Tag Archives: Sia

What Were the Best Music Videos of the 2010s?

The 2010s were an odd decade for music videos. The medium seems to have both a record audience and a diminishing importance. Music videos at the beginning of the decade measured the celebrity of an artist. The best were (for some reason) often considered those with the most cameos of other celebrities.

Now, viewership is overwhelming, there’s more access to music videos than ever before, and that interest is much more fragmented. Websites dedicated to covering music videos have gone under. A star can no longer maintain their celebrity solely on opulently produced music videos.

Are these good things or bad? It’s genuinely hard to say. It’s an evolution. I certainly don’t mind that stars themselves have become less central to music videos. When they do feature, it’s less about anchoring the video to a musical performance and more about how the star features, highlights, or contrasts to a story taking place. It leaves more room for narrative, setting, a director’s touch, dance, choreography, performance.

These are the 10 music videos of the last decade that stick with me the most:

10. “Land of the Free” – The Killers

directed by Spike Lee

Hope can’t function without the work to realize it. Change doesn’t happen unless people enact it. Spike Lee’s video for The Killers’ “Land of the Free” speaks to the sad, backwards phase the United States has found itself embracing. We’re running concentration camps for Latinx immigrants, tearing children from their parents and keeping them locked away for no reason. Incarceration has been transformed into a modern version of slave labor for the prison industry. Children are shot in our schools with no real effort made to decrease the risk they face.

“Land of the Free” is a Rorschach test for how you’re feeling that day: hopeful, angry, motivated, hopeless, desperate. All of those feelings are part of a whole. All of them are legitimate and natural. Just keep taking the next step to changing something. Keep taking the next step of the work that feeds that hope and one day realizes it.

9. “Happy” – Mitski

Content Warning: Gore

directed by Maegan Houang
produced by Ben Kuller

Mitski’s likely had the strongest music video output in the last half of the 2010s. There are a number of her MVs that could make a list like this: “Washing Machine Heart”, “Nobody”, “A Pearl”, “Your Best American Girl”.

Many of Mitski’s videos center on the dissonance of being biracial. Director Maegan Houang’s “Happy” might investigate this best in terms of the white beauty standards held against women of color. What the video reveals is how racism is used to undermine feminism that isn’t intersectional. While it supposedly prizes white women over women of color, it’s ultimately used to suppress both. White patriarchy doesn’t enable or reward women held as successful in it, it just points them at another marginalized community while both are victimized.

8. “Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow

directed by Ninian Dorff
produced Sarah Boardman, Rik Green
choreography by Supple Nam

And now for something happy. A surprise hit that came out of nowhere, “Genghis Khan” is a terrific love story that exemplifies the strengths of music videos as a medium. It communicates its ideas quickly and upends your expectations through song, dance, and just a few cutaway shots.

We’re familiar enough with the tropes it plays with that it doesn’t need any more than this. It’s successful because it can tell a story in under four minutes with very broad strokes and a bare handful of specifics that establish and then invert cliches we love. It’s expertly directed because it knows where to pull back and trust the audience.

7. “Elastic Heart” – Sia

directed by Sia, Daniel Askill
choreographed by Ryan Heffington

Dance can communicate a great deal, including the inability to escape certain struggles and bring the people we love with us. Sia has discussed the video in terms of being two sides of her personality, and it also works as demonstration of family members struggling and fighting – sometimes with each other. A daughter learns to cope with mental illness and trauma and a father can’t escape its impact – whether because it’s too late or too progressed, he simply didn’t have the tools and help in time.

The responses to this video were understandable. Many worried about connotations of pedophilia at the idea of Shia LaBeouf dancing opposite Maddie Ziegler in a cage. Impact outweighs intent, so it’s appropriate that Sia herself quickly clarified the aim of the video and didn’t seek to blame or attack those who were concerned about it.

