Tag Archives: Grimes

The 12 Best Music Videos of March

Take Flight Lindsey Stirling

by S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Amanda Smith & Gabriel Valdez

Don’t worry, we’re still writing original content for this site, too! We better be, cause this takes a long time to put together. Over 150 music videos were watched. Here are the top 12:

12. “Stole the Show” – Kygo ft. Parson James
dir. Saman Kesh
prod. Geoff McLean

Invaded by aliens? Time to throw a party. That was my favorite part of Independence Day, at least. Too bad they had to blow up the party. “Stole the Show” asks, what if they just came here for dance-offs instead? In other words, “Stole the Show” is better than Independence Day.

11. “Take Flight” – Lindsey Stirling
dir. Joe Sill
prod. Nick Erickson

Can someone just give Lindsey Stirling her own TV channel already? No musician has better adapted positive messaging into a music video career. Her videos always tell stories, they have fun doing so, they sometimes address difficult themes, and they encourage their viewers toward change. The idea that “Take Flight” might be one of her lesser MVs shows you just how much she’s dominated the medium.

10. “When We Were Kings” – Ikey
dir. Xaivia Inniss

Watch a fever dream. Watch it break into delirium. Watch the delirium break into anger. This is reaction to a once great people enslaved, ghettoized, reduced to victims of police brutality – to “niggers, bitches, killers, hoes” by the media, who are murdered in the streets on camera with no recourse even as they’re defined as villains to the establishment and usurpers of white privilege.

9. “Wake” – Dems
dir. Tom Mustill

Give this one a minute to sink in. What it’s doing isn’t apparent at first, but once you figure it out, it’s a well-needed shock to the system.

8. “Bloodstream” – Ed Sheeran & Rudimental
dir. Emil Nava
prod. Danyi Deats

You’d be forgiven if you forgot how good an actor Ray Liotta is. He’s been in so many one-note comedies and B-films lately, you might have overlooked his intensity and pathos. But few can translate character so effectively in the space of four wordless minutes. Everything else removed from the MV – and there are a lot of other reasons to like it – this is a singular performance by Liotta.

7. “Realiti” – Grimes
dir/prod. Grimes

This song is a demo from Grimes’s lost album. Let’s repeat that: this thoroughly awesome and addictively danceable high point in Grimes’ career is just an unfinished demo. What makes the video great is the way it’s shot – it reflects her work with director Emily Kai Bock, who shot her video for “Oblivion” in 2012. Grimes mixes over-hued and saturated scenes, location shots too front- or back-lit, and deepened shadows, all married to the neon, unnaturally lit city night – it evokes the passage of time via lighting and color instead of narrative.

6. “Closer” – JP Cooper

The pain of miscarriage can be hard to convey. One in every four pregnancies ends in one, and yet we fail to educate about the risks and realities. Instead, we teach women to feel as if something’s wrong with them. We teach men to feel as if they didn’t do enough. We teach ourselves to second-guess and feel ashamed. In some places, we even imprison women for them. “Closer” reaches out to communicate a story of loss and pain, of futures that will never be. It’s a momentous music video, and hopefully it can connect to others who have suffered similar pain.

5. “Gibberish” – MAX
dir. Greg Jardin
prod. Jennifer Heath, Garen Barsegian

The definition of a song that’s too clean. It’s catchy, but it needs to sink deeper into its grooves, overlap its tracks a little more, let that brass reverb more. It needs to dirty up. Either way, the music video is pretty spectacular, a mix of forward and reverse motion married through complex choreography, camera trickery, and clever use of CGI.

4. “Lionsong” – Bjork
dir. Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
prod. Stephanie Bargas

Essentially performance art, but what else did you expect from Bjork? If you answered, “An awesome song,” then you’re going to be pretty pleased with “Lionsong.” The performance is alternately heartfelt and cheeky in true Bjork style, but the odd enhancements to her legs, her costume turning into a galaxy – it all becomes something more. For the life of us, we can’t tell you why. We can’t pin a meaning to it or a reason it digs so deep. It just does. That’s the power of Bjork. She gets under your skin and into your subconscious and you can’t say how. It’s like she’s always lived there.

3. “Glass & Patron” – FKA twigs
dir. FKA twigs
prod. Dominic Thomas

FKA twigs continues to know exactly what she’s doing, even if the rest of us don’t. Her music videos exist in the surreal mindspace between fashion, dance, and identity. As the MV’s director, she can mirror the dissonance between our stereotypes and realities through her lighting, costuming, and editing. Stylist Karen Clarkson deserves special acclaim for the costume choices, make up and hair, as does editor Julia Knight, who delivers a nuanced and complicated edit that brings all of it into vibrant life.

2. “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” – Run the Jewels ft. Zack de la Rocha
dir. A.G. Rojas
prod. Park Pictures

We’re not going to put it better than Run the Jewels did, so in their words: “We were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity. For me, it was important to write a story that didn’t paint a simplistic portrait of the characters of the Cop and Kid. They’re not stereotypes…the film begins and it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion. They’ve already fought their way past their judgments and learned hatred toward one another.”

