written Dec 29, 2017
You’d think it’d be easy to choose my favorite music videos. Just take my most-listened-to releases of the year and go from there, right? But it’s not that easy. Some of my favorite releases of the year didn’t even make the list because the artist either didn’t release a music video or the what they did release wasn’t inventive enough.
That’s really what it comes down to for me: inventiveness. What is being done differently, and is there enough substance to it? There’s not a simple checklist. It’s about heart, meaning and how well the imagery matches the song…and sometimes, it’s about how far from the norm can the director/artist push the visuals. You know, break free from the confines of what should be done and instead ask what can be done?
8. Gus Dapperton | “Prune, You Talk Funny”
This one straight up feels like it could air late at night on Adult Swim. The bright colors, the strange boldness played out by youthful actors, the deadpan, yet oddly good dancing, it all kind of feels alienating. Then you watch it and a minute in you're entranced. The video made me like the song even more. I personally could've done without the dancing donut but I'll let you come to your own conclusion.
7. Alex Cameron | “Candy May”
I've been a fan of Alex Cameron since his first album, Jumping the Shark. He's an aberration to say the least. His musical style is eccentric, singular and storied and it has only gotten more polished with his second full-length release, Forced Witness.
His music video for the single "Candy May" isn't groundbreaking but what I do love about it is that it has a through-line and that through-line is him. He pines, broods and rambles through the streets of Vegas. And every now and then you're treated to his own style of dancing which I would describe the same way that George describes Elaine's dancing on Seinfeld, "it's more like a full-body dry heave set to music."
6. Every Time I Die | “Map Change”
I grew up listening to these guys. They're veterans in the metalcore/hardcore punk scene. Even though my musical tastes have changed over the years I still listen to these guys every now and then, and have tons of respect. When I heard this song I immediately wanted to see if there was an accompanying music video. I was happy to see that there is.
The video takes you on an existential journey through Buffalo, New York (the band's hometown). You feel the dread of American life and the weight of the current shape of our country. You also sense that there are two stories in every shot, darkness and despair, yeah, but also lightness and hope.
5. Phoebe Bridgers | “Motion Sickness”
From beginning to end Phoebe Bridgers connects with the audience so deeply yet so sweetly. You feel her heartache. You feel your own past heartaches, too. Listening to the song by itself does this but pair the tune with the masterfully intentional tracking and panning shots spread throughout the video and you see how someone living with the tragedy of a broken heart still has to move about in the world. They still have to find meaning somehow, still have to keep living life and playing their part, every day, until, one day, their part makes sense again. Enjoy these bittersweet moments.
4. Kendrick Lamar | “Love”
I really had to hold myself back from including all of Kendrick Lamar's music videos this year. I mean, DAMN, this guy is a musical and visual genius. His album has been on repeat since it was released back in April. And still he's debuting music videos from the masterpiece.
The most recent is "Love" that dropped just this month. If anything the video shows us that connections are complicated, relationships can be rough, any path that we choose isn't without difficulty, and love is everything, so much so that a bit of yourself needs to die for more love to grow. The visuals perfectly encapsulate all of this and more.
3. Sorority Noise | “No Halo”
By the time you reach adulthood you've dealt with loss. It could've been a relationship ending, the death of a childhood pet or maybe someone very close to you died. "No Halo" deals with the latter. What falls out after a loved one dies? You struggle with the why of it all. Then after that you struggle with "why them and not me?" Guilt, anger, frustration and the pangs of existence weigh heavy on your soul. They weigh heavy in this video, too, but if you hurt long enough you see there's beauty in even that.
2. The Blaze | “Territory”
"Territory" broaches a topic not really discussed but more felt in everyday life, how do men form loving relationships with each other, how do we bond, without being too vulnerable? What is the role of man in everyday society, in family life? How is it shaped in different cultures? From warm familial embraces, to ritual and prayer, to male bonding, this film centered around Arab life is, in a word, stunning.
I'll stop talking. Go ahead and watch one of the most cinematic music videos I've ever seen and be swept up in emotion you didn't know you had.
1. Kendrick Lamar | “Element”
Without a second thought, Kendrick Lamar's "Element" tops my list. The director he collaborated with on "Element" also happens to be one of my favorite directors across the board. He paints these rich, real-life scenes while simultaneously making you feel like a spectator. Your perspectives are shattered; you no longer have your perspectives. You inherit the ideas and mental views of those in front of you. The peaceful, painful and violent conditions you see suddenly become yours.
Perhaps it's felt so deeply because the music video emulates as well as honors the photography of Gordon Park, an American photojournalist who fought the racial and socioeconomic prejudices of his time (that we still see today) through his poignant imagery. Insane respect to Kendrick Lamar and the video's director, Jonas Lindstroem.
Now I ask you: What are your favorite music videos of 2017?