As a metaphor for mental illness and trauma recovery, it can be powerful. The video itself is the sum of a number of smart decisions. Ryan Heffington’s choreography is off-kilter and imbalanced, playing with the power dynamic and difference in size between his two dancers. The camera remains still at various points only to explode into motion. The editing is energetic and chooses its patient moments. There’s sometimes a slight fish-eye effect used in shots taken from inside the cage that creates a slightly distorted perspective. And of course, the two dancers are phenomenal, both in their choreography and in their performances as actors.

6. “What Kind of Man” – Florence + The Machine

directed by Vincent Haycock
produced by Jackie Bisbee, Mary Ann Marino, Alex Fisch
choreographed by Ryan Heffington

Florence Welch has a catalog of fearless performances in music videos. Perhaps none of them match “What Kind of Man” for their range and the flexibility of their interpretation. Welch and Director Vincent Haycock put together a 48-minute film called The Odyssey, composed of nine original Florence + The Machine music videos. “What Kind of Man” serves as the opener to it.

I’d describe it as a burgeoning storm of a music video if it wasn’t expressly making that comparison within the video itself. The range of scenes swings wildly across intimate experiences, framing an entire rocky history of trust, anger, desire, shame. We come away with the shape of what someone’s love life has felt like – whether across multiple romances or just one is hard to say. We understand the gender inequality that played into it, the feelings of disaster and healing that accompanied it.

If we were asked to build a chronology of events out of the video, we couldn’t possibly. Yet if we were asked to describe the feelings surrounding those events, we could describe what the video shows us for far longer than it runs. “What Kind of Man” is like an impressionist painting – we may not be able to identify individual objects in it, but we can describe exactly what it feels like.

(I had this list sorted out before I looked at the production and choreography credits. Lo and behold, choreographer Ryan Heffington again. I supposed I should be looking for more of his work.)

5. “The Body Electric” – Hurray for the Riff Raff

directed by Joshua Shoemaker
produced by Dan and Cathleen Murphy

Hurray for the Riff Raff’s protest anthem “Pa’lante” could just as easily have made the list, but “The Body Electric” is the music video I go to when I feel most helpless in changing things. It’s not because the video makes me feel hopeful. It’s because it makes me see how much more hopelessness out there is felt by others, how many marginalized communities are struggling and seeking for their voice to be legitimized, to be seen as human. The sheer volume of that struggle isn’t reassuring, but I know we’re none of us alone in that struggle. The hopelessness I’m feeling isn’t unique, or unprecedented, or insurmountable. It’s a desired effect of the racism I fear and fight against, of the misogyny and transphobia addressed in the video.

“The Body Electric” reminds me I’m not alone. There are more of us who want to change things than those who want them to remain this way. That pain is heard. It’s felt. It has platforms. People are fighting every day. I don’t fail if I’ve fought until exhaustion. We all have at some point. I fail if I don’t recognize that in others, if I don’t see the communities who are all in this. Art like this can be poignant in driving a point home, and it can also serve as a bridge to the lonely and exhausted that reminds them it’s OK, that exhaustion is shared, just as overcoming it is shared.

4. “Quarrel” – Moses Sumney

directed by Allie Avital, Moses Sumney
produced by Meghan Doherty

Moses Sumney’s song speaks of the power imbalance in a relationship between people of different privileges. The music video deals with the desire to transform into something he cannot, the fairy tale that people of color can be seen as the same when the difference that’s applied to them is itself illusory. We turn the hate of that inward in an impossible effort to become the things that hate us.

Or, the music video deals with the desire to oppress and cause violence to those we care about who don’t have the same privileges, and it’s not until Sumney puts himself into the shoes of those he oppresses that he can understand how his actions cause harm.

“Quarrel” is difficult to parse. Like many great fairy tales, it can say multiple things depending on your point of view.

3. “This is America” – Childish Gambino

directed by Hiro Murai
produced by Danielle Hinde, Jason Cole, Fam Rothstein, Ibra Ake
choreographed by Sherrie Silver

Obviously, “This is America” belongs high on any list like this one. Why does it work so well for so many people? It speaks to a country (and cultural movement across many countries) that increasingly uses fear to dominate and radicalize its people against each other. It builds layers of violent imagery immediately ignored with smiles and dancing. The smiles and dancing immediately enable the next eruption of violence.

