Still with the music videos? Hell yeah, still with the music videos, just like in 2017 and 2018. You know why? Because people are still pairing moving images with pleasurable sonic oscillations, and as long as that's true, we're going to stay on top of the best of the best. Also, "best music videos" is a somewhat valuable search phrase that, over the course of an entire year, pays off with loads of clicks and, probably, some passive revenue from Google ads. But that's a side of the business I don't deal with, so perhaps I should shut my mouth and make content. Everyone lives to serve the algorithms now, so get on board or get off the internet!
While the nature of online video production and consumption may have changed, what's stayed the same is plenty of artists and directors continue to collaborate on music videos that deserve your attention. Here are the finest the medium has to offer, so check back regularly (or every day, just make sure you close and reopen your browser!) to see what's new.
In it for the music? Check out the best songs of 2018, the best albums of 2018, and the big albums that will drop in 2019. Want more recommendations? Check out our picks for the Best Movies of 2019 and the Best TV Shows of 2019.
This Restaurant Gives Brunch a Punjabi Twist
58. Preoccupations, "Compliance"
Director: Nicholas Brown and Evan Henderson
Release date: January 29
Why it's great: What if David Lynch made a short film about Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy? The result might be something like this video for "Compliance," featuring a smoke-filled landscape and an industrial monster who happens to resemble a tree-like superhero, but with a ring of fire on its back. The video doesn't attempt to bite off more than it can chew, and it's refreshing to see a focused vision that doesn't attempt to explain itself to you over and over again.
57. Warm Human, "Down"
Director: Carol Brandt
Release date: February 7
Why it's great: Warm Human's chilly expression of depression gets an equally chilly video from Brandt, who keeps the tones blue and never reveals whether you're looking at the world upside-down or right-side-up. The biblical imagery adds even more heft to the video, which isn't exactly uplifting, but which does feature an albino snake -- always a smart move.
56. City Girls ft. Cardi B, "Twerk" (kind of NSFW)
Release date: January 16
Why it's great: "Should we maybe mix it up with some non-twerking shots?" "Absolutely not." There's a single-minded purity to this video that places it on a plane above the myriad other videos featuring twerking -- when your mission is finding the world's greatest twerker, you have to be totally dedicated to your cause. And Miami's City Girls, with help from Cardi B, are certainly dedicated.
55. Rainbow Kitten Surprise, "It's Called: Freefall"
Director: Anthony Francisco Schepperd
Release date: January 28
Why it's great: Who doesn't love a depressing, oblique animated short film? Director and animator Schepperd blends abstract design with narrative storytelling in a shadow-filled world to set up what appears to be an execution averted at the last second thanks to the intervention of a horse-hair covered hero. From there, the story evolves into a psychedelic fever dream featuring horsewhips, dragons, and devils -- not bad for two-and-a-half minutes.
54. Vicente García, "Ahí Ahí"
Director: Alan Del Rio Ortiz
Release date: May 16
Why it's great: Simple ideas executed well are rare in the music video world, but "Ahí Ahí" concerns itself with one thing only: Hooking up. The video chronicles a steamy night with the perfect balance of humor and sensuality. The Rubik's cube! The spilled milk! All would normally be out of place in your average makeout session, but in the low light of "Ahí Ahí," they make sense.
53. 2 Chainz ft. Lil Wayne, E40, "2 Dollar Bill"
Director: Not listed
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: Like a two-dollar bill itself, an entertaining music video doesn't have to "prove useful for everyday life" or "make sense." If Lil Wayne (it had to be Lil Wayne who suggested this) says, "Let's dress four men up in lederhosen and put them around a poker table, where they'll clap along with the beat," it's smart to go with the flow. When 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne combine creative forces -- plus E40, let's not forget him! -- the result truly is rare.
52. Matoma ft. MNEK & Kiana Ledé, "Bruised Not Broken"
Director: Jeff Desom & Carlos Lopez Estrada
Release date: July 18
Why it's great: Who says cannibalism can't be fun?! Lots of people, for good reason, because eating other humans should not be fun… unless you're making a bouncy music video about the revenge victims exact on their butcher/murderer. Matoma, MNEK, and Kiana Ledé manage to control their previously severed limbs and inspire them to reassemble as the butcher perishes in his own freezer.
