The 100 Best Music Videos of 2019
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.
100. Missy Elliot, "Throw It Back"
Director: Daniel Russell
Release date: August 22
Why it's great: It's important to pay respects to a great artist when she pays respects to herself. Missy gets on this list thanks to her legend status.
99. Ghostemane, "Gatteka"
Director: Thomas J Yagodinski
Release date: November 20
Why it's great: Want to watch a violent stop-motion video about the horrors of being turned into just another worker in the capitalist machine? Today is your lucky day!
98. Blood Orange, "Benzo"
Director: Devonté Hynes
Release date: July 13
Why it's great: Dev Hynes travels back in time to... pre-Revolution France? But with neon signs -- to play his singular music for a member of the upper classes, who will almost certainly wind up under the guillotine if this is indeed a version of pre-Revolution France.
97. MØ, "Beautiful Wreck"
Director: Emma Rosenzweig
Release date: October 2
Why it's great: This video emulates a vintage performance art piece from Sweden; it's making a statement of some kind, open to interpretation, but at least one statement is that it's cool to paint on other people.
96. Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign, "Hot Girl Summer"
Director: Munachi Osegbu
Release date: September 3
Why it's great: Look, after including 75 of the year's music videos, there was no point in not going for 100. Megan Thee Stallion earned a place not with the video, which is conventional if entertaining enough, but with the fact that she deserves to be recognized on all 2019 best of lists.
95. HELLRAZOR, "Landscaper"
Director: Steve Marucci
Release date: May 3
Why it's great: This music video is living proof that if you DM me with a video, there's a chance you'll make it onto this list. Thanks, Hellrazor, for being active on Twitter. And for making a good music video, of course!
94. Charlie XCX & Christine and the Queens, "Gone"
Director: Colin Solal Cardo
Release date: July 17
Why it's great: People love Charlie XCX and Christine and the Queens, so why wouldn't people love a video in which the two of them dance sensually with each other in the rain? It turns out: They would definitely love that.
93. Don Broco, "Action"
Director: Benjamin Roberds
Release date: September 6
Why it's great: Yes, the parody of easily parodied genre tropes has become a parody of itself in the music video world, but that doesn't mean Don Broco can't have fun with this parody, which plays like if Terminator were a public access movie.
92. Jennifer Vanilla, "Space Time Motion"
Director: Jennifer Juniper Stratford
Release date: September 25
Why it's great: You don't need million-dollar budgets or slick production to create a good music video, as Jennifer Vanilla proves with her cheesy, retro accompaniment to a pulsing dance beat.
91. Róisín Murphy, "Narcissus"
Director: November 21
Release date: Róisín Murphy
Why it's great: A veteran of previous years' lists, Róisín Murphy understands the potential of light and film tricks that felt fresh in the 1970s.
90. Hazel English, "Shaking"
Director: Erin S Murray
Release date: November 6
Why it's great: Transport yourself to the free loving, cult-heavy sunshine of 1960s Laurel Canyon, and you'll get the video for "Shaking." The lesson is you should never follow strangers -- especially attractive ones.
89. MINKA, "Dark"
Director: Not listed
Release date: April 10
Why it's great: Full disclosure: The singer of Minka is what you might consider a friend of the author, depending on how often you have to see someone and how much you have to like each other to be considered "friends." But if you can't leverage your friendships to get you the highly coveted 89th slot on a "best of" list, are we really being true to the American Way? Whether you believe it or not, this is the exact kind of video that earns a place on this list; it's not your standard "band plays its instruments and/or lip syncs in front of a cool background." The bar is not high, bands and artists and directors out there!
88. Hot Chip, "Hungry Girl"
Director: Saman Kesh
Release date: April 4
Why it's great: You know that crazymaking feeling that happens when you have a song stuck in your head all day? Well, what if it were actually playing, and what if it actually destroyed your relationship? Martin Starr and Milana Vayntraub star as the couple who have to find out.
87. Billie Eilish, "bad guy"
Director: Dave Meyers
Release date: March 29
Why it's great: Billie, baby! She was by far the world's coolest 17-year-old in 2019, which means she was born after 9/11. And here I am, toiling away on content, while she's one of the country's biggest stars. Good for her, though, and for consistently working beyond her years in the video production game.
