Those who think music videos died along with MTV’s dignity are sorely mistaken. With music video play counts factoring into the rankings of major chart aggregators like Billboard, these fleeting narratives are now more important than ever, and 2014 was a year full of impressive visual creations from prominent stars, cult-followed legends and unheard up-and-comers.
25. ST. VINCENT: “DIGITAL WITNESS”
After her brief tenure as David Byrne’s female muse, Annie Clark returned as a completely reborn St. Vincent. Our first glimpse of the artist’s wild-haired and bombastic mystique came in the form of “Digital Witness” — the lead single off her 2013 self-titled release.
24. BEYONCE: “7/11”
Cool sweater, Bey.
23. FUTURE ISLANDS: “SEASONS”
Baltimore trio Future Islands gained notoriety earlier this year after flooring David Letterman with a performance of “Seasons (Waiting On You).” Frontman Samuel T. Herring garnished the tune with slithery dance moves while he peppered his pitch with a few surprising growls. The music video, although it’s less exciting than the live rendition, pairs quite well with the song’s less-than gleeful lyrics as we’re presented with a montage of ultimate Americana shown through the eyes of modern cowboys.
22. SPOON: “DO YOU”
Spoon frontman Britt Daniel drives around in a classic Plymouth with his own iconic rasp bursting out of the radio. It’s a casual cruise until the camera zooms out showing a city being trampled by a terrifying team of beasts.
21. JENNY LEWIS: “JUST ONE OF THE GUYS”
Longtime Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis unleashed her third solo LP, The Voyager, earlier in the year and the music video for its placid and jangly single “Just One of the Guys” came packaged with a collection of Hollywood babes – Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart and Brie Larson – all dressed like a bunch of bros.
20. LITTLE DRAGON: “KLAPP KLAPP”
“Klapp Klapp,” the first single released off Swedish act Little Dragon’s fourth album Nabuma Rubberband, was a jarring and rhythmic introduction to the group’s self-described indulgence in “Janet Jackson slow jams.” The video, which was creative directed by the acclaimed Nabil, brought us this cryptic tale.
19. LANA DEL REY: “SHADES OF COOL”
Lana Del Rey wears Nancy Sinatra’s shoes quite well and her surreal “Shades of Cool” music video will bewitch you back to a much cooler musical era.
18. DISCLOSURE: “GRAB HER”
Like their electronic vibes that swept through the United States, British brothers Lawrence have unleashed multiple videos that inject their infectious beats into unsuspecting settings. In the video for Settle single “Grab Her,” an array of freaky phenomena invade an everyday office, concluding with an epic dance off.
17. MAC DEMARCO: “PASSING OUT THE PIECES”
WARNING: This video is absolutely bonkers. But we’d expect nothing less from the madman who self-describes his musical style as “Jizz Jazz.”
16. DAMON ALBARN: “EVERYDAY ROBOTS”
After years of helming the pen and mic for Blur and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn set out to release the first solo record of his career. The finished product, Everyday Robots was a gorgeous musical portrait of every Albarn we’ve heard through the years as well as a critique of the isolation that’s caused by modern technology. The title track’s music video shows us the construction of Albarn’s digital portrait, which was built with actual cranial scans of the artist.
15. DIARRHEA PLANET: “BABYHEAD”
Undoubtedly the year’s most comical music video, Nashville six-piece Diarrhea Planet’s “Babyhead” was also 2014’s most straightforward. Classic family home-movies of babies wearing the band members’ heads – it sounds like a concept introduced over pizzas, beers and bong rips.
14. BLOOD ORANGE: “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH”
In 2013 Blood Orange, aka Devonte Hynes, released his second full-length Cupid Deluxe – which, three decades removed, would have been considered one of the best bedroom pop albums of the 1980s. The artist who made a name for himself as a contributor to the massively successful sounds of Solange Knowles and Florence + The Machine drenched us in saccharine soul with songs like “Chamakay” and “You’re Not Good Enough” – whose music video, directed by Gia Coppola (yes, those Coppolas) balanced the nostalgic dance epic and contemporary cool kid carelessness perfectly.
