Tag Archives: Jungle

These Were June’s Best Music Videos

Every month has a few great music videos and June was no exception. This month also had a logjam when it came to the really good ones that sit just behind them. With summer starting, dance videos are ramping up. There were also a number of videos with LGBTQ+ themes.

This isn’t uncommon – musicians from Lil Nas X to Allison Ponthier could make arguments as the music video artist of the year so far, with wildly different videos and even whole artistic universes based on representation and acceptance. June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and I think this played into seeing an even bigger wave of LGBTQ+ videos.

It’s also worth mentioning that artists like Bo Burnham and Wolf Alice each dropped a ton of videos this month. You probably would’ve seen Burnham’s “White Woman’s Instagram” or Wolf Alice’s “Lipstick on the Glass” if this were a top-25 countdown. Burnham released a number of comedic videos and Wolf Alice continues laying down chapters in what amounts to a larger film of connected music videos. A list like this isn’t necessarily built to group those larger, multi-month projects, but they can still be worth following. We’ll keep an eye on them; we’ve gone in-depth with similar projects in the past.

Let’s get into it. This month’s music videos were selected by Cleopatra Parnell, Amanda Smith, Vanessa Tottle, and Gabriel Valdez.

CW: Photosensitivity Warning; Strobing Effects

10. God Save This Queen – Bimini
directed by Kassandra Powell

Bimini is a British drag queen and model who gained fame on “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK”. “God Save This Queen” marks their first single. I love how the punk editing and mentality are thrown together with high fashion concepts and a pointed sense of humor.

It’s a beautiful statement video that’s simultaneously fun and inviting. It’s brash and confrontational, while at the same time embarrassing anyone who might seek to confront it. That humor and inviting nature gives it a disarming charm. That’s certainly not a line Bimini should have to walk, but that they choose to and do it so well is what makes the video.

9. The King – Sarah Kinsley
directed by Lux

This is a solid performance video anchored by a superb, 75-second opening one-take and those explosively stagey elements that introduce the chorus. It’s a great fusion of set, costume, performance, and editing.

Lux is Hannah Lux Davis, who’s directed videos for Doja Cat, Bebe Rexha, David Guetta, Kacey Musgraves, and has become Ariana Grande’s go-to director. Sometimes in filmmaking a director makes it big and you love what they do with all those expanded budgets…but you also miss some of what they can do on a smaller scale. “The King” is a return to that smaller scale and proof of just how much Lux can do regardless of budget or resources.

8. Hot N Heavy – Jessie Ware
directed by I Could Never Be a Dancer

This is exquisitely done as a one-take. There could be hidden edits, but if so they’re not even slightly obvious. There’s a figure in movement at every moment, and rarely does something cover or swipe across the camera in a way that significantly interrupts it.

If there’s one thing that holds it back, we all thought there was a certain chemistry missing between the dancers. It’s hard to pin down what makes chemistry happen, but the video works on cleverness, effort, and skill. It’s missing just that heat and intensity that would put it over the top as one of the best dance videos of the year. That can obviously hold an MV for something called “Hot N Heavy” back.

It’s still a really good video, but sometimes those elements in dance that have more to do with acting get traded off just a bit to accomplish a tough goal like a one-take. I think it’s one reason why Jungle (who’s on the list further on) hide edits in their one-takes: it allows more focus on those extra aspects like acting that make a video become a singular monument to its song.

7. Butterflies – Skrillex, Starrah, Four Tet
directed by Ben Strebel

There’s something about this that speaks very specifically to the pandemic. There can be a dissonance to how we’ve fractured and reconnected as things potentially get back to some kind of normal. Social interaction that would’ve once been ordinary can now feel highly charged, pressured, abnormal. It doesn’t help that we’re in such an unsure space, with countries shutting back down as the Delta variant of COVID spreads. Are we about to see widespread socializing and connection return, or are we at the prologue to another year of isolation and distance?

There’s a fraught edge between those two spaces that “Butterflies” explores, and I think it speaks to a larger anxiety that accompanies the pandemic and, in turn, much of the nationalistic, socially fracturing politics that enabled its spread. Certain social spaces that were once familiar can now seem celebratory, surreal, and stressful all at once.

6. Sofia – Askjell, iris, Aurora

I have a pretty cynical attitude toward music videos that are made up of clips from fans. They often come off as narcissistic because they use community as an excuse to reinforce a band’s brand. It’s difficult to avoid making them feel exploitative. It’s one reason you don’t see us include many of them in our monthly rundowns.

Here, that’s different. It’s not the musician being celebrated, it’s a young artist who didn’t get enough of a chance to explore her art. It’s not primarily the musician whose brand we’re spreading, it’s the art of a girl who wanted to share what she did. At least something of what she believed and how she saw the world survives and touches others. At least some part of the person she wanted to grow up to be is realized.