51. Tim Heidecker, "When I Get Up"
Director: Not listed
Release date: April 23
Why it's great: Fans of Heidecker's comedy will recognize some familiar themes in the video for the first single off his new album: horror beats, meta-humor, office drone satire, and the deep discomfort of watching someone embarrass himself. By the final shot, you understand how quickly a label's budget can get eaten up.
50. Cardi B, "Press" (NSFW)
Director: Jora Frantzis
Release date: June 26
Why it's great: Cardi B knows better than most the power of sexual suggestion, and in this music video that technically passes digital media content guidelines, she pushes the limits of that suggestion. Though you don't actually see any nipples -- god forbid! -- it's probably not smart to watch this at work unless your work involves writing a list of the year's best music videos, and even then you'll probably feel a bit uncomfortable with the stark images of sexuality meeting violence, Basic Instinct-style.
49. Knife Knights, "My Dreams Never Sleep" (kind of NSFW)
Director: Joe Garber
Release date: March 4
Why it's great: As always, going to the YouTube comments is the best way to feel worse about the people who live and work in the world and laugh simultaneously. The top comments for "My Dreams Never Sleep" are particularly illuminating, as they reveal a subset of fans who particularly enjoy the "Vaginal Vortex" depicted in this video. Beyond that, though, there's a trippy real-world-meets-animation look that that's more Waking Life than Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and it perfectly matches the heady vibes of Knife Knights' hypnotic beat.
48. Lizzo, "Juice"
Director: Quinn Wilson
Release date: January 4
Why it's great: The lighthearted parody has admittedly been done to death in music videos, but sometimes all it takes is a particularly energetic song, a charismatic performer, and frequent cuts between scenes to make the form feel fresh. That's the case with Lizzo's "Juice," which is part exercise video, part infomercial, part late-night talk show, part lotion commercial, all to convince you that you should probably be drinking the same juice as Lizzo.
47. Jungle, "Casio"
Director: Josh Lloyd-Watson & Charlie Di Placido
Release date: January 15
Why it's great: As the laid-back dance trend takes over music videos, it's increasingly difficult for a choreographed routine to stand out. But "Casio" embraces what appears to be a relaxed vibe and produces a complex and energetic dance choreographed by one of the band's members (and the lead dancer in the video). The result is a hypnotic quality that matches the low-key beats of "Casio," and you'll be lulled into a pleasant trance by time you get to the request for Julia to call.
46. Joywave, "Obsession"
Director: Laura Gorun, Cooper Roussel and Dimitri Basil
Release date: August 22
Why it's great: Everyone loves a good movie parody, right? What about dozens of movie parodies smashed together in the form of title cards? Rochester natives Joywave did exactly that, shooting on Rochester stalwart (pre-bankruptcy, of course) Kodak's film to mimic the warmth and depth these fake classics would likely emanate.
45. Safia, "Resolution"
Director: George Thomson & Lukas Schrank
Release date: May 9
Why it's great: If you make a music video starring a Mongolian sumo wrestler, there's a good chance you're making this list, and that's exactly what Safia did, so here we are. Tuvshinjargal Bum-Erdene is a young wrestler attempting to challenge the ban on women competing in sumo professionally, and she's already risen up the ranks of the amateur circuit. Not only is it a compelling story, but it's a good reminder that even in the days of Western media supersaturation, there are a near infinite number of perspectives that go missing in the glut of content.
44. FKA Twigs, "Cellophane"
Director: Andrew Thomas Huang
Release date: April 24
Why it's great: Pole dancing is usually designed to stimulate fantasies, but FKA Twigs turns it into a scene out of a fantasy novel. The video also provides an opportunity for the former backup dancer to show off her insane athleticism -- it's presumably not easy on the shoulders and core to pull of a pole dance routine this challenging for almost two minutes straight.
43. Meg Myers, "Running Up That Hill"
Director: Jo Roy
Release date: June 27
Why it's great: For a video that makes use of child labor, this sure doesn't look or sound all that evil. And it's not, really, because kids love coloring, and 2,130 of them put their little hands to good use by giving what could have been conventional animation a refreshing, well, childlike quality. Not a bad interpretation of a song whose original video has plenty of its own iconic imagery to contend with.
