This year in music videos, it was all about the flash. The hook. The catch. Whatever you wanna call it. That moment when you realize you’ve had your eyes glued to your laptop for three whole uninterrupted minutes, which is a long time for our overstimulated scroll happy brains. I watched one thousand videos over the last couple days and found myself wondering: does a music video need to have a killer song to make the viewer want to continue watching? Yes, pretty much duh on that. But sometimes, even if the song isn’t necessarily a “single,” a music video can lure you in, entice you, catch you with that flash. Below are the videos we found ourselves watching over and over again, eyes glued, transfixed. Peep the list. –Maya Eslami
10. Young Thug, “Wyclef Jean”
This video is a testament to the power of flash. I originally put it higher on my list, but considering it’s basically a cutting room floor disaster turned into a golden egg, let’s keep it right here to start off the festivities. Imagine a director shooting a video without the artist present? And then releasing said video with actual text narrating the experience? What is this life. I almost wish we could’ve seen it without the narration. Kids in cop cars. Hot “bitches” riding Power Wheels. Sure.
9.Björk, “The Gate”
Slip into the unhinged universe that is Björk’s mind. This video is a cinematic, special-effects schmorgesborg.
8. Leonard Cohen, “Leaving The Table”
Leonard Cohen’s posthumous video for “Leaving The Table,” off last year’s opus is art house gold. Between the beautiful visuals and Cohen’s somber, steadfast baritone, I could watch this for hours.
7. The Memories, “Royal United Song Service Sampler”
The Memories did a genius thing this year. Instead of making separate videos for all 28 tracks on their new album Royal United Song Service, these crackerjacks did a mashup of the songs set to scenes that dip in and out of alternating scenarios: a boring office space, an interrogation room, a hospital, all done in one continuous shot. “It was a really fun shoot,” said the band. We can tell, and that’s why we like it.
6. Starcrawler, “I Love LA”
The video for “I Love LA” is a total throwback to the great music videos from the days of TRL. Fully thought through with an opening cameo by Nuge and Josh, and featuring the incredible performance master Arrow de Wilde writhing around in her skinny legs and twisted facial expressions. Also, I love LA.
5. Father John Misty, “Total Entertainment Forever”
Ever wonder what Macaulay Culkin would look like as Kurt Cobain strung up on a cross? “Total Entertainment Forever” answers that question, and incorporates incredible production design and fantastic costumes (think Ronald McDonald meets an oversized Oompa Loompa) to drive home a subtle, sardonic political message. The way Misty does best.
4. Lana Del Rey, “Love”
Lana Del Rey is enough to get me watching a video, but on “Love” she takes the viewer on an emotionally charged tour through young romance in the city and ends with a moon landing performance rife with meteor showers and a 50s hotrod casually spiraling towards a blazing planet to remind us all that yes, the world and love as we know it will all eventually burn. Uplifting stuff. But catch the glazed, longing eyes of all the youth in the video. That’s what got me.
3. Ty Segall, “Break A Guitar”
Fred Armisen karate-chopping a Fender. Jack Black and Henry Rollins smashing Fenders. Not to mention y’all know I’m obsessed with Ty Segall and his Freedom Band, especially when they’re breaking Fenders. All in rotating kaleidoscope swirls. Throw them all together and what do you get? My unwavering attention.
2. King Krule, “Dum Surfer”
King Krule on a gurney freely wheeling into a zombie show. That’s the opening sequence for “Dum Surfer,” my favorite track off his new album the OOZ. And his beautiful, gold-toothed face in mild disfigurement crooning out the lyrics. The whole thing plays out in lucid, neon visuals, set in some seedy, 80s strip mall looking restaurant. It’s disturbing yet soothing, almost like the inside of the black lodge, or your nightmares.
1. Kendrick Lamar, “Element”
This one was tough. Kendrick dropped 4 incredible videos this year. All for dope songs on his album DAMN. All super high budget, well choreographed, special-effected, and glitzed. One featuring the bad girl, most featuring violence. I narrowed it down to “Humble” and “Element” but decided to finally go with the latter. The opening sequence just kills me. The kids in the barbed wire. The man covered in blood. The house on fire. The boy standing in the rain. Kills me.