Nothing is healed in that cycle. All of us quietly fear it while simultaneously feeding it, participating in it, enabling it. It fuses together the acts of violence and illusions that erase them to evoke a lurking fear that we use those illusions to suppress and deny.

2. “RAPIN*” – Jenny Wilson

Content Warning: sexual assault

animated & directed by Gustaf Holtenas

Jenny Wilson’s 2018 album EXORCISM is an unraveling of after-effects from a sexual assault. The entire album serves as a maelstrom, an extensive fallout of damages and dealing with them. Its uncomfortable discussion of recovery as a process that often repeats the trauma is stark and realistic. There’s no before-and-after picture to it.

“RAPIN*” is the first song on the album, a fever dream that serves as a terrifying monument in life that can never be erased. Gustaf Holtenas’s animated music video reflects that terror in a way that’s both surreal and sickeningly physical.

It’s not a representation that can be easily digested. It’s confrontational, visceral, revolting, haunting. It conveys how trauma changes the way someone sees the world from that point forward, how the event itself replays in their mind. It’s a direct and painful music video that places the viewer into the shoes of the victim, if only to describe in some slight way something that can’t be described.

1. “Afterlife” – Arcade Fire

directed by Emily Kai Bock
produced by Anne Johnson

The best we can do for the people we’ve lost is remember them. Sometimes we can only do so in impressions. Perhaps its a TV show you grew up watching with them. Perhaps its a place where you danced. Perhaps its a shoulder you rested upon. We don’t always have access to these things anymore. We reach out to them in our imaginations, in our dreams, we try to resurrect them in the art we create.

We try to touch them just one more time, to evoke something lost – their image, their voice, their presence. Sometimes a death can feel like nothing will ever be the same. Sometimes it can feel like they just stepped out for a minute, and they’ll be right back.

“Afterlife” deals in the impressions we might remember in our dreams, the memories of work and leisure a father might have, a teenager’s memory that’s precise but lacks context, the brief feeling of reassurance after a child’s nightmare.

“Afterlife” is sad and longing, but it’s also immensely reassuring. It shares one glimpse of something we all feel in our lives, at a way our hearts all break and mend until we can test their breaking once again because we so dearly want to remember those we’ve lost.

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.

Best Throwing Caution to the Wind of 2014

 

 

 

 

 

This is our most controversial pick, even among the seven critics who selected this list. This artist, after the fame of being Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” had a road into pop superstardom paved out for her. She had the look, voice, and…well, let’s not pretend anything else matters to pop charts. Instead, she released an album that deconstructed pop from the inside out. Thankfully, it bounced off mainstream critics and landed here. Instead of the safety album that was expected, we got:

The Golden Echo by Kimbra!

In our e-mail battle over this selection, our favorite note became that Pitchfork gave The Golden Echo a 4.3 out of 10. We got a real kick out of that. From their review, we really would’ve thought they’d give it a 4.458 or an f(x)=n^3-p, but there’s just no accounting for taste these days.

Look, Pitchfork got one thing right, and that’s comparing Kimbra’s approach to pop to Janelle Monae’s. This is not an album built for review. It’s an answer to the ones that are. It’s an album built for listening, for dancing, for realizing you feel like you’re trapped in the Matrix if you dare listen to ordinary pop afterward.

 

 

 

Most accurately, it’s an album built by Kimbra for Kimbra to celebrate the music Kimbra loves: 90s hip hop, disco, jazz, R&B. The result sounds like the collaboration Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton-John, David Byrne, and Sia never could have made, and that’s before you get to the Kate Bush section of the album. There is no concession here to what the audience might want or expect. It all sounds straight from the artist, unabridged.

 

Those of us who are fans (three of us put this in our top tens, three of us refused to even list it) have the sneaking suspicion that The Golden Echo will only climb in estimation over time, a breath of cult future pop well ahead of its time. If Kimbra continues on this path, The Golden Echo may one day be viewed as the moment an incredible career made a crucial change.