42. Mass Gothic, "How I Love You"
Director: Evan Fellers + Krystal Kristina
Release date: April 9
Why it's great: Director Evan Fellers says he used photogrammetry -- loosely, a process for turning two-dimensional images into 3D shapes -- to create the off-kilter realism of "How I Love You," which tracks a glowing red ball as it traverses a mutating landscape. At points a low-fi home video, at others a class in digital filmmaking techniques, the hybridized world captures the emotional confusion of the song.
41. Solange, "Almeda"
Director: Solange Knowles
Release date: March 7
Why it's great: Solange, after three years in the… elevator, hitting Jay Z?... is finally back with her hotly anticipated When I Get Home, the follow-up to 2016's A Seat at the Table. With the album comes an accompanying video project directed by Solange herself. "Almeda" takes elements of fashion shoots, art films, and modern dance to create an eclectically iconic mood piece that reflects the sensibilities of the singer's interpretation of R&B. Like her pop queen sister, Solange has the power to make her performance stick with you.
40. Rive, "Filles"
Director: TEMPLE CACHÉ, animated by Oriane Rondeau
Release date: February 7
Why it's great: Simplicity executed smartly always receives attention on this, the most important of all music video lists! Oriane Rondeau's cut-out animation highlights the wide variety of filles depicted throughout art history, most of whom weren't given much of a voice by the artists doing the depicting. Rive, a Brussels-based duo, puts all the images against a simple backdrop that gradually expands to include more time and space, consuming the blackness that confined the video at its outset.
39. Strangers on a Plane, "All My Life" (kind of NSFW)
Director: Lisa Mann
Release date: April 24
Why it's great: I have one word for you: Plastics. The domestic industrialized life defined by rampant consumerism finds itself wrapped and trapped in plastics of all sorts in the video for "All My Life," and it's pretty sad when your entire life is covered in plastic, right?! This is what we're doing to the world, people! Have you heard this one before?? Yes? You don't care? At least we'll have plenty of music to play during the next hurricane, I suppose.
38. Chris Farren, "Search 4 Me"
Director: Clay Tatum
Release date: August 13
Why it's great: If you happen to be a musical artist who wants to get on this list, for whatever reason, you'll give yourself a huge leg up if you make fun of internet culture in some way. Every day the content creators on this website do exactly that, but we have no outlet because we are the internet. So here's a hearty "thank you" to Chris Farren, inventor of #resistcat, a viral sensation who doubles as a cautionary tale of the vicissitudes internet fame brings. Bonus points for appearances from the likes of Laura Jane Grace and Jeff Rosenstock, and a truly terrible interview show at the top.
37. Mitski, "A Pearl"
Director: Saad Moosajee and Art Camp, with Danae Gosset
Release date: January 31
Why it's great: The animators at Art Camp took a three-dimensional approach to Mitski's "A Pearl," depicting a frantic chase scene that looks like a depression-fueled version of "Temple Run." It's a dizzying, disorienting ride, one that races through a spinning house and drops the lone figure into a huge ocean. It's lonely out there in the animated universe.
36. Xiu Xiu, "Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy"
Director: Angela Seo and Anna Lian Tes
Release date: January 15
Why it's great: Xiu Xiu looks like they'll be delivering a full suite of post-modernish art films to accompany the album Girl With Basket of Fruit, out February 8. The videos, which accompany each track -- or Act, as the title cards tell you -- are more Matthew Barney than, say, Superorganism (last year's champion of thematically linked videos), but if you like your chords dissonant, your videos filled with vaguely ominous images, and your celery stuffed in someone else's mouth, "Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy" is for you.
35. The Claypool Lennon Delirium, "Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons - Movement II, Too the Moon"
Director: Rich Ragsdale
Release date: February 6
Why it's great: What a title! Approximately once per year, for no reason at all, I wonder, "What's Les Claypool up to these days?" The answer is: Making psychedelic narrative ballads with Sean Lennon. That's cool, glad he's still working. This song and video tell the story of Jack Parsons, a fascinating rocket scientist who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was a follower of Thelema, the occult-inspired religion created by Aleister Crowley. The visuals fittingly capture the psychedelic vibe of the song and Parsons' wild life.