5. Dating is in China – Modeselektor ft. Catnapp
directed by Maximilian Villwock

Modeselektor is a German group that took shape in the chaotic wake after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Featured artist Catnapp is an Argentinean artist based out of Berlin.

The video features Ukrainian gymnasts and was shot in Kiev. It’s strange and unexpected, reassuring throughout and unsettling in its last shot. It feels exceedingly directed, often iconic, but also something of a blank canvas we can begin to place our own emotional meanings upon.

One of my favorite aspects of it is an intentionally blurry quality to the images. This isn’t simply downsampled, it’s an included effect. It gives the video something of a discovered quality, like a decade-old video stuck in YouTube obscurity that’s suddenly been uncovered.

4. Rainin’ Fellas – Todrick
directed by Todrick Hall, John Asher

This is one of the most charming and celebratory dance videos of the year. There are so many pieces from costuming to choreography that fuse together in a way that’s simply fun. I love it when elements like kitsch are used this earnestly.

It’d be easy to dismiss this as an easygoing, uncomplicated video. To a large extent, that’s the effect it’s seeking. There’s also an element of deconstructing and then reconstructing so much of what we see in dance videos. A lot of big dance videos with so many moving parts only seek to be more extravagant than what came before. That can leave a lot of substance out. Here, there are notes of Broadway, movie musicals, a choreographic thread that can be traced back to Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson, and notes of contemporary art, kitsch, and pop art that have each been hugely important in LGBTQ+ acceptance.

3. Talk About It – Jungle
directed by J Lloyd, Charlie Di Placido

Jungle continues making the best dance music videos on the planet. They often center on long takes, or faux one-takes. It would seem like this is all done in one shot, but there are hidden edits (a whirl past a wall, a shirt sweeping over the camera for a moment). The effect is no less powerful, and it’s important for the concept here to feel unbroken.

For dance to play out the emotional push-and-pull of a support group is a difficult idea to pull off. There are so many incredible decisions here, centered on alternating moments of conflict and synchronization in the choreography. The viewer is involved in a lot of these like a character, fed by the continuous, point-of-view nature of the take.

2. Purple – Retriever
directed by Theo Le Sourd

“Retriever” is an exquisitely shot, well acted, lightly erotic montage that perfectly captures the sensation of heartache and rewinding memories. It has a gorgeous cinematic feel in front of a song that feels like a lost 80s pop ballad.

When a music video’s about exactly what the song’s about, it can feel a little too on-the-nose, but it’s that sensation of memory scrambled together that helps this work. Some things we have context for, some things become colored in new ways: an argument begins to influence a happy memory. There’s a desire to compartmentalize impressions we want to keep sacrosanct, so that some part of the relationship still feels as it was – even as the rest of our lives grow further from it. “Purple” finds what’s ultimately a very elusive sensation that often escapes description.

CW: Photosensitivity Warning; Strobing Effects

1. Null – eAeon ft. Jclef
directed by Years

There’s no denying that this is visually stressful, but what that stress achieves is something that can only be found in this medium. “Null” is an evocation of trauma and crisis that feels especially pointed. It captures a profound and inescapable anxiety that also humanizes and contextualizes behaviors that are avoided and overlooked in daily life. The main character is someone who’s often relegated as someone else’s problem, or as a situation for police to (mis)handle.

What’s so successful here is that it’s not disturbing, but rather it makes the disturbing identifiable. It creates an empathy for someone who might be angry, unpredictable, perhaps even dangerous, but who genuinely needs support and understanding because none of us would be able to handle a reality so eroded any differently.

More music videos we liked in June:

Cipi” by Noga Erez continues the artist’s line of biting socio-political commentaries, fused to her trademark wary performance style.

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” by Joy Crookes is a colorful dance video with some stellar costume design.

Freedom” by Jon Batiste is a great dance video in a month overstuffed with them. It celebrates, New Orleans, Black culture, and has charisma to spare.

Calling U Back” by The Marias boasts some really special cinematography set to one of my favorite songs of the month.

All You Can Do” by Bess Atwell hearkens back to 70s montage styles and double-exposures to create an evocative and yearning MV.

“PTT (Paint the Town)” by Loona excels in all those things that make a mainstream K-pop video: it’s a clinic on choreography, costume design, set design, and editing.

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What Were March’s Best Music Videos?

This was the strongest month for music videos since we started doing this again. Many of them intersect with major social issues. The first is from an Israeli artist who’s spoken out against her country’s occupation of Palestine, and one of the last is from a Polish artist who’s been leading the fight there for women’s choice. There are a number of queer artists represented this month and yes, Lil Nas X appears below.

