The Top 20 Music Videos of 2016
  • MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

20. Foxygen - "Follow The Leader"
Directed by Cameron Dutra




When you have a song that features a symphony orchestra, what kind of video should go along with it? Something with a million dollar budget that takes place in a fancy Italian theatre? Well, Foxygen went in the opposite direction for their song "Follow The Leader" and went with a location that was a little more simple: a playground. With swing sets, tennis courts, fun choreography and a flamboyant leader, the already-big song was made even bigger with nothing but a small park and some dancers.

19. BØRNS - "American Money"
Directed by Olivia Bee




I love it when a video looks exactly how the song sounds, and that's the case for BØRNS' "American Money." Drenched in a foggy haze and featuring a wardrobe slathered in emerald green and ruby, the singer takes us into a new world. "Paradise in your eyes / Green like American money" the yellow text depicts on the bottom half of the screen. BØRNS and his lover really are living in a dream - a Gucci-galore fantasy.

18. The Japanese House - "Face Like Thunder"
Directed by Gareth Phillips




Scenic landscapes and gorgeous pastel colors take over The Japanese House's video for "Face Like Thunder," as we see the singer-songwriter, a.k.a. Amber Bain, drive through the picture in a pickup truck in the middle of a sunset. She walks symmetrically in the middle of the road, and as we get an overview of the roads, we see her body strategically placed for a quick glance. With this visual, she shows that even if you're telling a melancholy story, your surroundings can still be beautiful.

17. Mitski - "Happy"
Directed by Maegan Houang




A traditional housewife being cheated on by an insipid mansplainer - but wait. There's a huge plot twist. At the end, when the housewife wanders around the house in the middle of the night, we find that the horrible man is actually slaughtering all of these women in their very own basement. Mitski brings all of the blood and gore into a somewhat sweet-sounding song, and adds even more detail to an already vivid story.

16. Rihanna - "Work"
Directed by Director X / Tim Erem




When Rihanna and Drake dropped the video for "Work," the internet lost all control and it made a huge impact on fans. Memes, memes, and more memes. And Rihanna didn't skimp on the content either - giving us two completely different music videos for the same track, in the same video. First, there was Rihanna and Drake grinding up on each other in the middle of a very lit-looking party, and then there was Rihanna and Drake grinding up on each other in a private, hot pink room. It's simple, but iconic.

15. Francis and the Lights - "Friends (ft. Bon Iver and Kanye West)"
Directed by Jake Schreier




Starting out with a promising shot of Kanye West, we think this video is going to be glamorous and over the top...However it's not too long before the camera pans over to Francis, who quickly tests the boundaries by bouncing off set and whipping up some pretty bad dance moves. Then, he walks over to Bon Iver, where they then break into a choreographed dance that looks like it was put together by someone who doesn't actually dance. And although this all sounds negative, it works in a strange way. We love this minimalistic one-take video in all of its facetious glory.

14. Lucius - "Gone Insane"
Directed by Nathan Johnson




This impressive stop-motion clip uses people, prosthetics, and 3,000 still photographs - that takes a lot of patience. Watching the video might even make you squirm in your seat - with very realistic pumping hearts and distorted faces, you'll feel like you're actually going insane (pun intended). "It basically turned out to be a month-long project that included 20 hours in a makeup chair and 4 grueling days in front of the stop-motion rig," explained directed Nathan Johnson. "We worked with an incredible special effects makeup artist named Jim Ojala to sculpt all the different facial distortions, and then Jess and Holly faced off for perhaps the most exhausting video of their careers."

"In the end, we used a combination of stop-motion, go-motion, and intervalometric photography to capture everything. I've worked with stop-motion before, and I was really excited about combining that approach with real people in order to capture a living, breathing performance. We slowed the song down by about 600% and had the camera firing off frames at set intervals in order to capture the stuttery lip-sync. All told, we shot more than 20,000 photographs, which were eventually edited down to the final 3,000 images you see in the film."

13. ANOHNI - "Drone Bomb Me"
Directed by Nabil Elderkin




On a more serious note, supermodel Naomi Campbell stars in "Drone Bomb Me," where she hysterically cries as she sings the lyrics in ANOHNI's place and is surrounded by dancers. She pleads for death after her family is killed by a drone attack - her eye contact makes it feel as though she's pleading to us personally. It's filled with devastation and hopelessness and brings these very real and unfortunate issues to the forefront - no more sugar coating.

12. Grimes - "Kill V. Maim"
Directed by Claire and Mac Boucher




After the release of Art Angels, the video for "Kill V. Maim" was highly-anticipated - and Grimes (Claire Boucher) delivered. Rocking tight blonde and purple curls in a subway station, kickboxing/dancing vampires, and a dance party filled with blood, chaotic would be an understatement. And the fact that, like almost all of her videos, it's directed by Boucher herself and her brother Mac just helps prove that Grimes is a visionary.

11. Melanie Martinez - "Alphabet Boy"
Directed by Melanie Martinez




And speaking of artists directing their own videos, Melanie Martinez not only directed this video, but she directed every single video off of her debut album Cry Baby. She made a promise to her fans that she would release a video for each song off of the album and she's keeping up with it. Each video takes us into her creepy world filled with ABC blocks, cribs, and knives...Yeah, it's a little messed up, but an honorable and creative commitment.