34. The Gotobeds, "2:15"
Director: Tom “TFP” Payne
Release date: May 7
Why it's great: In the two minutes you spend watching this video, you'll be bombarded by more shape-shifting images than a Dali painting, but that's mostly because you're looking at the same Dali painting for two minutes, whereas with the magic of animation and film, it's possible to view many more images in the same time span. Isn't media education great? Point being: This is a fun video for a fun song.
33. James Massiah, "Natural Born Killers (Ride for Me)" (NSFW)
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
Release date: September 4
Why it's great: Skin-melting heat is a powerful theme, as Camus would tell you if he weren't dead once and for all, because we only get one chance at life, he continues to insist from beyond the grave. Director Ian Pons Jewell captures the despair and the apathy heat can cause -- sometimes it's too hot to wear clothes. Sometimes it's so hot you literally melt into a roof. James Massiah gets it.
32. Editors, "Barricades" (The Blanck Mass recording)
Release date: March 25
Why it's great: Have you ever wondered what would happen if MC Escher-designed machines were actually built and put into use before they began malfunctioning? No? Seriously? This isn't a common recurring nightmare? Animation studio Hi-Sim created a world of computer-generated devices that perform repetitive, pointless tasks. It's hypnotic enough at the beginning, but once small errors are introduced into the functioning of the machines, everything starts to break down. The fragility of systems are always exposed by human error. In all likelihood, this video won't make more people self-aware of their fallibility, but it sure is fun to look at!
31. Mattiel, "Je Ne Me Connais Pas"
Director: Jason Travis
Release date: May 15
Why it's great: Mattiel's gender-fluid video plays with stereotypes of masculinity, envisioning a world of a tank-top-wearing, beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking dude who lives to watch four women go about their daily lives wearing nothing but underwear. It plays like a perverse Gap ad, an aesthetic likely derived at least in part from Mattiel's background in corporate design: The symmetry and color palette play off the Instagram-curated lives many people envy, but this doesn't look very desirable for anyone.
30. Lauren Ruth Ward, "Valhalla"
Director: Alli Coates
Release date: January 18
Why it's great: What if stereotypical masculinity were… NOT stereotypical masculinity? That's the premise of Lauren Ruth Ward's "Valhalla" video, which begins with a women-only poker game of increasingly high stakes. You'll be sold when the trio of elderly men dressed in lingerie enter the picture, and if not, there's the badass weightlifting scene, in which Ward kisses her biceps and practices radical self-acceptance/typical male hubris before a snake wraps around her head. It's weird and irreverent in all the right places -- especially the final shot, which never strays from Ward's face.
29. Rammstein, "Ausländer" (NSFW)
Director: Jörn Heitmann
Release date: May 28
Why it's great: Rammstein in the past has faced accusations that they're sympathetic to Nazism, but their new videos (see below) -- interpreted properly -- show the disdain they have for the destructive chauvinism of Western Europe. They're on a history-lesson rampage, which is exactly what you want from the legendary NDH rockers, who aren't into the kinds of revisionist history that plague most of the ideology of resurgent far right movements. German colonialism in the "Ausländer" video is seen for what it was: a brutal, embarrassing stain Western European history carried out by racist, exploitative, and power-hungry men who left carnage in their wake. On Twitter there's recently been a proliferation of calls for anyone and everyone to "learn history," so maybe we all should get started by watching this video, since it's the 21st century and we might as well make Rammstein our history professors. Probably not at work, though, because of the partial nudity and all that.
28. Gesaffelstein & Pharrell, "Blast Off"
Director: Warren Fu
Release date: April 14
Why it's great: France hasn't produced an electronic music artist as big as Gesaffelstein since… Justice, Daft Punk, and many others. OK, this is one genre at which the French excel. Teaming up with a shiny-eyed Pharrell, Gesaffelstein invokes the dark spirit of Justice in "Blast Off," which features unique lighting design to enhance the futuristic vibe. It also turns bodysuits into a kind of optical illusion, which is always a good look.