For now, some will remember The Golden Echo as a 4.3. And some will listen to it with the obsessiveness we only reserve for the artists who most provoke our imagination as to what music can become.

– Cleopatra Parnell, Amanda Smith, Olivia Smith & Gabriel Valdez

If you want to see what else we’re listing in our Top 35 albums of 2014, take a look.

What Went Wrong — Lea Michele’s “Louder”

Lea Michele Louder lead

by Amanda Smith & Gabe Valdez

What happens when you take a Broadway singer and stuff her into a Katy Perry pop mold? Some good things, some bad.

Louder is Lea Michele’s debut album (free of Broadway or Glee soundtracks) and she uses 29 writers and 21 producers in just 11 songs. Or maybe they use her.

When it was released on February 28, Michele was roundly trashed, getting 1.5 stars (out of 5) from Rolling Stone. Idolator was the kindest around, rating Michele 3.5 stars. Very occasionally, they even remembered to grade the album, too.

They were in the ballpark, though. The album has some disastrous moments. So what went wrong? That’s easier to find if we start with what went right.

“Cannonball” is a strong opener. It hits listeners with Michele’s Broadway chops via the repetitive chorus: “I’ll fly like a cannonball.” This is an appropriate metaphor. As any Glee viewer can tell you, Michele is best when she’s allowed to sing to the back of the room.

Pop star Sia Furler wrote “Cannonball” and Norwegian duo Stargate produced it. They’re smart to strip the power ballad to basics: Michele’s only accompaniments are canned drums set to 1980s riff and a walking synth line that revisits the same five chords for three minutes straight. Soft electric string tones join in the middle to add a cathartic note (literally, they add only one note). An airy piano, which hands the walking line to the synth at the beginning, returns at the end to reflect Michele shedding the song’s dark, depressing opening lyrics and finding strength.

With the most basic level of instrumentation, the song is forced to rely on Michele and her background singers. This is great: it fits into Glee‘s semi-a cappella mode that’s been designed for Michele over 121 hours of TV. There’s nothing extraneous in “Cannonball,” and that puts the burden on her vocals.

(More voice means more emotion. This was the theory when Peter Gabriel and Real World Studios first re-engineered pop music around canned drum cycles in the mid-1980s.)

Portamento (pitch sliding) is not Michele’s forte. She hits a note perfectly, but when she’s asked to slur from one to the next in a single syllable, it doesn’t often sound right. More consistent production could have done a better job of hiding or orchestrating around this, and the best production on the album does.

Not surprisingly, the songs written by Sia are the album’s standouts – “Cannonball,” “Battlefield,” “You’re Mine,” and “If You Say So.” Not all of them were originally written for Michele, and maybe that’s why they work.

Lea Michele

“Battlefield” is also the only song produced by Josh Abraham. He began his career in the production booth for heavy metal groups Danzig and Orgy and rap-rock bands that don’t know how to spell Limp Bizkit, Staind, and Linkin Park. Love or hate them, these are all bands that limit the number of sounds that take place in their songs. They’re loud, but they’re not complicated. There’s no Wall of Sound to deal with.

“Battlefield” is Michele accompanied by piano and drums. There’s also an African chorus that feels like it entered the wrong recording booth, but it finds its way out quickly enough. “Battlefield” is the song that feels closest to a Broadway solo.

“You’re Mine” sounds more like a Selena Gomez song. Michele’s wanting portamento is replaced with quick, staccato note changes. She’s accompanied by canned drums, emotive strings (synthed), and occasional piano. This is one of two songs on Louder that Chris Braide produced. He’s previously produced for Sia, Lana Del Rey, and Malaysian singer Yuna. His synthesized strings are a trademark.

As he does for those artists, he makes sure to keep the instrumental elements in the background, supportive of Michele. The drums use reverb to complement Michele’s ability to assertively hold notes, and pull back to soft clapping for a relaxed three-quarter break. The strings are held to a walking series of choruses so they can’t become a focus. Like “Cannonball,” “You’re Mine” rightly places the weight of the song on Michele’s aggressive delivery.