86. Brittany Howard, "Stay High"
Director: Kim Gehrig
Release date: July 16
Why it's great: The Alabama Shakes frontwoman released her first solo album in 2019, and the accompanying video for "Stay High" is a straightforward interpretation of a typical working-class American story filtered through the lip syncing antics of Terry Crews. You have to love it.
85. 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.
84. 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.
83. 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.
82. 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.
81. Normani, "Motivation"
Director: Dave Meyers and Daniel Russell
Release date: August 15
Why it's great: Who says music videos can't be fun? No one says that, that would be insane! What a strange claim to make, and what a stilted, thoughtless way to begin a blurb! Apologies to the readers and to Normani, who knows her way around a basketball court.
80. Regard, "Ride It"
Director: Meji Alabi
Release date: October 4
Why it's great: Kosovar DJ Regard takes a ride through seedy Eastern European nightlife, but instead of participating in the vices he witnesses, he can't help but dance. Relatable!
79. 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.
78. 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.
77. DJ Shadow ft. De La Soul, "Rocket Fuel"
Director: Sam Pilling
Release date: November 14
Why it's great: Everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. What this video presupposes is… maybe they didn't? The prominent conspiracy theory that Stanley Kubrick directed the moon landing receives an added embellishment here in the form of creative differences between the two actors playing Armstrong and Baldwin. By the time everything's finished, no one has walked on the moon, and it makes you wonder what they really did with all that so-called rocket fuel.
76. Matoma ft. MNEK & Kiana Ledé, "Bruised Not Broken"
Director: Jeff Desom & Carlos Lopez Estrada
Release date: July 18
Why it's great: How many people are really that opposed to having fun with cannibalism? 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. Better find a good psychiatrist, because this is not the only cannibalism-themed video on the list.
75. 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.
74. Baxter Dury, "Slumlord"
Director: Tom Haines
Release date: November 19
Why it's great: The grimy aesthetic of the "Slumlord" video perhaps comes off as too literal, the sensibility too much in the realm of fashion shoot, but what can you expect from the son of Blockheads frontman Ian Dury? As long as Baxter Dury pillories the evil landowners who profit from the horrendous living conditions of their below-code buildings, we're all for whatever aesthetic he chooses.
73. Richard Wright, "When I Want"
Director: Dan Carr
Release date: December 8
Why it's great: The description of this video claims, "We filmed Richard Wright every time he smoked marijuana from November 7, 2018 - October 22, 2019 -- cataloguing the effects it had on him over the course of the year.
"We hope the story will be easy to follow and the lesson will speak for itself." You may doubt the veracity of that supposed methodology, but it's pretty clear that the message is you should get high whenever and wherever you want.
72. Jehnny Beth, "I'm the Man"
Director: Anthony Byrne
Release date: December 3
Why it's great: PEAKY BLINDERS ALERT! Cillian Murphy provides the voiceover poetry work in this video directed by Peaky creator Anthony Byrne, which is mostly just a one-take shot of a violent woman who fucks with unprepared strangers before she writhes around on the concrete. Beth and Byrne have given the world something it didn't know it needed, but definitely does!
71. 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.
70. 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.
69. 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.
68. Pearl and the Oysters, "Love Potion"
Director: Blair Tramel
Release date: October 28
Why it's great: Remember when technology was "good" and "fun"? It's a deceptive bit of nostalgia, but when you see stop-motion characters getting on AIM, playing MarioKart, and making out, it's easy to convince yourself that those really were the days, if only we could return to them. But we can't!
67. Lindemann, "Ach So Gern" (NSFW)
Director: Zoran Bihac
Release date: December 26
Why it's great: Lindemann and Rammstein are on a roll with their antifacist output this year, which I'd feel better about if East Germany weren't descending into a familiar brand of Nazi-loving historical revisionism. At least he's doing something, including taking what look like very real slaps to the face.
66. Coldplay, "Daddy"
Director: Åsa Lucander
Release date: November 20
Why it's great: OK, it's a pretty good troll from Coldplay to release a song called "Daddy," and on top of it recruit Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit) to create the music video. Now the much-maligned pop group and lead singer Chris Martin don't have to deal with online criticism ever again! They've outfoxed us all.
65. Alex Cameron, "Marlon Brando"
Director: Jemima Kirke
Release date: March 17
Why it's great: The short-film take on a music video often risks coming off as pretentious or overwrought, but Alex Cameron is too self-aware for pretense. Like the 2017 album on which "Marlon Brando" appears, the Jemima Kirke-directed video skewers the kind of narcissistic artist Cameron parodies -- and his songs are so good it's tough to ignore the videos.