My intro ran long last month, so let’s skip the prattling and get straight in. This month, those scoring the videos were S.C. Himura, Eden O’Nuallain, Amanda Smith, Olivia Smith (no relation), Vanessa Tottle, and myself.

11. Story – Noga Erez ft. Rousso
directed by Indy Hait

Noga Erez is quickly becoming one of my favorite music video performers. She has an ability to let you in on the joke while also communicating distaste and resentment for the subject matter she covers. An Israeli musician, she’s grown increasingly critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and her current government. We mentioned her “End of the Road” in January – a music video that relies almost exclusively on a performance that veers from snark to anger to apathy.

I try to be very careful and transparent about respecting the guidelines of the BDS movement in regards to Israeli artists: stopping an ongoing genocide is a lot more important than whether a music video gets featured.

Contrary to popular perception, the BDS movement doesn’t call for boycotting all Israeli artists. PACBI highlights specific guidelines about whether artists sign contracts with the Israel Foreign Ministry. These contracts often include the artist agreeing to promote state interests.

It’s difficult to determine this for every artist, but Erez herself is signed to Berlin label City Slang. Insofar as I can research, I can’t find evidence of any such contract with the Israel Foreign Ministry, and many of her statements would never have been allowed by one. The most I can find is that she accepted a flight to the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of a musical showcase that was paid for by that department.

While she’s discussed unsure feelings on BDS, Erez has spoken regularly against Israel’s occupation of Palestine, autocratic Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli nationalism, and recently about vaccine access inequality between Israel and Palestine. She’s been condemned by the Israel Ministry of Culture on multiple occasions for her music. Her recent single “Fire Kites” identifies with Palestinian girls who launched incendiary kites at Israel, contrasting the privileged childhood she had against what’s been taken away from them.

She was conscripted into the Israeli military at 18, and auditioned for a musician role to avoid a combat role – but conscription is not a choice. All adult Israeli citizens who are Jewish are conscripted. According to my understanding of PACBI guidelines, I can’t determine a reason that her work should be avoided.

All this may seem like a conversation that gets us away from Erez as an artist, but A) see the part about stopping an ongoing genocide being more important, and B) to talk about Erez invites having this conversation, since these are the very subjects she’s seeking out as an artist. Given how vocal she’s been on this front, it’s also hard not to read the video as critical of an unending cycle of violence. It wouldn’t be the first time.

10. Trophy – Crumb
directed by Haoyan of America

There’s so much to love and feel uncomfortable about here: the underlit grunge aesthetic, stagy acting, two seemingly disparate realities coming together, the animated twist. It seems to criticize our isolated pursuit of how we’re perceived, attempting to present ourselves as trophies to each other, tearing each other apart at any display of reality.

Haoyan of America is a mystery as a director. There isn’t accessible information about who they are, which is rare in this day and age. This is their fifth music video for Crumb, though they’ve also directed for Cautious Clay and Bachelor.

9. Sorry Kid – Ben Howard
directed by Thibaut Grevet

What I love about this video is the feeling of shock at just how much I missed on the first viewing. The first time I watched it, I became absorbed in this detail or that – when the woman hitting the wall is on-beat or going off it, for instance. I noticed most of what was happening, but not necessarily when it first appeared.

On subsequent viewings, I pick up on more – both in new details and the broader picture. It’s interesting to see which actors were superimposed and which were working together live. Some moments are simply repeated footage; others are variations of movements that were done multiple times. It makes for visuals that feel engaging without ever becoming too dense. You can always focus on what you want to without distraction, and that’s difficult when there’s this much going on. It’s an expertly directed and edited realization of a concept.

The film referenced throughout is “Tango”, an avant-garde animated short about 36 characters from different times moving in loops throughout the same room.

8. Kathleen – Foxes
directed by Florence Kosky

This is a beautiful contemplation on loss and how our loved ones live on in how they’ve shaped us. It’s also great to see an older dancer featured – they rarely are in music videos, and there’s no good reason for that.

It might feel easy to dismiss this as ordinary pop, but one thing I appreciate is how the lead-in phrase starts repeating itself for a whole minute. It fits the contemplative nature of the song and video. Moreover, that rise and move into the song itself that finally hits at 75-seconds is cathartic because the opening minute is stuck in that same loop – it mirrors what it’s like to lose someone without knowing how to cope. The celebratory nature of the rest of the song wouldn’t hit nearly the same way without that patient, introspective introduction to it.

7. Till Forever Falls Apart (check title) – Ashe ft. Finneas
directed by Sam Bennett

This shouldn’t work as well as it does, but there are so many good decisions in it. It’s a single-take video that incorporates some light choreography for the camera as well – it allows us to be inside that moment, and it makes us feel more present in the setting. As viewers, we’re engaged in the choreography and view it at multiple distances.