10. Frank Ocean - "Nikes"
Directed by Tyrone Lebon




Frank Ocean wearing eyeliner while being surrounded by shots of naked bodies and cars - that's all we ever needed. It's dark, mysterious, and magical. With home footage, psychedelic animations, and a sizable montage of smoke and glitter, it celebrates youth, sexuality, and independence. This finally marked the beginning of Ocean's next chapter, and it looked as free as ever.

9. Angel Olsen - "Shut Up Kiss Me"
Directed by Angel Olsen (with collaborative input from Ashley Connor and Jethro Waters)




Before MY WOMAN was released, all we had to base it off of was the video for "Intern" and "Shut Up Kiss Me." The former was a mysterious, synth-heavy tune and the latter was an Angel we've never seen before. We had no idea what to expect of the new album, but whatever this was, we wanted more of it. The singer dances around in a roller rink and sits on top of a car while wearing a silvery wig. Finally, she was no longer just a sad girl with a guitar. She laughed! She had a sense of humor! "Um, do I need to give more attitude?" she says at the very end of the video. Angel, you've just given us the perfect amount.

8. Radiohead - "Daydreaming"
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson




Much like Radiohead's entire career, their video for "Daydreaming" seemed like one big conspiracy theory. Where was Thom York walking? Did it represent the never-ending pit of the internet - all the way until the end where we're left to be eventually swallowed up? Were all of the different rooms meant to symbolize the different stages in the band's career? We know we can always count on Radiohead to turn on our brains and make us think with every piece of content they release.

7. Blood Orange - "I Know"
Directed by Dev Hynes & Tracy Antonopoulos




Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go, and that's the route Dev Hynes of Blood Orange seemed to take with "I Know." Although it's just grainy footage of him and his dance partner, ballerina Maria Kochetkova, choreographing a dance in a plain rehearsal room, it's captivating.There's something so beautiful about the way Hynes and his partner depend on each other with their moves.

6. The 1975 - "Love Me"
Directed by Diane Martel




Floating bubblegum pink guitars, shirtless Matt Healy in a bathtub wearing blue eyeshadow, and cardboard cut outs of Charli XCX and Elvis Presley - it's sensory overload. It's 80's heaven. It's effortlessly flirtatious and fun.

5. Kanye West - "Fade"
Directed by Eli Linnetz




Starring Teyana Taylor, who pays homage to Flashdance and makes out with NBA star/part-time rapper Iman Shumpert, Kanye West's "Fade" is instantly a sweaty classic. Although we think the whole morphing into a cat thing could've have been left out at the end, it's still a mesmerizing visual.

4. Jamie xx - "Gosh"
Directed by Romain Gavras




Jamie xx's video for "Gosh" might overwhelm you, and that's completely okay, because it is overwhelming. Shot with no CGI or 3D effect and just a lot of people (400 people to be exact), the video takes place in Hangzhou, Zhejiang in China, right by their famous replica of the Eiffel Tower. A worshipped albino is the main character, as the rest march around him in perfect unison. Besides the 400 bodies, the city seems to be abandoned - almost post-apocalyptic.

3. Solange - "Cranes in the Sky"
Directed by Alan Ferguson and Solange Knowles




There are two things being represented in this video: stillness and togetherness. The way the video transitions between each shot of Solange in unison with the song's beat, and the way that Solange along with the other members stand there, somehow looking so defiant and indifferent at the same time...The fashion is also amazing, playing with shapes and colors. A handful of women connected together by one purple dress, laying lifelessly on top of each other in coordinated beige and white - it makes for what is the freshest, most clean-cut visual we've seen in a while.

2. Beyonce - "Hold Up"
Directed by Kahlil Joseph, Beyonc Knowles Carter, Melina Matsoukas, Todd Tourso, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jonas Akerlund, Mark Romanek, and Warsan Shire




It's unfair to put a full-length film amongst a sea of videos that average around 3 minutes (we think Lemonade as a whole should be considered as a visual album rather than a music video), so we've chosen one of our favorite cuts from Beyonce's album, "Hold Up." It didn't have this many directors, but it's unclear as to who directed "Hold Up" specifically, so we're listing them all. This scene is one of the most memorable Lemonade moments, with the watery intro, her ruffly yellow dress, and of course, her happily swinging a bat at a bunch of cars in the middle of the street (and somehow still looking like a flawless goddess). It's impossible to forget about this statement scene.

1. David Bowie - "Lazarus"
Directed by Johan Renck




David Bowie acting out his death while he actually was in fact dying...Lying in a hospital bed with bandages over his eyes as he sings "Look up here, I'm in heaven / I've got scars that can't be seen / I've got drama can't be stolen / Everybody knows me now." He knew he was parting with the world, so he put his one last handful of energy into completing one last piece of art for us. Death creeping up under his bed, waiting to grab him, his last ideas coming to him in enormous waves as he frantically marks up a piece of paper, and it ending with him mysteriously crawling into a dark armoire (well, it was mysterious at first, until it all came together). After secretly battling cancer for over a year, Bowie passed. It's chilling...It's hard to watch. Good art makes you uncomfortable.
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