While the music video has basically disappeared from any place of prominence, plenty of filmmakers crafted short and long-form pieces that stunned me.
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Directors: Kahlil Joseph and Beyoncé
Instantly iconic, this defined the term “visual album” and meant it. Drawing influences from a wide-ranging stable of artists of different media, it combined to look like absolutely nothing else. So of course the Grammys decided to vote for a fucking Beatles documentary instead.
Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
Director: Hiro Murai
Don’t let some of the goofy dances fool you. Donald Glover is filling this video with some of the most horrifying images of America’s past and present: from minstrel shows to mass shootings, he and Hiro Murai are reinforcing the title, even in the silences.
Girl Walk: All Day
Director: Jacob Krupnick
Fan-made videos are nothing new, but this group of New York dancers took it to the next level, moving and grooving their way through the Big Apple, creating a narrative for Gregg Gillis’ mash-ups in the process.
LCD Soundsystem – “Oh Baby”
Director: Rian Johnson
Johnson made three incredible features, the best single episode of TV and this heartbreaking music video this decade. A lovely short film about a couple trying to create a teleportation machine, it doesn’t need any dialogue between its Oscar-nominated actors to tell you everything you need to know.
The Lonely Island – “Jack Sparrow”
Director: Akiva Schaffer
There’s really no describing what it was like to watch this as it was airing on Saturday Night Live, instantly becoming the best Digital Short they ever produced. Mocking the glitzy rap videos of the late 00s and early 10s, it’s constantly interrupted by an extremely game Michael Bolton belting out his ode to Johnny Depp’s pirate, long before we got sick of both him and his character. That it ends with him paying tribute to Scarface – already over-referenced in hip-hop – is the icing on the cake.
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
Directors: Andrew Donoho & Chuck Lightning
If anyone else had used the term “Emotion Picture,” I would have rolled my eyes. But Monáe shines a light on true diversity in every sense of the word, while also weaving in a sci-fi love story that’s not the least bit shy about sexuality.
OK Go – “I Won’t Let You Down”
Directors: Kazuaki Seki & Damian Kulash, Jr.
OK Go kind of penned themselves in by having such an instant classic video with “Here It Goes Again.” But they’ve risen to the occasion every time, using high-speed cameras, Rube Goldberg machines and cute dogs as gimmicks for other videos. But the most impressive was this short shot in Japan by drones. Considering the proliferation of drone shots in everything these days, having a genuine reason to use them makes it look even better in 2019.
Radiohead – “Daydreaming”
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
PTA has made three of the best movies of the decade, but his music videos – exclusively for Thom Yorke or the HAIM sisters – are equally impressive. This one features Yorke walking through an endless series of doors, in one of the best visual representations of dreaming I’ve ever seen.
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
Director: Junpei Mizusaki
Both unlikely and unsubtle, Simpson’s accompanying anime is a wild ride, full of extreme violence and heavy symbolism. It won’t be for everyone, but even if (like me) you’re not really into anime, you’ll find yourself engrossed.
Tierra Whack – Whack World
Directors: Thibaut Duverneix & Mathieu Léger
Making any song or music video is hard. But making each of them exactly one minute long is a challenge only the most dedicated artists could pull off. Each video matches the style of the song perfectly, even if each one isn’t complicated or a technical marvel.