The setting is gorgeous and it all happens in real-time, on location. Compare the quality of light from when the video starts to 3 minutes in. This is happening at last light – that gives you a half-hour window to film, if even that.

The contemporary dance Ashe does on her own gives way to a ballroom style when she’s with Finneas. I won’t say either is knocking it out as a dancer, but there’s a looser, freer approach here that fits the song and windblown setting. The video might not be groundbreaking, but every part of it proves to be a good decision.

6. Montero – Lil Nas X
directed by Tanu Muino, Lil Nas X

Since releasing this and opening up the gates of hellish homophobes clutching their pearls, Lil Nas X keeps trolling with new versions such as “Montero but ur in the bathroom of hell while lil nas is giving satan a lap dance in the other room” (here) and “Satan’s Extended Version” (here). Really, it’s par from the course for the genius who gave us “Seoul Town Road” with a BTS guest appearance.

Right now, this looks like it’ll be his most popular video since “Old Town Road”, and thank god, really. It’s an assertive normalization of queerness that’s in-built to resist religious criticism. Are they going to tell him he’s going to go to hell? Watch the video. Are they going to be upset he’s giving Satan a lap dance? He kills Satan in the end. What they’re upset about isn’t Satanic imagery; it’s a man giving another man a lap dance.

I think it bears the question on everybody’s mind – does this make Lil Nas X more or less likely to be invited back to perform in Roblox? To be serious, if Madonna did this today, we wouldn’t blink. What offends the homophobes pretending their religion is an excuse to cast stones is that this is a strong Black queer man giving young Black queer men a path toward admiring and loving themselves instead of feeling othered by bigotry. I don’t know what’s supposed to be more godly than helping others save themselves.

The video’s spurred a lot of incredible public conversations, including one between Lil Nas X and FKA twigs about how her video for “Cellophane” served as an influence, and how both were informed by the physical language of sex workers that otherwise goes unnoticed and uncredited in so much of the music video industry. Many are happy to draw from it while we applaud and normalize the creativity, without acknowledging or normalizing the existence and voices of the workers who formed that language in the first place.

I also want to highlight Cuban-Ukrainian director Tanu Muino, who directs with Lil Nas X. You’ve likely seen her work before. Muino’s helmed Cardi B’s “Up”, Monatik’s “Spinning”, Katy Perry’s “Small Talk”, and ROSALIA’s “Juro Que”, among many other music videos.

5. Cowboy – Allison Ponthier
directed by Jordan Bahat

In the marriage of kitsch, camp, regionalism, and self-reflection that often defines contemporary art, Allison Ponthier tells her own story of coming out as gay. The music video reflects on rejecting who she was while growing up in a conservative Dallas suburb. She imagined moving to New York would be an overnight fix, but the damage others do makes for a lifetime of work.

It’s a joy to see such a studied and artful presentation of camp. Camp is often dismissed as a goofy way of telling a story, not to be analyzed or taken seriously. This obscures who’s telling those stories within the genre and why. Camp’s undercutting of convention is often a more precise undercutting of whose stories are considered serious and who’s stories are barred from inclusion.

Camp can’t take serious stories seriously when only certain people are even allowed to tell them safely. To see Ponthier translate a short history of camp in four minutes as a way of finally being able to tell her own story comfortably is a gorgeous metaphor that communicates at a personal level why camp is so important and enduring in the first place.

4. Game Change – Brodka
directed by Monika Brodka, Przemek Dzienis

The story of “Game Change” is that of a woman who takes over her husband’s role after his death. Outside of male/female binaries, others who do this codify their own language of dance and tics to communicate. It’s not a commentary on trans experiences as we’re familiar with them in the U.S. The concept’s based on Albanian sworn virgins. These were people who took vows of chastity and wore male clothing, being granted the privileges of men and being recognized as men – but only so long as they remained celibate.

The practice was often a way to avoid arranged marriage, child marriage, or being sold into marriage, to retain property that they otherwise would have lost, to be able to continue living with a husband’s family after his death, or to fight in his stead and be counted as a full person when calculating blood money to settle feuds (since women only counted as half a person in this historical accounting practice).

This is why I say it’s contextually different from our understanding of trans experiences. Trans people are simply becoming more fully who they already are. In the case of Albanian sworn virgins, the practice of switching genders was informed by a wide range of contextual cultural factors and dependent on remaining celibate.