“If You Say So” is a good performance in the wrong song. Unlike “Cannonball,” Sia wrote it with Michele in mind, but it feels like it was written for Sia by Sia. Lyrics like “I check my phone and wait to hear from you in a crowded room” could ache with Sia’s delivery, but feel misplaced with Michele’s. Michele is still singing to the back of the room. Sia would sing it to herself. It’s the difference between a performance (even though it’s a good one) and a heart wrenching personal portrait.

It’s the mistake the whole album makes. It isn’t Michele’s fault. She’s stepping into unfamiliar places by recording an album and putting herself in the hands of so many different writers (29) and producers (21). By relying on so many different personalities, though, too much gets asked of Michele. The picture she’s trying to paint is too big, and looking closely reveals gaps in detail.

Michele had a hand in writing two songs on the album, “If You Say So,” and “Cue the Rain.”

“The city was on fire for us
we would have died for us
up in flames
cue the rain…”

It’s the kind of nonsense Michele can make you picture. She’s a cinematic singer, but like most pop stars, she has a big Achilles heel in her delivery. Michele’s happens when singing introspectively.

Britney Spears can pull off mess like “I know my heart’s too drunk to drive,” but Michele can’t. Britney is an introspective singer (stylistically, not effectively). Michele is the polar opposite.

Consider the Lecture Hall Test. If Michele’s at the front of a lecture hall and pointing at you and singing about fire and dying and rain, you’re not looking anywhere else. You’re thinking, this is going to be an awesome semester. If she’s boring holes through you with her eyes while she goes on about her heart getting a DUI, you’re heading to the academic department and hoping the add/drop deadline hasn’t passed.

The best pop singers can sing to the back of the room and to themselves, depending on what the song needs. For all the other faults in her music, Katy Perry’s ability to shift gears quickly and effortlessly is why she dominates the field. She can overcome the kind of lackluster production Michele faces on “On My Way,” “Louder,” “Don’t Let Go,” and “Empty Handed.”

Lea Michele Glee 1

Anne Preven is one of the most constant producers on the album. She’s worked extensively with Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. These are singers geared toward safe, radio-friendly songs whose direction is decided more by orchestration than by vocal. Michele isn’t suited to that kind of quick, hoppy delivery. She doesn’t know how to follow her instrumentation, and her stage and TV experiences have offered her next to no training in how to do so. She leads the charge; all her experience is in orchestrations being built around her.

Our hope would be for a second album to settle on a more limited field of writers and producers. And maybe that was the purpose of this album – to see who Michele works best with and what direction offers the best musical future.

Our hope? “Thousand Needles” works because Michele’s strong voice lends itself to the instrumental spareness, elongated delivery, and emotional catharsis of R&B. It’s Michele’s best vocal delivery on the album and it’s the only one in which her portamento isn’t brutal, perhaps because the tempo isn’t rushed.

It’s also the only song Ali Payami produces, and one of the few Kuk Harrell has a hand in. Payami is a deceptively clever remixer of club and house music. Harrell has produced for Rihanna, Usher, and The-Dream. He also has a hand in producing “You’re Mine” (pro) and “On My Way” (con). We think he needs more opportunities with Michele.

“Cannonball” is produced by Stargate. When writing this article, we kept e-mailing each other, “You know who should produce for Michele? Whoever did Selena Gomez’s ‘Come and Get It.’

Turns out that’s Stargate, too. Great minds, people, great minds…

Stargate is a Norwegian production team composed of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen. Their experience mixing R&B with hip-hop and the electronic nuances of Scandinavian pop lends well to Michele’s strengths, but they rarely produce an entire album.

A cut down lineup of producers Abraham, Braide, Harrell, and Payami would help to focus the direction of the album, with Stargate engineering the intended singles.