27. Tierra Whack, "Unemployed"
Director: Cat Solen
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: I regret to inform you that the fantastically bizarre Tierra Whack is at it again. The outsider artist of the rap world takes every music video as an opportunity to push the limits of the bizarre, and in "Unemployed," that takes the form of anthropomorphized, ruthlessly butchered potatoes. The giant, Jabba the Hutt tuber might be the most disturbing image, but the sound of french fries "drowning" as they cook in grease offers a glimpse of the dark humor Tierra Whack effortlessly embraces.
26. Jenny Hval, "Accident"
Director: Zia Anger
Release date: September 9
Why it's great: Norwegian artist, singer, and author Jenny Hval approaches all her work with self-awareness and a strong political sense of self that rails against traditional power structures. You can see those qualities on display in "Accident," which takes a supposed accident of birth and turns it into a meditation on life, motherhood, and making music videos. Sure, it takes a certain kind of person to go wild for Hval's work, but that certain kind of person is the one in charge of this list.
25. Gary Clark, Jr., "This Land"
Director: Savanah Leaf
Release date: January 10
Why it's great: The imagery of Gary Clark, Jr.'s "This Land" evokes all kinds of unpleasant feelings about contemporary America and the rotten, false promises on which it was founded. It doesn't take an expert to decipher what lighting the Confederate flag on fire means, but this video actively engages with a social and political landscape littered with exaggeration, blunt rhetoric, and lack of subtlety. Sometimes you just gotta burn the flag to make a point.
24. Gideon Irving, "Woke Up Looking"
Director: Ewen Wright and Raky Sastri
Release date: June 25
Why it's great: A single-take shoot that's mirrored in the final version creates the bizarre TikTok-y visual aesthetic in "Woke Up Looking," which is fittingly a lament about how much goddamn time we spend on our phones. It's a tired refrain, yes, but the attention to detail and planning required to shoot such an arresting, yet simple, video without the use of computer effects or green screens earns Irving a spot on the list you're reading on your robots.
23. Björk, "Tabula Rasa"
Director: Tobias Gremmler
Release date: May 10
Why it's great: Björk hasn't lost an ounce of daring in her fourth decade making music, and her facilities in the visual arts have kept pace. In "Tabula Rasa," director Tobias Gremmler says the song's lyrics inspired him to create the psychedelic, lyric-visualizer-style depiction of a world in which Björk's fluid transformation from plant to human and everything in between "embodies the utopian concept of a harmonious coexistence between nature and human based on empathy." Keep in mind that the word "utopia" comes from the Greek for "no place," but the video is mesmerizing nonetheless.
22. Tyler the Creator, "EARFQUAKE"
Director: Tyler the Creator
Release date: May 17
Why it's great: "You're wonderful to gaze at." You can always rely on Tyler the Creator to try something interesting, regardless of whether or not you find his ongoing artistic experimentation appealing. Black-ish's Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a mostly incompetent host of a public access show who implores Tyler not to smoke. Don't smoke! Just don't do it! After some visuals with strong Swayze vibes, Tyler smokes, if you didn't already guess that.
21. The Chemical Brothers, "We've Got to Try"
Director: Ninian Doff
Release date: March 8
Why it's great: Thirty years into their career as big beat innovators, The Chemical Brothers continue to experiment, apparent in the first singles off their April 2019 album No Geography. The accompanying videos have matched that ambition. While their other entry on this list takes advantage of the Gondry brothers' world-distorting camera trickery, "We've Got to Try" tells a simple narrative story: What happens when you train a dog to be an astronaut. It's a funny concept, but it contains a surprising amount of pathos and an ending that will have you on the edge of your seat.
20. Juicy J ft. Kevin Gates and Lil Skies, "Let Me See"
Director: Joe Weil
Release date: February 15
Why it's great: Reframing the naked egotism of the Silicon Valley milieu in terms of a rap video gives Juicy J the chance to reinterpret all the greed and self-promotion of tech leaders in a humorous, albeit still critical, light. Juicy J is a Steve Jobs-like character who makes piles of money and touts his own genius before jealous collaborators become the competition, like Kevin Gates. Director Joe Weil and Juicy J prove that the smartly executed parody remains an effective music video format.