13. DIE ANTWOORD: “UGLY BOY”
It’s a tough task to choose a favorite music video from the outrageous South African trio Die Antwoord. But in their latest, “Ugly Boy,” the maniacal frontman Ninja and his scary-sexy fem counterpart Yo-Landi are joined by a bizarre supporting cast that includes Jack Black, Marilyn Manson, Flea and others.
12. OK GO: “I WON’T LET YOU DOWN”
OK Go were totally the annoying kids in middle school who always had the best science fair projects. These guys continue to set the bar high for creative and quirky music video choreography.
11. WAR ON DRUGS: “RED EYES”
We’ll go out on a limb and say Adam Granduciel and his Philly crew released the year’s greatest song in “Red Eyes”; it’s a cool, collected and viciously inspiring burst through the fog. Like the song itself, the video isn’t very flashy, but it’s a humorous rip on America’s obsession with TV talent shows.
10. HAIM: “IF I COULD CHANGE YOUR MIND”
Sister rock trio Haim burst onto the scene during the 2013 festival season with songs off their debut LP Days Are Gone, which pushed them atop the cresting wave of retro pop hysteria. With sisterly harmonies, the album’s top performing single “If I Could Change Your Mind” surged earlier this year with an elaborately choreographed video drawn up by Fatima Robinson – who some might know as the mind behind many of Aaliyah’s dance moves.
9. TWEEDY: “LOW KEY”
Michael Shannon, John Hodgeman, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Chance the Rapper, Mavis Staple, Steve Albini and more show face as father and son duo Tweedy travel door-to-door in an attempt to push their debut record Sukierae. Oh… and the video was directed by the one and only man’s man Nick Offerman.
8. RUN THE JEWELS: “OH MY DARLING (DON’T CRY)””
Raunchy, flashy, sexy. El-P and Killer Mike gave us a video to match their stellar 2014 LP Run the Jewels 2. It’s fucking magnificent.
7. METRONOMY: “LOVE LETTERS”
Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and U.K. four-piece Metronomy teamed up to give us the “Love Letters” music video. It’s an infectious tune embedded within a whimsical pop-up storybook.
6. ARCADE FIRE: “WE EXIST”
Who could forget the day that Spider-Man went full drag? For Arcade Fire’s Reflektor single, actor Andrew Garfield gowned up to portray a young man’s struggle with gender identity. “We Exist” presents us with an incredibly moving performance – one that far exceeded the uninspiring Spidey sequel.
5. BEYONCE: “PARTITION”
Wow. Just wow.
4. HAIL MARY MALLON: “WHALES”
Every year comes with its share of awesome animated videos, and this year’s crown goes to Hail Mary Mallon – the Rhymesayers trio consisting of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz – who unloaded this puppet piece for their Bestiary single “Whales” last month.
3. JAMIE XX: “SLEEP SOUND”
Jamie xx (Jamie Smith of The xx) teamed up with the Manchester School of the Deaf to make the most inspiring music video of the year. Although they cannot hear a drop of the beautiful “Sleep Sound,” the students move stunningly through the song’s intoxicating drifts and pulses.
2. SIA: “CHANDELIER”
Australian artist Sia has been writing songs for herself and other superstars for nearly 20 years, but it wasn’t until the young Maddie Ziegler tore through that squalor in “Chandelier” that the entire world knew her name.
1. WEIRD AL YANKOVIC: “TACKY”
In support of his 14th album, Mandatory Fun, parody extraordinaire ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic released eight music videos in eight days. The best? His star-studded rip on Pharrell Williams’ mind numbing viral hit “Happy.” We’re thrilled to see that Yankovic landed a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album, but just in case there’s a devastating upset, we’re giving him our award for best video of the year.