Brodka is one of many women artists who’s spoken out against Poland’s theocratic government. Democracy has withered in Poland as the country becomes a Catholic theocracy. The country called a tribunal to pass a near-total ban on women’s choice. It penalizes medical personnel for ordering or carrying out an abortion. This has led to widespread protest. Sex education has also been criminalized, and animosity toward LGBTQ people has grown – in 2019, many Polish municipalities declared LGBT exclusion zones. This has contributed to Poland being rated as one of the worst countries for LGBTQ people to live according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. It’s this reality that informs Brodka’s “Game Change”.

3. Keep Moving – Jungle
directed by J Lloyd, Charlie Di Placido

If you don’t know Jungle, you’re missing out on consistently great dance videos. They don’t tend to repeat the same approach, either. Each one’s had a very different setting and mood. The directors they’ve worked with have matched theme to presentation well over the years.

There’s a smoothness that’s remarkable for just how often elements shift around within it. Groups of dancers split and build back together again constantly. The presentation is that this is all done in one continuous shot. It’s not a true single-take – there are hidden digital edits to it that make the filming easier. The choreography around it keep those transitions from being too apparent or from losing your attention, though. This is a genuinely great dance video that only doesn’t score higher because it was such a ridiculously good month for music videos.

By the way, if you want to see more Jungle videos, “Busy Earnin’”, “Julia”, and “Cherry” join this one as personal favorites.

2. Lovers in the Night – Seori
directed by Lee Young Hoon

This is cinematic. I had to check to ensure it wasn’t compiling scenes from a movie or series (it isn’t). I’m stunned by a few things here. The visuals are saturated in the kind of atmosphere that a lot of MVs attempt, but almost none achieve. Every moment somehow has weight and presence. You can practically breathe the thick air of the city at night. This is achieved through a dynamic range of approaches. In one shot, it’s a lighting filter. In another the edges of the shot are vignetted with a vaseline effect. Shallow focus blurs the background lights in some shots, whereas video effects accomplish this in others.

The inclusiveness of the MV is also beautiful, with a mix of couples across multiple orientations. I sat here and fist pumped the air in celebration at the moment with the cop that they tease you might not happen. And while yes, that particular concept (a cop kissing someone detained) is problematic on the whole, within the context of what this video’s doing, I think it works. Some of the street lighting is haloed out so much that you can see the rainbow color spectrum. Whether that was done as part of the overall visual approach or specifically as part of the MV’s inclusiveness, I don’t know, but it works beautifully.

“Lovers in the Night” is also in rarefied air when it comes to editing. The editing here is utterly sublime. There are moments in “Lovers in the Night” where movement in a shot is echoed in the next, connecting scene to scene by the way our eyes track across it. Where the editing’s become rapid and “Lovers in the Night” wants to stay on a longer shot, lighting cues are used to emulate the impact of an edit without actually cutting. The approach maintains the rhythm of the editing while staying on shot.

The technical work here is so mind-bogglingly precise that it comes across as smooth, effortless, laid back. I can’t say enough good things about how this is made.

1. Ride or Die – Boys Noize & Kelsey Lu ft. Chilly Gonzalez
directed by Art Camp, Danae Gosset, Danica Tan

I’ve watched this five times now and I just break every time. It feels like it’s doing so many things with identity, the pieces of ourselves we want to be vs. how we perceive ourselves. That we can’t put our finger on what everything means, that it’s intentional without being easily accessible – it makes the video emotive in a space that feels oddly safe. It’s rare for a music video to make you feel vulnerable – not just touched, or sad, but genuinely vulnerable.

It’s hard not to draw parallels to Kelsey Lu’s own story. Lu was raised Jehovah’s Witness, and left her religion as she grew up. As a queer woman, it was untenable, and she’s suggested she wouldn’t be alive if she hadn’t made that choice to leave. It isolated her from her family, though she’s spoken since about understanding what strict religion offered a Black family living in constant existential threat in the South. Considerations of religion and family form the backbone of a lot of Lu’s music – her first EP was called “Church” and her first album was “Blood”, so she’s not exactly hiding that.

It’s not the first time Art Camp and Danae Gosset have collaborated on an animation this transcendent, either. Mitski’s “A Pearl” was directed by Art Camp and Saad Moosajee, with Gosset co-directing. Art Camp is filmmakers Santiago Carrasquilla and Jos Diaz Contreras. For “Ride or Die”, Art Camp and Gosset were joined by Singaporean animator Danica Tan, based in L.A.

Carrasquilla, Contreras, Gosset, Tan…it feels good to write a best-of list like this month’s. It has artists from Germany, Israel, Poland, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S. It has directors from Colombia, France, Israel, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, the U.K., Ukraine, and those are just the ones I can find info for. It’s been a stunning month for queer, gay, and bi representation. Eight of the 11 music videos are fronted by women artists.

I just feel immensely proud we can put this together. Not every month looks like this because many of these artists don’t get the same platforms, or funding, or opportunities. It feels good when they break through anyway.