19. Sivan Talmor, "Sad Heart"
Director: Karni & Saul
Release date: January 19
Why it's great: The directorial duo Karni & Saul create a layered multimedia backdrop for Sivan Talmor's broken-hearted song, blending animation, photography, and film to track a figure making her way through a three-dimensional landscape. It plays almost like a video game, like a side-scrolling Mario entered a desolate 21st century town and had to make his way out. Unfortunately, this game isn't real, because even this vision of reality is less haunting than actual reality!
18. Residente and Bad Bunny, "Bellacoso"
Director: Grégory Ohrel
Release date: July 26
Why it's great: Proof that the supposedly standard music video doesn't have to be standard, "Bellacoso" adds dashes of surreality to every brightly colored, energetic scene. Residente and Bad Bunny promised to release this song and video if the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, resigned in the face of massive popular protests. And he did! He resigned! This video and song came out the day after, which also definitively proves that the promise of a new track can effect governmental change. That's a lot of proving for one video.
17. Rammstein, "Deutschland" (kind of NSFW)
Director: Specter Berlin
Release date: March 28
Why it's great: Rammstein, the only German metal band that penetrated the mainstream American high school student fan market thanks to 1997's "Du Hast," are back with an epic song and video that covers, oh, the entire history of Germany. Starting with the Germanic tribes' battles with the Romans -- including the notorious Battle of the Teutoburg Forest -- the narrative tracks the personified character "Germania" up to modern history. And yes, that includes, you know, that really bad time between 1933 and 1945. Otherwise known as the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Not every video on this list will put you in a good mood, and no one ever said they all would.
16. James Blake, "Can't Believe the Way We Flow"
Director: Frank Lebon
Release date: August 7
Why it's great: "Can't Believe the Way We Flow" is a masterclass in editing, as director/editor Frank Lebon manages to depict a stunningly high percentage of the human experience in just under five minutes. Honestly, that's all you really need, it doesn't take 80 years to understand what life has to offer. A highlight, though, is human contact, and the images that come together to form a slowed-down kiss or outstretched hand against a frenetic background actually achieve a measure of profundity. And that's not easy to do on YouTube!
15. Plastic, "U Gonna Love It"
Director: Dawid Krępski
Release date: May 17
Why it's great: The vaporwave influences are strong in Dawid Krępski's frenetic video for "U Gonna Love It," the latest from longtime Polish dance-rock-artist duo Plastic. The early 2010s internet aesthetic, which repurposed images from another era and combined them with "bad" design, still paints a pretty accurate picture of our current world. There's so much content! Too much to process! It's worth remembering some choice lyrics/advice from the song: If you take it too seriously it seems to be untrue.
14. CupcakKe, "Squidward Nose" (NSFW)
Director: Logan Fields
Release date: February 21
Why it's great: The raunchy, give-no-fucks style on which CupcakKe has built her career does not take any time off in this SpongeBob SquarePants riff on, well, male genitalia. "His dick's smaller than my toes," CupcakKe informs us right off the bat, and you can see pretty easily how Squidward's nose enters the picture. The video echoes the song's absurd disregard for family-friendly television, featuring CupcakKe in a mermaid suit and comedian John Early fishing with a dildo as bait. It may fall into the "not for everyone" category, but you have to admire the audacity and humor CupcakKe brings to her music.
13. Cautious Clay, "Erase"
Director: Haoyan of America
Release date: September 13
Why it's great: One of these days we'll have no more use for words and will be able to express the full range of human thought and emotion entirely in emoji. Unfortunately, we're still trapped in the dark age of written words on the internet, which means I have to do the difficult but important work of informing you that Cautious Clay, in tandem with Haoyan of America (who also made an appearance on last year's list thanks to Crumb's "Locket"), have given us a glimpse of a beautiful future filled with emoji instead of cumbersome words.