1. “St. Jude” – Florence + The Machine
dir. Vincent Haycock

It’s difficult to define music as having “quiet power,” especially that of Florence Welch. Yet how else to describe “St. Jude,” a soul-felt ballad of imperfection, regrets, and changed directions? It’s essentially the cinematic opposite of Welch’s last video, the powerfully angry MV of the month for February, “What Kind of Man.” That told its story through multiple timelines (or realities) and quick editing – “St. Jude” is all one shot. It reflects on life in a similarly apposite way. As communicated early in the video, this is the calm after the storm, the magic hours of dusk where you sit and contemplate as the world dwindles to darkness. The anger’s passed. What’s next? Florence + The Machine are doing something spectacular here, stringing together chapters of emotion that reflect on a life much in the same way an album is meant to.

It’s worth noting that the same choreographer – Ryan Heffington – has choreographed our January (“Elastic Heart” by Sia), February, and March music videos of the month. He also choreographed our music video of the year for 2014, Sia’s “Chandelier,” as well as another in our 2014 top ten, Arcade Fire’s “We Exist.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

14 rappers from 14 countries perform in “Hip Hop is Hip Hop.” It’s a brilliant introduction to how rap is used in different cultures. Click if only because the profits all go to children’s education via UNICEF.

K-Pop gets another shout-out with Fiestar’s stylish dance video “You’re Pitiful.”

Modest Mouse endorses party anarchy in “Lampshades on Fire.”

How did Lucy Rose’s “Our Eyes” not make it onto the list? Whatever, just watch her get eaten by a variety of animals, it’s fun.

While the rest of the country deals with homophobic idiocy from Indiana, Steve Grand delivers “Time,” a music video that reminds us everyone faces the same stories and struggles no matter their sexuality.

More Bjork! Bjork’s “Family” is offered as a “moving album cover” instead of a music video. We still think it counts.

The Best Music Videos of August 2014

Shake It Off Taylor Swift

selected by Cleopatra Parnell & Gabriel Valdez

We’re launching a new feature, highlighting the best music videos of the past month. With the help of our writers, we’ll sift through so, so many bad music videos just to bring you the very best we find. In fact, I think Vanessa Tottle’s still watching K-Pop videos. Tell us what you think of the new feature. With no further ado, our Top 10 for August 2014.

10. Ahhh Sh*t – G-Unit
dir. Timo Albert

Composed almost entirely from real-world footage of police brutality, it mirrors G-Unit’s straightforward lyrics:

“Now why the f*ck did you call them cops?
Put your hands up, you still getting shot.”

It’s not any more complicated than that, and after these last few months of brutality, watching a militarized police force roll out to fire on civilians, treat cameras like loaded weapons, close air space and arrest press in violation of the First Amendment…it’s shocking.

As a site mainly covering film and music videos, Vanessa and I have discussed writing articles on Ferguson, but it’s frankly neither of our areas of expertise, and we don’t want our own voices to distract from those more appropriate to the discussion. I’ve also been waging my own crusade as of late, which you’ll see spark some notable changes to the site soon.

Suffice to say, the equipping of police forces with needless military gear, combined with a complete lack of training to use it, has exacerbated the already difficult relationship our minority communities have with an historically “separate but equal” brand of law and justice.

“Ahhh Shit” may not be the greatest artistic monument to what I hope is a true turning point, but it is on spot, angry as it has the right to be, and it’s the first time phrases like “f*ck the police” have held real weight and meaning for me. Suddenly, I don’t dismiss that phrase. I listen to what comes next.

9. Time Machine – Jason Chen
dir. Paolo Ongkeko
prod. Don Le

This is how you use a low-budget wisely. “Time Machine” isn’t groundbreaking or superbly polished, but it is effective in telling a story and adding design touches that make it feel unique and worth rewatching. To me, that counts for more than a perfected set or the best editing techniques. Sometimes, effort and care show through the work more than the production budget does, and this is one of those times. It’s cute without being cloying, and the charm of its two leads (Chen and Red Hong Yi) goes far in making it such a watchable MV.

8. Go – Grimes feat. Blood Diamonds
dir. Claire & Mac Boucher
prod. Lana Kim, Jett Steiger, Rachel Nederveld, Summer McCloskey

Grimes has always felt like Sia meets World of Warcraft, and the MV for “Go” alternates between club dancing and some pretty hardcore LARPing. That’s when she’s not playing in water or being fondled by mimes. This vid’s weird, but there’s something about it that really works. It’s eminently watchable, it’s suggestive (of what, I have no clue), and it complements its music perfectly.

7. Happy Little Pill – Troye Sivan
dir. Jeremy Koren (Grey Ghost)

Owing more than a little of its imagery and visual composition to Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug,” Koren cleverly evolves Mark Romanek’s 90s music video. Koren’s is less Edward Gorey, more Bret Easton Ellis – instead of reflecting Trent Reznor’s wild, self-medicated mood swings from depression to mania, Koren conveys a muted, professionally-medicated world of emotional dispossession. It’s a deceptively brilliant audio-visual tone poem.

