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 best of the best, 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.
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15. 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.
14. 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.
13. 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.
12. 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.
11. 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 difficult for a choreographed routine to stand out. But "Casio" embraces what appears to be a relaxed vibe and produces a sneakily 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 song perfectly, and you'll be lulled into a pleasant trance by time you get to the request for Julia to call.
10. 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.
9. 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.
8. Lauren Ruth Ward, "Valhalla"
Director: Alli Coates
Release date: January 18
Why it's great: What if stereotypical masculinity was… 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.
7. 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.
6. 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!
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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???
2. 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.
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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