As for writers, Sia needs to stay, but this is a no-brainer. She’s one of the most sought-after writers in pop music, and four of Louder‘s best songs were written by her hand. Michele needs to keep hitting up Scandinavia – “Thousand Needles” was cowritten by Tove Nilsson (Swedish pop star Tove Lo) while Stargate helped write “Cannonball.” Michele also needs to take a stronger lead in writing her own material, becoming more aware of the big, sprawling, cinematic metaphors that play to her delivery and the personal, everyday, in-the-moment images she doesn’t perform believably.

Many of the writers and producers we haven’t named here come from a Cyrus/Lovato/Kelly Clarkson/American Idol/America’s Got Talent background. They can’t return. Michele needs to be treated more experimentally – some combination of Broadway, R&B, and Scandinavian pop. Anything country or folk needs to be kept very far away from her.

There’s a clear path forward for Michele’s inevitable follow-up to Louder, which wasn’t necessarily a bad album. It was just one half of a very good album and one half of a soporific disaster. Very few efforts this year so starkly demonstrate the influence that writers and producers have in how a pop album comes together…or doesn’t.

What Went Wrong/What Went Right will be a returning series that puts the emphasis in music criticism on the music itself, and not the celebrity or lifestyle behind it. If you enjoyed it, please check back, and feel free to browse our music video criticism in the meantime.

Lea Michele Louder cap

The Top 5 Music Videos of 2014 (So Far)

Maddie Ziegler in Chandelier by Sia

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

Vanessa here. I asked to do the intro today, because of what music videos mean to me. Music videos are the most watched form of short film. They come in all different flavors – performance videos of your favorite band, dance videos, comedies, dramas, experimental, arthouse. People say the musical’s dead, but it’s very much alive – billions of people across the world watch music videos every day. It’s our modern version of opera, touching narratives and social messages condensed into musical storytelling. And if you worry that speaks ill of our society, you’re watching the wrong music videos.

Our top 5 videos run the gamut – an animation with an ecological message, a socially conscious rap video, an angry social comment starring everybody’s favorite web-slinger, a tearjerking drama, and perhaps the most singular dance performance in recent music video history. But first, allow me to feature a personal favorite of mine.

Roar – Addy
The Make-A-Wish Foundation

This is what music videos mean to me. Here’s a little girl named Addy. She got stage IV cancer when she was just four years old. She went through chemo and radiation. What she says got her through it all is watching her favorite musicians on YouTube. The Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants dying children their one wish, was able to make a music video of Addy, thankfully after her recovery, performing Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

What do music videos mean to me? They mean a way to reach out into the world, across cultures, to perceive someone else’s story, their pain, their suffering, their success, five minutes at a time. Five minutes can change someone’s life, give them hope, and communicate the most urgent messages we have the capability to speak.

Music videos were Addy’s lifeblood, and she’s just one little girl. How many little girls, little boys, teenagers, men, women, those suffering pain, heartache or loss, find those five minutes that keep them going another day?

Why this music video? Because not everyone gets to make it out of being a kid, that’s why. Why the next one? Because I don’t own my body in the United States. Why the next one? Because thousands of underprivileged black families’ water is being turned off in Detroit. Why the next one? Because the LGBTQ community still isn’t accepted, and outed people still get beaten in certain places. There are countless next ones.

One of my co-writers, Cleopatra Parnell, wrote about Lykke Li’s “No Rest for the Wicked” (#20 in our countdown) that every country that wages war on a race, gender, religion, or lifestyle has a chance to show “whether we learned…or history repeats itself. The role of musicians and artists today is to be the conscience that refuses repetition.”

Music videos create a major part of our social consciousness now. They are our most readily accessible way to translate stories at no charge across cultures. That can save a lot of Addy’s. That can be a strong conscience that crosses borders. That can change lives. Enough changed lives can change entire cultures. And even if nothing else, at least they saved the lives of girls named Addy and Vanessa when they were unsure if they could make it another day.

Enjoy our top 5, and please keep watching and making every piece of art you can.

-Vanessa Tottle

P.S. Due to music copyright law, you may have to click through to YouTube to watch certain videos.

