silicone off a freshly made dildo. According to the artist, "'Low' is about the empty feeling I had when continually fucking people," and it's not easy to watch this video all the way through and feel better about the future, considering the increasing importance industrialized cultures place on the primacy of sensual experience and the substitution of human contact with digital interfaces. Let's just say they're making some pretty lifelike mannequins these days, and we're all going to have to get used to the emptiness of being treated like machines.
3. YACHT, "Hard World"Director: Mike Hollingsworth
Release date: February 2
Why it's great: Pop quiz: What's the saddest thing about an animal? A) How quickly its death doesn't matter; B) We're all animals too. C) Both. The answer is C, obviously! This YACHT video took the legend of Sunset Boulevard's rotating Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign, which purportedly portends what kind of day you'll have depending on which side you see, and turns it into -- wait for it -- a vision of the hellscape that is modern life. Noticing a trend in these videos? It's almost like people feel more alienated and disconnected than ever, and just at the moment you think Sad Foot will turn this video into an exercise in relentless depression, you find a moment of levity. That's all we can ask for.
2. Flasher, "Material"Director: Nick Roney
Release date: November 1
Why it's great: Do not adjust your computer and/or phone screen! Your internet connection is just fine! There have been plenty of meta music videos over the years, but Flasher’s “Material” pushes the limits of YouTube’s form so much that even after you realize you’re watching an extended optical illusion, you’ll find yourself fooled again and again. It mimics the ad-supported, distracted, buffered experience of streaming so well that you will question how much time you spend online… for about half a second, then you’ll keep clicking around as usual. Like so many of the best videos of the year, "Material" both embraces and rejects the internet as it existed in 2018. We're going to have to figure out a way around such contradictions in the very near future if we don't want to fall into total nihilism.
1. Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Pa'lante"Director: Kristian Mercado Figueroa aka Kris Merc
Release date: May 21
Why it's great: You know how Hurricane Maria absolutely devastated Puerto Rico, the government led an abjectly insufficient recovery effort that mostly rewarded predatory private enterprises seeking lucrative contracts, and the death toll was grossly underreported? Well, Hurray for the Riff Raff wants to make sure you don't forget, because Puerto Ricans are Americans who have found they can't rely on America for help when they need it most. In a year that felt as though a decreasing emphasis has been placed on the health and well-being of our fellow humans, "Pa'lante" represents a humanist reminder of the effects such an increasingly callous attitude has on the world. Music can only provide solace for the soul, which is important, but clean water and housing are important too.