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
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.”
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.