Other music videos we liked this month:

“Feeling So Down” by Flora Cash is a heartfelt, animated MV that tells the story of two lovers across apocalypses.

“hypnotized” by tUnE-yArDs is a single-take video riding on a model train through a marvel of engineering and choreography.

“Story” by NF continues an incredible year of music videos for the rapper. Here, he tells the story of a woman caught in the middle of a hold-up at a convenience store.

“Leave the Door Open” by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, and Silk Sonic is an exquisitely shot performance video with a really unfortunate line to open an otherwise great song.

“Knives” by Ya Tseen ft. Portugal. The Man is a bleak and beautiful stop-motion animation.

“Black Myself” by Amythyst Kiah reckons with how Black girls are taught to see themselves in the U.S.

“Show U Off” by Brent Faiyaz engages Black beauty and accomplishment that doesn’t get legitimized often enough.

“Hematome” by L’Imperatrice makes the second time in three months we’ve mentioned the French pop band. Here, an animation deals with beauty, humanization, and acceptance.

“Selfish Love” by DJ Snake & Selena Gomez finds Gomez running a hair salon that fries the brains of its customers. Combined with Spanish work that feels a lot less pre-packaged than her past English work, Gomez has delivered three really strong videos in 3 months.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

The 10 Best Music Videos of February

What Kind of Man Florence and The Machine 2

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

After a year of writers experimenting with different features and articles, we’re bringing back the ones we liked the best. This means a return of our music video coverage. These actually take more work than anything else, but we love this kind of filmmaking too much to abandon talking about it.

What follows is our selection of the 10 best music videos from the last month, with some honorable mentions.

Please be aware that our #2 video of the month comes with a pretty severe trigger warning.

10. “Can’t Control My Love” by Total Giovanni
directed by Sherwin Akbarzadeh

Boy falls in love with girl. Boy sees how other boys treat the girl. Boy is inspired to reject the patriarchy by hallucinations of a glam band. Boy is rewarded with gummy worms. That’s not exactly how it works in the real world, but…whatever, it’s close enough.

9. “JAY Z: A Dissertation on the Diaspora of the Black Soul” by Goodbye Tomorrow

If you’re on board with the idea that rap’s going through a funk, you haven’t been paying attention to the right rap. There’s a conscience that’s returned to much of the industry, driven by the economic collapse of the middle class and recent racial violence. Goodbye Tomorrow’s first video is a trippy, angry lamentation on how African-Americans are portrayed in the media and how this portrayal carries over into everyday life.

8. “Champagne Kisses” by Jessie Ware
directed by Chris Sweeney

It all feels as if Bat for Lashes got hold of a Nine Inch Nails video and plastered everything over in pastel. There’s a dreamlike quality of yearning here, of not wanting to wake up from whatever dissociated feeling we’ve managed to trap ourselves in. It comes together in such a strange, bittersweet way. There’s a tone here that isn’t common. It feels like peeking into someone’s psyche where we shouldn’t be.

7. “Goodbye” by Who Is Fancy

This is a trio of videos, each to the same song. Each time, a different artist is presented as singing the song. The other two can be seen here and here. Each is guided through the exact same music video, made up and fashion accessorized closer and closer to the point of visually becoming a pop star. Together, the individuality of the singer is removed and replaced with a commercialized image. Just like the image at the end of each video isn’t real, we don’t know which of the three singers – if any of them – is the real one. It’s a clever commentary on modern pop and the identity of the singer has remained – up to this point – anonymous.

6. “Julia” by Jungle
directed by J & Oliver Hadlee Pearch

Jungle posted the #2 album of the year for us last year and you can hear why. Even better, they continue to put out some of the best dance videos to accompany these songs. The connection from song to dance isn’t always apparent, but it doesn’t seem to matter when the emotion of the dance takes hold. It’s not so much based on logic or narrative as how the dancers seem to feel the song, and how they interpret and communicate that feeling to the audience.

5. “Perfect Ruin” by Kwabs
directed by George Belfield
produced by Jessica Wylie

At least someone’s taking advantage of the snow. Filmed in the Swedish winter, Kwabs captures the essence of a lonely emotional journey, the way a moment of loss can both uplift and break the soul. It reflects the simplicity and beauty of the song itself – the instrumentation always complements, but never impedes, Kwabs’s voice. It’s peaceful, it’s contemplative, and it’s utterly beautiful to watch.