6. Shake it Off – Taylor Swift
dir. Mark Romanek

Speaking of Mark Romanek, this guy’s really branched out from his 90s, Goth S&M days. I’m not much of a Taylor Swift fan, but even I have to admit this is a truly positive celebration of imperfections and receiving criticism. It features some good dancing (particularly from one of my favorite poppers, Fik-Shun Stegall), some bad dancing, and a lot of great visual comedy on the part of Swift and choreographer Tyce Diorio. Best yet, it’s the ultimate YouTube comment-defeating song.

5. My Copycat – Orange Caramel
dir. and prod. Digipedi Studio

For this exercise, Vanessa sent me a whole lot of J-Pop and K-Pop (Japanese and Korean pop music). At one point, I had to put my foot down, and the word “intervention” may have been mentioned.

Some of it is pretty good, though. We continue to see a lot of clever music videos coming from South Korea. Whoever came up with the concept for “My Copycat” needs a raise and a promotion and possibly some sort of medal. You remember those side-by-side pictures where you have to circle the differences from one to the next? This is that, except the difficulty ramps up over three-plus minutes, and there are certifiably nutty “Where’s Waldo” interludes. In fact, this whole thing feels like some weird peek into an alternate “Where’s Waldo” universe.

4. Don’t – Ed Sheeran
dir. Emil Nava
prod. Lanette Phillips, Luga Podesta, Brandon Bonfiglio, Danyi Deats-Barrett

Note to self: if I ever make an autobiographical music video about my rise from rags to riches, cast a popping, bone-breaking hip-hop ingenue like Philiph Chbeeb who can dance across fencetops to play me. Also, make riches.

I’m a huge fan of the dancing in this video and how it’s filmed. There’s not too much full-body cinematography, the camera instead focusing on isolations and building out a character. It’s a wise choice in connecting the visuals and lyrics to tell a story, relying on Chbeeb and the choreography by NappyTabs (Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo) to bring out the dance.

If director Emil Nava’s name sounds familiar, we named his emotionally compelling dance video “Wrong or Right” by Kwabs as the #6 video from the first half of 2014.

3. #Cake – Shabazz Palaces
dir. Hiro Murai
prod. Danielle Hinde, Kimberly Stuckwisch, Jason Colon

I’ve never been so terrified of the repeated suggestion to “eat some cake.” What is this video, a strange, midnight run of iconic mystical imagery tilted on its side, of 100-foot arms reaching from the rooftops, and the repeated insistence to “eat some cake.” It’s narcissistic, it’s creepy, it has a nude goddess figure (I’m assuming) as tall as a skyscraper, it’s all about how Gaza is like Seattle and Neptune, and it really wants you to “eat some cake.” This is a crazy video that fits right in with Shabazz Palaces’ breathtakingly poignant weirdness.

2. Crow – 18+

I’m fond of saying I really like David Lynch movies, except for the ones David Lynch is involved in. Meaning I tend to like modern surrealism, just not Lynch’s brand. Well, “Crow” out-Lynches Lynch himself.

Surrealism often relies on the subconscious to make visual choices – images may seem random, especially when juxtaposed against other, seemingly random images. In “Crow,” these images together don’t necessarily create a narrative so much as they build an overpowering tone. By the end, the whole video holds a deep, quiet, and slightly creepy power over me. Waves crash upon a shore on a screen that cuts right down the middle of some weirdly exploitative anime. The feeling evoked is inexplicable, but Cleopatra and I (and Vanessa), all agreed that it’s present and palpable.

Fittingly, no one knows quite who directed this, and 18+ have remained a rarity in this day and age – a mysterious and unidentified musical duo. Who knows, this really could be a David Lynch side project. If it is, I guess I’ll be eating crow.

1. Jazz – Mick Jenkins
dir. Nathan R. Smith
prod. Julia Elaine Mills

To find words to describe Mick Jenkins’s “Jazz” is to speak through tears. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful message in a month that’s given us Ferguson, MO, while its metaphor of selling water as if it’s gold is disturbingly timely in a month that saw Detroit attempt to shut off water to entire communities.

We live in a country that’s losing it, pure and simple. Early last decade, the few remaining voices of opposition we had to “patriotic” foreign wars resided in the community of stand-up comics. It was an odd alliance. Early this decade, the most relevant protests are being made from a resurgent hip-hop community that’s proved inclusive to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American rappers, and returned the genre to its social justice roots.

“Jazz” is going to be in contention for our video of the year, I’ll tell you that right now. More importantly, there may be no better artistic flagship for the current moment.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

I Can’t Stop Drinking About You – Bebe Rexha
dir. Mike MiHail

Bang Bang – Jessie J. feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
dir. Hannah Lux Davis

Heart Made Up on You – R5
dir. Thom Glunt

Superheroes – The Script
dir. Vaughan Arnell

Runaway – Pell
dir. Matt Robertson

Monument – Royksopp & Robyn
dir. Max Vitali

Special thanks to Amanda Smith and Vanessa Tottle for helping Cleopatra and I view and research more than 70 music videos from the month of August.