64. 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.
63. 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.
62. 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.
61. James Blake, "I'll Come Too"
Director: Matt Meech (editing BBC Earth footage)
Release date: December 19
Why it's great: James Blake's second masterpiece of editing relies on BBC Earth footage (you know, all the Planet Earth stuff), edited expertly into anthropomorphic narrative by Matt Meech. While in some instances it's comforting to know that not all animals share humans' destructive emotions, here you want to believe these birds have a meet-cute from a rom-com on their hands.
60. Chris Liebing & Charlotte de Witte, "Liquid Slow"
Release date: October 4
Why it's great: Have you ever participated in a dance-off… to the DEATH? That's the premise of this collaboration between CLR founder Liebing and Belgian up-and-comer de Witte, which features a couple with no other choice but to dance for their lives. Well, only one of them has to dance, in the sweaty Sao Paolo basements where you'd likely hear songs like "Liquid Slow" thumping until 5am. It's sweaty and unnerving, with stylish lighting reminiscent of a Tom Ford movie.
59. 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.
58. 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.
57. Pharmakon, "Devour" (NSFW)
Director: Jacqueline Castel
Release date: September 26
Why it's great: A lot of flesh devouring happens in Pharmakon's video, which plays a bit like it's on the wall of the room you didn't mean to enter in PS1. What's happening here? It's like a Carolee Schneemann piece meets industrial depravity, and however tenuous that description may sound, it's exactly the kind of description that lands Pharmakon a place on this list!
56. EOB, "Brasil"
Director: Andrew Donoho
Release date: December 5
Why it's great: Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien will release his first solo album in 2020, under the EOB (those are his initials) moniker, and if the first "single" is any indication, it'll probably be good! If you like Radiohead, you will definitely like Radiohead's guitarist, who packs an 8-minute sci-fi story into the video for a lilting acoustic song that turns into a thumping electronic beat.
55. Flying Lotus ft. Denzel Curry, "Black Balloons Reprise"
Director: Jack Begert
Release date: December 3
Why it's great: Unlike the more outlandish visuals typical of Flying Lotus' recent work, "Black Balloons Reprise" sets up like a straightforward rap video. Then the shrooms kick in, creating a subtly surreal world that fucks with your perception just enough to keep you wondering what the hell is going on.
54. 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.
53. 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.
52. 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.
51. 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.
50. HAIM, "Now I'm in It"
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release date: October 30
Why it's great: P.T. Anderson's recent work for sister-trio HAIM presents itself as stripped-down, elegant filmmaking; it's hard to call any of these videos bad, but they often tend toward the dull. Not so with "Now I'm in It," which sees Anderson use his tracking shots to do narrative work rather than just show the Haims singing.
49. 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. 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.
48. 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.
47. 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 delivered a few post-modernish art films to accompany the album Girl With Basket of Fruit, released 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.
46. Oh Sees, "Gholü" (NSFW)
Director: Leo Nicholson
Release date: September 18
Why it's great: When I was a kid, we called San Francisco rockers Oh Sees "Thee Oh Sees," and we didn't complain about it once! The absurdly prolific group blasts through two minutes of disgusting claymation cannibalism in a work of art that will challenge your sense of propriety and what makes a video "good" -- as long you don't get super grossed out at the whole "disgusting claymation cannibalism" thing and can watch the full runtime.
45. Alicia Keys ft. Miguel, "Show Me Love"
Director: Cara Stricker
Release date: September 17
Why it's great: Slow-motion, high-definition water effects complement the slow-jam vibe of "Show Me Love" in what Keys chooses to call a "Sonic Visual Installation." You're free to call it a music video, and while the simple staging probably doesn't require any star power, Michael B. Jordan and Zoe Saldana show up just in case.
44. 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.
43. 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.
42. 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.
41. Zalagasper, "Signals"
Director: Luka Šantl (animation by Luka Šantl and Tatjana Kotnik)
Release date: October 25
Why it's great: Slovenia's representatives at Eurovision 2019 know how to slow jam, combining their laid-back lounge music with alternately straightforward and trippy animation in the video for "Signals." As a wolf and a couple traverse the screen, sky and land are constantly inverted -- it's difficult to read other people's signals, it would seem.