4. “Blame” by Denai Moore
directed by Simon Cahn

The best music videos reflect what appeals to us about music itself – they leave themselves open to interpretation. A young woman sits in the back of a police car. A man chases after. Is he trying to save her? Is he trying to catch her? Is he scared for her, angry with her? If he’s scared, is she being taken away unjustly? If he’s angry, is he trying to capture her or does he blame her for something? Is the police car trying to protect her or drag her to prison? There doesn’t even seem to be a driver. Even the end reveal is intentionally obscure. Has she caused a death, or is she dying? Is the whole thing a metaphor – she’s slipping away and he rages at this? We don’t know. We can’t know. And that’s what makes “Blame” – paired with its beautiful song – so important and rewatchable. What the video is about will always be a mystery, but it’s a mystery that communicates important possibilities.

3. “I Can’t Breathe” by Pussy Riot
directed & produced by Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot, the Russian punk movement that protested Russian president Vladimir Putin, includes the two members here who served nearly two years in Russian jails for “hooliganism.” There’s argument over what Pussy Riot stands for, whether they should serve as a voice of protest, and the same talking heads in our news media who called them heroes for standing up to Putin tore them down once they protested the United States’ own militant police elements, as they do here in a powerful response to the choking death of Eric Garner committed by a New York City police officer.

So call Pussy Riot what you want, but only do it after you serve two years in Russian jails, return to the country to be whipped by police, and take the Kremlin to the European Court of Human Rights.


2. “Buried” by Shlohmo
directed by Lance Drake
produced by Danielle Hinde, Jessica Zeta

The best, most meaningful horror movie of the year may be this 6-minute music video. Where to even start? It’s a brutal depiction of a pregnant woman eluding and confronting the kidnapper she’s just escaped on the seemingly uncaring streets of a midnight Los Angeles. The style and imagery behind this is in turn beautiful and appalling. The ties on a bed. A brief glimpse of a missing poster, weather-worn and forgotten for months. The editing of flowers opening, that god damn cinder block. This is a brilliant and very, very tough piece of filmmaking.

1. What Kind of Man – Florence + The Machine
directed by Vincent Haycock
produced by Jackie Bisbee, Mary Ann Marino, Alex Fisch

At the end of this video, check to see if your entire body is tensed. No artist in her videos exposes the crazy dreams, alternate realities, and fears going on inside her head better than Florence Welch. We connect to them because we all have those things happening in our heads, we’re all possessed by these inhibitions and fears, we’re all convinced of constant rebirths and better versions of ourselves to the point where we can’t identify the true changes in ourselves from the false ones.

Watching a Florence + The Machine video can sometimes seem like therapy – it’s cathartic and dreadful, healing and existentially terrifying all at once. More than any of her other videos, this taps into all the different narratives happening in our heads, all the possibilities we play out, all the inner selves and the memories they embody struggling to get free. And as director Vincent Haycock pointed out, Welch is fearless. There’s nothing she won’t do in a performance. You can see that here. You can see what’s laid out before us that most of us wouldn’t dare, all the inner clockworks and those things we’re afraid to say and admit. If only we were all so brave.

Honorable Mentions

“Black Mambo” by Glass Animals

“Empty Nesters” by Toro y Moi

“FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney

“I Luv It” by Sunny & Gabe ft. D.R.A.M.

The Best Music Videos of 2014 (So Far) — #25-16

90s Music Kimbra

by S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Vanessa Tottle, & Gabe Valdez

Let’s take this chance to meet our writers.

S.L. Fevre joins us for only the second time from Los Angeles. An actress, model, and experimental filmmaker, she brings on board a unique industry experience. She also contributes hip hop and rap expertise, but is a fan of narco rock and modern grunge as well.

Cleopatra Parnell kept us down to earth in our 3-part conversation on Lana Del Rey’s “Tropico” and helped us select for our Best Music Videos of 2013 series. A musician and alt-model living in “Austin, Texas, greatest city in the world” she puts the priority on good stories, humor, and solid lyrics in thrash metal, “epic Viking rock,” punk, and house music videos.

Vanessa Tottle has written for us quite a lot. Her most recent solo articles were her touching E3 reaction and her searing declaration of war after the Isla Vista shootings. She’s a fan of folk, alternative, and Asian pop music, but couldn’t care less what the music is if your video conveys a message.

If you follow us, you might already know I’m a film critic living in Massachusetts. I have some particular tastes – I like brash, experimental music videos, good dance if you’ve got it, that place where electronica and hip hop meet, and what’s left of alternative music.

-Gabe Valdez

P.S. Due to music copyright law, we can only feature some videos here. Click on each title to watch every video directly on YouTube.

