Music videos are more cinematic than ever, it seems. Where they used to be short little vignettes that sometimes tell a brief story and more often than not featured the artist just kinda hanging around, more and more music videos seemed like short films this year. You’ve got J. Cole playing a house slave who struggles to attain the trust of his subordinates in “G.O.M.D.”, “I Really Like You” takes us through a day in the life of Tom Hanks, and “Media Midgets” by R.A. the Rugged Man presents us with some sort of strange post-apocalyptic hellscape that features gas masks and a disproportionate amount of little people. But even though music videos in general have become more a vehicle for filmmakers than for the musicians themselves, some of them are better than others, and I’ve decided to give you my personal favorites. Now, it’s only July, and we’ll no doubt be seeing a lot more impressive videos before the year’s up. But for now, here are my picks.
10. AHHA – Nate Ruess
This is one of the most ridiculous music videos I’ve seen in years. I laugh every single time I watch it. It features bobblehead Nate Ruess busting some moves, then flying through the sky, and then just looking off into the distance and singing soulfully against a concentric circle/stripe pattern background. He’s also underwater at some point. It’s just amazing.
9. NO CITIES TO LOVE – Sleater-Kinney
There were a lot of cameo-packed music videos this year (“Bitch I’m Madonna”, “Choices”, and a few we’ll see later on in this list), but this one is decidedly the cutest. It’s cameos include the likes of Fred Armisen, Gerard Way, Ellen Page, Sarah Silverman, Andy Samberg, Norman Reedus, Carrie Brownstein, Vanessa Bayer, and more. And they’re just… goofing around. The only thing they’re all really doing is singing the song, and Samberg is barely even doing that. It’s just celebrities being themselves and having a good time.
8. FUCKING YOUNG – Tyler the Creator
This is probably the funniest video of the year, from one of the funniest people in the music industry, Tyler the Creator. The plot of the video is that after jumping off a roof into a shallow pool of water, Tyler encounters a girl who he develops a crush on, but who unfortunately is “too fucking young”. The video plays out kind of… bizarre. The whole thing is apparently a movie Tyler is watching, and it ends with the girl burning his house down, but then they kick Tyler out of the theater, and then “Deathcamp” starts and it gets all Mad Max-y. It’s weird. But still, super funny.
7. BAD BLOOD – Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar
This is one of those other cameo-heavy videos I was talking about. The gist of it is that Selena Gomez’s character, who represents Katy Perry, tries to kill Taylor Swift, so after Dr. Kendrick Lamar restores her to peak physical health, she enlists some of her badass buddies, including Zendaya, Lena Dunham, and Hayley Williams, to help her train and go to war against Selena and her faceless friends. Not super high-concept, but it is a rather well-made video that fits the song surprisingly well.
6. PHENOMENAL – Eminem
It was a bit rough comparing this one to “Bad Blood” since they’re so similar, but the truth is that this is the slightly better video. It’s funnier, it’s cooler, it fits the song better, and it makes a little more sense despite featuring Eminem driving a flaming motorcycle and hitting a dude with a fish. But come on, how cool is that? While it doesn’t go into much detail as to what any of it means, it ups the cool factor to 1000, featuring an awesome John Malkovich cameo and a suspiciously foreshadow-y Dr. Dre cameo at the end. In the words of Malkovich himself, “Pointless, but impressive.”
5. L$D – A$AP Rocky
This trippy, colorful, imaginative video takes you through the highs and lows of LSD (love, sex, dreams, that is. Also, LSD). With the help of a verse from a different A$AP song, “Excuse Me”, this is a video that, no matter how slow it gets, still keeps your attention. It’s also a refreshing change of pace for A$AP Rocky, who despite being a very good artist, has struggled to stray outside of his comfort zone in the past. Good on you, Flacko.
4. BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY – Rihanna
When I said music videos were cinematic, this was one of the main songs I had in mind. It’s practically a whole movie, complete with great characters, awesome action scenes, a cool narrative, stunning direction from Rihanna herself in collaboration with MegaForce, and a twist ending (SPOILER ALERT: Mads Mikkelsen, better known as NBC’s Hannibal, is the bitch). I could probably sum up my feelings for this video this way: if it were a movie, I’d watch the shit out of it.
Now, note that at one point or another in this list’s conception, all three of these next tracks were considered for the #1 spot. Given more time to think about it, I may have switched them around. From here on out, it’s less a ranking and more a statement of which videos are the best. Keep that in mind.
3. ALRIGHT – Kendrick Lamar ft. Pharrell Williams
Legendary music video director Colin Tilley brings this gem off Kendrick’s GOAT album To Pimp a Butterfly to life. I can never put on this video without watching the whole thing. It’s just so fun to watch. It features the Top Dawg crew riding through town on the backs of cops, Kendrick floating through the city streets, and a ton of other stuff that, while I’m not quite sure what it means, is really cool to look at. At some point I read an analysis of what this video means, but I don’t really care all that much. You get a feeling for what it stands for just by watching, and it’s amazing.
2. PLAY NO GAMES – Big Sean ft. Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign
If you’re into the ’90s sitcom aesthetic, then you’ll love this video. If you’re into good music videos, you’ll probably love this one too. It really replicates the look and feel of a sitcom, and at the same time it fits the song perfectly. Despite the presence of any actual dialogue, you can practically hear the laugh track. Also, towards the end, there’s an actual laugh track. It’s amazingly well-done and a really funny and original concept.
Before I talk about the #1, here’s some honorable mentions
Bitch I’m Madonna – Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj
Feelin’ Myself – Nicki Minaj ft. Beyonce
Feel Right – Mark Ronson ft. Mystikal
Uma Thurman – Fall Out Boy
G.O.M.D. – J. Cole
Sober – Childish Gambino
Ray Gun – Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD ft. MF Doom
And the best music video of 2015 so far is…
1. SUNDAY CANDY – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
I’m actually surprised this has been left out of so many other people’s best music videos of 2015 lists. It was done in one take onstage with huge set pieces and a ton of actors. Even disregarding all that, it has a cool ’50s vibe to it, and the dancing is super impressive, especially given that it was all done in one take. It’s the most elaborate video this side of OK Go, and unlike an OK Go video, it fits the song well.
So, those are my favorite videos of 2015, so far. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more cool music videos in the near future. And you’ll be seeing some awesome articles in the near future. Like this post if you liked it, follow my blog if you liked it liked it, and comment if you think I missed anything.