5. Re – Nils Frahm
directed by Balazs Simon

This is quiet, lyrically animated. It’s a story repeated day after day in a world we care about in voice, but often refuse to take action to save. What’s it like to be the last, lone beast in the scraps of a ruined wilderness? You can run, you can leap, you can be gallant and noble and beautiful, but if something’s meant to die and no one’s there to witness you, what does your beauty and talent mean? One of the best animated music videos I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.   -Gabe Valdez

4. 25 Bucks – Danny Brown feat. Purity Ring
directed by NORTON

There’s a violence in day-to-day struggle more and more families are feeling. It’s not the obvious violence I see in movies about black gangsters and brown drug-dealers and white heroes. The violence is internal and families feel it against themselves. It’s the violence of disappointment and discouragement. When you realize you’re up against something bigger than yourself, the system’s stacked against you, and you can’t win, where else is violence supposed to turn but on yourself and your loved ones?   -S.L. Fevre

3. We Exist – Arcade Fire
directed by David Wilson

It shouldn’t matter anymore whether someone is gay. It shouldn’t get anyone beaten or killed. You would think those two statements are so obvious it would be stupid to write them. Yet we live in a world that’s wasting its time and resources on holding the LGBTQ community down when it wouldn’t make a damn difference to the world what that community does. So it’s still a big deal when Andrew Garfield stars as a transvestite in a major music video released two weeks after his role as Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

But it’s not the old moment when we used to celebrate the specialness of someone’s difference. That moment now is angry – we look at the normalcy of someone’s difference, and instead feel despair and frustration at the violent holdouts who hold back a world that needs to get on with doing something more important than clinging to hate.   -Vanessa Tottle & Gabe Valdez

2. “What is This Heart?” trilogy
Part 1: Repeat Pleasure – How to Dress Well
Part 2: Face Again – How to Dress Well
Part 3: Childhood Faith in Love – How to Dress Well
directed by Johannes Greve Muskat

A young man sacrifices having any life of his own to take care of his grandfather. His grandfather’s nurse falls in love with him. Together, they steal the grandfather away to visit his childhood home. Things go wrong. And the rest of it is about coping, how to learn to rely on someone else, how to learn to give into moments you can’t control. It’s a trilogy of videos still reeling around in my head, being turned over this way and that to get ahold of the story from every angle. Each time I watch the trilogy, I find something new in it. The performances are dramatically sterling. By the third video, the mythical power of the trilogy is astounding. Watch it through. You won’t regret it.   -Gabe Valdez

1. Chandelier – Sia
directed by Sia & Daniel Askill

This was a unanimous choice for #1. If you knew how much this group bickers about every little detail, that would blow your mind. None of us pretended anything else can be here, though, not even for a second. You don’t even need to understand why. You just need to watch “Chandelier.” The level of performance is what you get when you watch Jackie Chan or Mikhail Baryshnikov – less refined but at such a singular level nonetheless that it’s impossible to replicate or find a similar moment anywhere else you look. Maddie Ziegler shares dance solo at its finest, choreographed and performed by an 11-year-old. It’s the most unexpected music video.   -Vanessa Tottle

In any form of art there’s genius. You can’t point to what makes it up, but you know it when you see it. Maddie Ziegler’s choreography and dance here is feral, animal, chaotic, and yet so brilliantly nuanced – every move means something. She’s 11 and yet there’s a maturity that speaks to emotional moments and struggle and pushing forward despite being held back…there are times you think there’s a 30-year-old, weathered dance veteran on-screen. At the same time, there’s an immaturity, a free attitude and irreverence in the moves she’s chosen that reminds me of the experience of being a kid, of overcoming that sense of being overwhelmed in order to learn you can push your own boundaries. How she captures that, how an 11-year-old’s artistic discretion pulls from both ends of the spectrum to create and then perform a dance that speaks to you and sends chills up your spine…it’s an impossible performance, and yet there it is.   -Gabe Valdez

Enjoy the rest of our rankings:
Music videos #15-6.
Music videos #25-16.
Music videos #35-26.