25. Really Don’t Care – Demi Lovato feat. Cher Lloyd
directed by Ryan Pallotta

This video unabashedly makes a statement. Demi Lovato has the following that only being a Disney music and TV star can give you – her demographic is youthful and open-minded. Not all of them have decided their politics, but they will soon, since she’s been around for a while. What better time to make a statement that “My Jesus loves everybody,” than at the L.A. Pride Parade?   -Cleopatra Parnell

24. Sweatpants/Urn – Childish Gambino feat. Problem
directed by Hiro Murai

Self-congratulation meets extreme self-awareness in a riff on Being John Malkovich and a rip on the ego that fame brought. It’s too egotistical in the end, which is where Hiro Murai tags “Urn,” a soulful, dreamlike cry from under the burdens and expectations of black history.   -S.L. Fevre

23. 90s Music – Kimbra
directed by Justin Francis

I still don’t know how I feel about Kimbra’s deconstructionist pop by-way-of world music schtick. At times it’s transcendental, at other times it feels amateurish. Sometimes both in the very same song, like in “90s Music.” Either way, it’s growing on me, and I think she’s the half of that Gotye song from two years back that’s most worth paying attention to. The video has more to do with antiquated visual art movements than music videos. The result is equal parts “What am I watching?” and “I want to play it 5 times in a row.” Nearly always, the latter thought wins.   -Gabe Valdez

22. Busy Earnin’ – Jungle
directed by Oliver Pearch

Laid back dance choreography goes a long way for me, especially when the lead is this winning. Is it a perfectly executed dance piece or is it a crew having a good time on a rainy Sunday? It hits both marks very easily, which fits the song’s smooth, mid-tempo groove.   -Vanessa Tottle

21. Au Revoir – Chancellor Warhol
directed by Casey Culver

Kanye West opened a door for rappers to make careers of killing off their gangster god identities. Bugattis, bling, guns, and champagne were the measurements of success. Now, they’re the emperor’s new clothes, hiding shame like fig leaves. Both of Casey Culver’s videos on the list [William Wolf’s “King of Sorrow” featured yesterday -ed.] insist the more you boast, the worse off you are and the more you own, the less responsible you are.   -S.L. Fevre

20. No Rest for the Wicked – Lykke Li
directed by Tarik Saleh

Sweden is in a political fight for its future that mirrors Europe’s own. Its artists are fighting hard against rising racist and fascist leaders who demand closing borders and “acceptable” forms of segregation. If we learned one thing from how the Great Depression led to World War 2, it’s that tough times make ugly politicians rise up by creating scapegoats. Every country has a favorite race to blame, and the history of Sweden is interlocked closely with Nazi Germany’s. What Sweden, Europe, and the U.S. all fight over is whether we learned that one thing or history repeats itself. The role of performance today is to be the conscience that refuses repetition.   -Cleopatra Parnell

19. Crime – Real Estate
directed by Tom Scharpling

Andy Daly auctioning pieces of the video. Blood Lord extreme sports vampire gangs who stop chasing a girl to admire an old man’s photo album and get turned into a barbershop quartet. There are a lot of super serious messages in music videos. For once, it’s nice to stop and enjoy something silly.   -Cleopatra Parnell

18. Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes – Norma Jean
directed by Eli Berg

Norma Jean are like the pop version of Tool, a sort of diet-version Porcupine Tree. They tell the classic tale of a shark following a man to his office and taking over his job. It’s hilarious, but there’s something more lurking underneath the video’s immediate comedy, a Kafka-esque metaphor for the fear that drives us at breakneck pace even for the most mundane job. If that starts getting to you too much, just replay the scene where the shark fixes the office copier.   -Gabe Valdez

17. Down on My Luck – Vic Mensa
directed by Ben Dickinson

Think Groundhog’s Day at a club, all boiled down to a three-minute song. It’s a daunting task, but it’s deftly handled through some wicked smart choreography and editing. There’s little more to say about this video; it’s a comedy that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.   -Gabe Valdez

16. Black – The-Dream
directed by Daniel Sannwald

According to the Supreme Court, three of the four writers of this article don’t own their bodies in the United States of America. Two of the four have been asked by police if they’re here legally because of their name or appearance. Three of them have had thousands of dollars legally stolen by trusted employers. Two of us have had research legally stolen by employers. All four have multiple friends suffering PTSD. All four know someone who was shot in a foreign war. Three of us know someone who was shot on U.S. soil. The fourth knows someone who shot and killed their child while cleaning a loaded gun. All of us know someone who has lost their house. All four of us have taken a friend who’s suffered sexual assault to the hospital. Two of us have taken a friend who’s been rufied to the hospital. All of us grew up with the American dream, two in Texas, one in Illinois, one in Wisconsin. Heartland, straight up the middle. Some had rough childhoods, some had wholesome ones, but all of us believed that dream of equality and fairness growing up. Now we live on four ends of a country, in as different situations as you can imagine. Yet all of us are fucking pissed. And all of us bet you are, too.   -Vanessa Tottle

Watch this blog for the continuation of our rankings.
Here, you can check out #35-26.