12. Mac DeMarco, "Here Comes the Cowboy"
Director: Cole Kush
Release date: May 10
Why it's great: Weird Canadian Mac DeMarco makes a weird music video for a weird song, none of which have much to do with cowboys except for the fact that the lyrics consist entirely of DeMarco repeating, "Here comes the cowboy" over and over. It's fitting, then, that Kush -- who's done work for Tim Heidecker and JASH-affiliated comedians (JASH is owned by Thrillist's parent company, Group Nine Media, but we never see each other) -- created an alien Sims-esque world that features all kinds of weird characters who look unsettlingly tactile as they display . The cowboy is coming, and now he's gone out to sea, trapped in a kind of dentist chair that will carry him to unknown climes.
11. The Chemical Brothers, "Gotta Keep On"
Director: Michel and Olivier Gondry
Release date: February 6
Why it's great: The Gondrys have done it again! Fresh off the release of their truly bizarre series of branded videos for Park MGM, all of which clock in at 30 seconds including credits, the surrealist brothers turned back to music videos (Michel made his mark on the genre with The White Stripes' iconic "The Hardest Button to Button"), and the effect is a subtly creepy vision of a dance party, minus the advertising. A restrained use of special effects makes what appears to be a straightforward scene of dancers filling a dark room seem slightly off… until everything devolves into globular clusters. It's the perfect visual hook needed for The Chemical Brothers' catchy beat.
10. The Killers, "Land of the Free"
Director: Spike Lee
Release date: January 14
Why it's great: Well, here we are in 2019 and The Killers and Spike Lee have joined forces; so, yeah, it would take a thousand clumsy papers in an intro-level expressive culture class to trace the origins and implications of this collaboration. Nevertheless! The Killers write good pop songs, and Spike Lee is one of the most talented directors alive, so they can have at it. Lee, who's been chronicling America's racist legacy for more than three decades now, depicts the current American condition at its unvarnished worst by focusing on the humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. As with his 2018 film BlacKkKlansman, Lee mixes cinematic flair with video captured via phone to give a dignified touch and a visceral immediacy to the conditions immigrants face. It all culminates in the chaotic, violent effort to prevent thousands of people from looking for a better life in America. "Land of the Free," indeed.
9. PUP, "Free at Last"
Director: PUP and Jeremy and also Amanda
Release date: February 27
Why it's great: DIY cover songs and DIY instructional videos dominate the YouTube landscape, offering any random person the hope that perhaps they'll be "discovered," or that their beauty tips will turn them into a star. PUP enlists the help of fans to combine the two formats into one mega-video, with some creatively bad editing trickery thrown in for good measure. It's homemade in the best way possible -- just like the sick solo at the end.
8. Little Big, "SKIBIDI (Romantic version)"
Director: Alina Pasok, Iliya Prusikin
Release date: March 18
Why it's great: Holy shit, what is happening here?!?! This is a bit of an apology inclusion for having missed the original "Skibidi" video last year, which apparently started a viral dance trend in Russia -- they have an ironic and absurd sense of humor over there, just like us! In many ways, however, the romantic version of "Skibidi" far surpasses the original, since it features a centaur, a dragon, a man standing on a surfing horse, a reference to the screaming cowboy from 2017's Kirin J Callinan video for "Big Enough," and a Godzilla hybrid baby. What more can you ask for?
7. Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus, "Old Town Road (Remix)"
Release date: May 17
Why it's great: This carefully curated list would lose all the credibility and respect it's worked years to obtain were it to omit the official "Old Town Road" music video. The Yeehaw Agenda is here, folks, and it's already co-opted your kids. Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus ham it up -- outlaw style! -- with some celebrity help from Chris Rock and Vince Staples, showing just what a cultural phenomenon this Nicki Minaj fan account operator's interpretation of a Nine Inch Nails instrumental has become. "Old Town Road" is an unstoppable force. Giddyup.
6. Nas, "Cops Shot the Kid" (kind of NSFW)
Director: Rohan Blair-Mangat
Release date: January 7
Why it's great: If you noticed this list has an abundance of social-justice-themed videos, congratulations: You can spot the painfully obvious. Nas' collaboration with Kanye West, Nasir, mostly elicited critical ho-hums, but there are a few highlights from the album, with "Cops Shot the Kid" being one of them. The video pulls no punches, using both actual footage and a fictionalized narrative to shine another light on police violence, which continues to disrupt and destroy lives despite the increased public awareness of it. Nas has always been a promoter of equality and justice, and it's nice to see he hasn't lost his edge.
