It’s practically impossible to separate a song and its music video. A lot of time my first impression of a song is made through a video, such is the case with a couple of the ones below. Eventually they can be come synonymous, can you really not think of Christopher Walken when listening to Fat Boy Slim‘s “Weapon of Choice”? Shh. the answer is no.
There are basically two extremes of visual I gravitate to when it comes to music videos: surrealism and minimalism. I’ve talk about how a simple video of the artist or a single person dancing away to their song is often better than overblown production. But some over blown productions are done so well and so weirdly that they surpass the pretense and become classics. Below are the music videos that popped in my eyes this year, again with a few missing (the ones that are more like short films, that an upcoming post). These also extend my favorite songs of the year. If you want to take a look at the list of albums from which many of these videos come from, check here.
Will Butler – Anna
A mix of simple shots of Emma Stone walking through a ship and over the top dancing acting that contrasts song perfect. Is it a tune about not living life to the fullest and having to at the very least try to or about a ludicrous dance that involves manic piano playing and eating money? Whatever it is, Stone evokes more than a little bit of Walken from the aforementioned “Weapon of Choice” and adds a little bit of lunacy.
Tame Impala – “The Less I Know The Better”
This should go down as a great break up song of 2015 and the most visually surprising video of the year. It’s bright and colorful and so overtly sexual that it mercilessly taunts the song’s protagonist. There are so many lines that liken the protagonist as a guy turn into a foolish boy blinded by lost love that make the high school setting perfect. It speaks even further into the adolescent sentiments found in the song, like holding hands and waiting till they’re older.
Joanna Newsom – “Sapokanikan” and “Divers”
This is literally everything I like rolled into two videos that could easily work as companion pieces. Joanna Newsom’s quirky and utterly lovely voice twinkles across Paul Thomas Anderson direction. Newsom dances through beautifully real streets in one video and poses elegantly while gorgeous landscapes fade in and out in the other. “Sapokanikan” is as postmodern and referential as lyrics get, finding itself framed with references to far ranging works of art and history. “Divers” takes a simpler route, focusing on love through the images of a pearl diver.
Drake – “Hotline Bling”
This is a clear case of something being “worth more than the sum of its parts”. I don’t hate anything about this piece, not if i deconstruct it I’m just unimpressed. The pastel visuals are weird but not great, Drake’s lyrics are typical of everything he’s done before (inventive and good wordplay but missing any new insights), the beats are too similar to other tracks, the women are reduced to the usual breasts and hips of hip hop and R&B videos, and the dancing is so laughable I thought it was parody. But together they make something special and inseparable. Evey time I hear the song I think of the video and I smile. It’s so fucking great.
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
“King Kunta” is the obvious banger, “Blacker the Berry” is likely the most conscience, “i” the most personal, but “Alright” melds it all together an is easily the most artistic video to come out of Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. It’s also the best primer for the album. The video changes up the flow of the song, splicing in more of the spoken word poem. That poem is given a stronger impact, repeating twice within the video much like it repeats throughout the album that hinges on it. The visuals of Lamar floating above the world, Christ imagery, and cops carrying a car containing Lamar and his friends drink and dancing highlight the video. It’s a tricky message throughout and doesn’t spoon feed you.
Son Lux – “You Don’t Know Me”
Talk about a video changing the way I listen to a song. At first Son Lux’s song hit me as someone being exalted despite not truly being known. The songs timbre and moments of secrecy have a sort of darkness to them, but are never completely detailed. The video takes that concept a bit further, delving into the hidden life of a cultist (played wonderfully Tatiana Maslany) by and the mask she puts on for others. It’s strange, messy, and elevates an already great song.
Honorable Mentions (seriously though these videos are really good I just procrastinated too long and didn’t have enough time to write anything substantial…not that anything I write is substantial…I mean it is but I’m a little self depreciating)
- Missy Elliot – “WTF (Where They From)”
- Its Missy Elliot dancing to a new song in 2015. Fuck yeah its on my list.
- TOPS – Way To Be Loved
- This might be under the honorable mentions, but it’s likely my personal favorite song of the year and its video is a strangely fun house party. Except for Mac Demarco’s balls, no one needed that.
- Vince Staples – “Señorita”
- This surrealistic view on urban violence and the way people look in from the outside makes some pretty harsh criticisms all around. Religion, violence, sex and so many other issue are taken on head first without any hesitation.
- M.I.A. – “Borders”
- It’s not a good year in music videos if M.I.A. doesn’t make a socially conscience video. This one delving into issue of refugee, immigration, and terror stand tall among her previous message filled videos.
- Grimes – “Flesh without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream”
- Wanna see the best pop singer just go nuts in costumes? You should.
- Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
- Definitely no the video I was expecting for Courtney Barnett’s rage against expectations. She sullenly treks through a carnival space as a defeated clown, letting the song act a precursor to the actions taking place.
- Thundercat – “Them Changes”
- The break up song set to a modern day samurai conflict is only made weirder in its second half.
- Sleater Kinney – “New Wave”
- One of the best animated shows meshed up with the returning Queens of Rock? Yes times a thousand. The cast of Bob’s Burgers bouncing to the infectious song blends quite well and is just plain adorable to see Louise enjoying herself.