40. Anna Meredith, "Paramour"
Director: Ewan Jones Morris
Release date: July 10
Why it's great: Yes, of course a music video shot from a motherfucking LEGO TRAIN will make it on the list. "Paramour" adapts the single-take choreography mastered by OK Go and adds a playful element: Legos. Because Legos are toys. That's what makes them playful. Whoever spent what looks like a lot of time building this train set, hope it was worth it! At least you're finally getting the recognition you deserve.
39. 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!
38. 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.
37. 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.
36. 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) 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.
35. 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.
34. Pearl City, "Friends"
Release date: July 18
Why it's great: Two friends hanging out, eating cotton candy, drinking Stella deuce-deuces, and watching women's bodybuilding competitions? Sounds a lot like high school! It portrays kind of aimless absurdity any inspired music video achieves, but it still has tons of heart to combat the emptiness.
33. Black Marble, "Private Show"
Director: Ben Joyner
Release date: October 3
Why it's great: A music video that was just a supercut of bull-riding cowboys would likely find itself near the top of the heap of great music videos of 2019, but unfortunately Black Marble decided to sprinkle in other shots of a rural American rodeo/county fair/carnival. The obvious sadness in the midst of what's supposed to be a joyful scene captures a particular kind of isolation among a crowd that's reminiscent of many online communities. Hope everyone's enjoying the cover band, at least!
32. 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.
31. 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.
30. 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.
29. James BKS ft. Q-Tip, Idris Elba, and Little Simz
Director: Stevie Gee and Essie May
Release date: November 15
Why it's great: Idris Elba's rap career might be most notable for the fact that it's not completely embarrassing. He's on a track with Q-Tip! That counts for a lot! The ambitious mixed-animation medium for this James BKS video takes a celestial approach to the African heritage constantly under attack by forces like gentrification and generally shitty Western hegemony. It's both cosmic and grounded, inviting listeners and viewers to remember the somewhat distant roots of modern society as it plunges into the future.
28. 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.
27. 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.
26. 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.
25. Hether, "When U Loved Me"
Director: Alex Lill
Release date: November 8
Why it's great: There simply are not enough pregnant women (prosthetically created or otherwise) in music videos, and, tragically, there are even fewer pregnant women spiraling down poles in music videos. Hether works to correct this lack of representation in a sultry video that blends mundane scenes with surreal action, all filtered through an Instagram-inspired lens that adds a false vintage sheen to everything.
24. 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.
23. 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.
22. 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!
21. Marika Hackman, "Hand Solo" (maybe NSFW?)
Director: Sam Bailey
Release date: September 26
Why it's great: Marika Hackman, singer/songwriter/creator of erotic fencing music videos, is back with an unabashed ode to masturbation. But why be abashed about it? Everyone does it! The sheer volume of everyday items that represent genitalia is enough to earn "Hand Solo" a place on this list, but shoving a dildo into the Pentagon really takes the video to another level.
20. Galantis, "Holy Water"
Director: Jason Lester
Release date: September 27
Why it's great: Anyone who's seen Water Lilies knows that synchronized swimming should be captured on film more frequently. Apparently Galantis have seen Water Lilies, because this is the more fun, less coming-of-age-tale-of-sexual-awakening version of it! Synchronized swimming and EDM are the perfect match, it turns out.
19. 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.
18. 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.
17. 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!
16. 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.
15. 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.
14. 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.
13. TNGHT, "Gimme Summn"
Director: Cole Kush
Release date: November 19
Why it's great: Cole Kush's unsettling animation is about to make another appearance on this list, and you have my personal guarantee that you will feel just as unsettled. Canadian-Scottish duo TNGHT turned to Kush to create bizarro-world versions of themselves traversing a hellish 3D computer-generated landscape that resembles a twisted video game. The discomfort matches the relentless pounding of the bass backing a dissonant, percussive synth line and repetitive vocals. You want to look away but can't. You want to turn off the song, but find yourself nodding along.
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. 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.
6. 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.
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. Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus, "Old Town Road (Remix)"
Release date: May 17
Why it's great: There's no point denying it: Lil Nas X owned 2019. This carefully curated list would lose all the credibility and respect it's worked years to obtain were it to refuse the official "Old Town Road" music video its rightful place atop the pile, especially after the Yeehaw Agenda has 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.
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