5. A$AP Rocky, "Kids Turned Out Fine"
Director: Dexter Navy
Release date: February 6
Why it's great: A$AP Rocky has become one of the reliably interesting music video creators in the business, with "Kids Turned Out Fine" falling somewhere between the deadly serious social commentary of "Gunz N Butter" and the drug-fueled trippiness of "A$AP Forever," both from 2018. The combination of photography and animation bolster the surreal feeling of "Kids Turned Out Fine," a melancholy assessment of utilitarian child-rearing. What begins as a sun-drenched, nostalgic depiction of youth rapidly turns into a hallucinogenic escape in which everyone winds up as a crash-test dummy. What does "turned out fine" really mean, anyway???
4. Billie Eilish, "you should see me in a crown"
Director: Takashi Murakami
Release date: April 17
Why it's great: Billie Eilish is anime! Look at all the great music videos coming out of Japan! How will America compete in the global music video economy given the new reality? This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed at the highest levels of government. Superflat pioneer and globally renowned artist Takashi Murakami teams up with the 17-year-old wunderkind to depict Eilish as the anime hero she practically is in real life.
3. Powder, "New Tribe"
Release date: January 23
Why it's great: Now THIS is how you make a memorable music video. Japanese animation team AC-bu -- who created a meme with their 2011 video "Galo Sengen" and contribute to the popular anime Pop Team Epic -- take a simple resignation letter and commodify the shit out of it in this delightfully bizarre mix of virtually every kind of animation conceivable. The surreal narrative of production and efficiency captures both the pulsating beat of Powder's sample and the inhumanity of modern working life. Hand in that resignation letter and go dance, or just watch more AC-bu videos, like this absolutely insane commercial for Domino's.
2. Emiko Shibamura, "Akindo Fighter"
Director: Michael Laburt and Daniel Merlot
Release date: February 19
Why it's great: Where to begin?! How about with Emiko's account of how she decided to make this music video: "It was an ordinary day before EMIKO had a vision of a spirit of a white dragon that insisted she fly to Hollywood and film a music video. The vision was so profound that she followed her spirit animal to the United States and invited her white dragon to perform along with her. The world had never seen anything like it." Ain't that the truth! In a world increasingly dominated by algorithms, recommendation tools, and media consolidation, all of which create echo chambers of conventional wisdom and like-minded voices, it's a glass of water in the desert to see a 65-year-old Japanese rapper move to Los Angeles to make a music video with a white dragon because she had a fucking vision. Don't you wish you had visions of white spirit dragons powerful enough to change your life?
Emiko Shibamura's website describes her as "a visionary, self-help celebrity, sixty-three-year-old rapper [she's now 65], acclaimed entrepreneur and already has her ticket to the moon." Is she telling the truth? Who knows! Will she go to the moon? Hopefully! As for her self-help and entrepreneurial life, she is "the first apprentice of Hitori Saito, Japan’s No.1 taxpayer-businessman," which should impress you even if you're not sure what makes a taxpayer-businessman number one. In case you're wondering, she met Hitori Saito "when she was an 18-year-old finger-pressure therapy student." There's a feature-length profile to be written about Emiko Shibamura, but alas, here there's only space for a blurb. Oh, right, the video: It's just as delightful as you'd expect a vision-based dragon music vid to be.
1. Benny Blanco, Calvin Harris, and Miguel, "I Found You/Nilda's Story"
Director: Jake Schreier
Release date: January 4
Why it's great: The original video for Benny Blanco's "I Found You" is a semi-ironic take on the process of making a cool music video, which would have been just fine were it not for the fact that it featured Lil Dicky, thus automatically disqualifying it from inclusion on the list of 2018's best videos. Suffice to say that in 2019, it looks like everyone's taking the dire state of the country/world a little more seriously, as emblematized in Nilda's story. Miguel's toned-down version of the song is an inspired interpretation, and the video punches you in the gut without slipping into sentimentality. Humanizing otherwise abstract political arguments always paints a more complicated picture, and the fact that Nilda's escape from gang violence, separation from her son, subsequent detention, and legal limbo aren't unique should add much-needed context to headlines you see flashing across your various screens every day.
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