We’re celebrating the best of the decade so far and here’s the 15 best music videos counting down from 15 – 1.
15. Perfume Genius – ‘Hood’
A video doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, and while ‘Hood’ appears to have been shot with no budget at all, the fearlessness of its art is overwhelming. The abiding image of Mike Hadreas being cradled by a bear is incredibly tender, or confrontational, depending on how you see it.
14. Arctic Monkeys – ‘R U Mine?’
‘R U Mine?’ is one of the most deceptively clever videos made in recent years. Starting out like a one shot music video taken on grainy CCTV in the back of a taxi, it confounds expectations quickly, boggling minds by the time the near four minutes are up.
13. Grimes – ‘Oblivion’
Claire Boucher turns macho American culture on its head and shows us all up for the weirdos we are here on Planet Earth in the video for ‘Oblivion’. Stood in the thick of it amidst cheerleaders, musclemen and flying footballs, has Grimes ever looked more alien and yet less sullied by it all?
12. FKA Twigs – ‘Two Weeks’
Once in a blue moon a pop star comes out of nowhere fully realised and like nothing you’ve seen before, and in 2014 it was Tahliah Debrett Barnett aka FKA Twigs who invited us into an entire new universe as beautiful as it was unsettling. ‘Two Weeks’ was the most astonishing one shot music video of the decade.
11. Arcade Fire – ‘Afterlife’
Directed by Emily Kai Bock, who also made brilliant promos for Grimes and Grizzly Bear, ‘Afterlife’ followed an unusual narrative featuring a Mexican flower seller trailing his young son to a party via a laundrette, or at least that might have been what was going on. It was visually stunning and perplexing in equal measure.
10. David Bowie – ‘Where Are We Now?’
Bowie appeared out of nowhere with this video uploaded online in January 2013, and like all the best art, the viewer wasn’t spoonfed meaning. In fact we were left asking more questions than we’d started out with. Like, who’s the woman? How did he keep this one quiet? And where are we now? Berlin by the looks of things.
9. Lana Del Rey – ‘Video Games’
Lana Del Rey might purport to be an old style star shrouded in old-skool mystery, but she’s also a very modern star in that she understands all aspects of her public face, including the visual side of things. After uploading ‘Video Games’ to the internet herself, the reaction to it even surprised her, and a superstar career was born.
8. Janelle Monáe – ‘Tightrope’
Dancing has been forbidden at the Palace of the Dogs lunatic asylum, but obviously Janelle Monáe is far too funky to be straight-jacketed, and suddenly she’s joined by tuxed-up dancing chums and a slightly underdressed Big Boi… before being escorted back to her cell by mirror-faced warders. Like you do.
7. Eagulls – ‘Nerve Endings’
Watching a pig’s brain decompose was never as enjoyable as when Leeds’ Eagulls made it the entire focus of ‘Nerve Endings’, one of the weirdest videos ever made. It became one of the most talked about – and equally reviled – pop promos of 2014.
6. MIA – ‘Born Free’
M.I.A. put this uncompromisingly graphic Romain Gavras-directed video out without prior warning to her label, and it transcends mere promo. Art statement and political statement, ‘Born Free’ had much to say about the times we’re living through, presenting oppression and genocide with a twist to make us think in a way we might not’ve done before.
5. Azealia Banks – ‘212’
Lyrically uncompromising and shot in beautiful black and white, the stunning video to 212 heralded Azealia Banks as the next big thing in 2011, and its sheer power kept us hanging in there a whole three years later after her career appeared to stall. Thankfully ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ rewarded our patience eventually.
4. Kanye West – ‘Runaway’
If Michael Jackson pushed the video concept to its very frontier in the 80s, then it stands to reason the superstar to take it to its outer limits this decade would be Kanye. Calling upon the might of Picasso, Matisse, Kubrick and Fellini, he spins his own dreamlike gossamer weirdness over a montage of tracks from ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’.
3. Tyler the Creator – ‘Yonkers’
Sometimes a video comes along to scare your granny, and when Tyler allowed a bug to crawl over his hand before eating it in ‘Yonkers’, his promo joined a rich lineage of schlocky horror video-nasties that includes the Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ and those Aphex Twin collaborations with Chris Cunningham in the 90’s.
2. Lady Gaga – ‘Telephone’
Gaga’s videos are always lustrous affairs, though with the 9 minute promo for ‘Telephone’ – starting inside a “prison for bitches” and featuring a starring role from none other than Beyoncé as the pal who puts up her bail – it was always going to be a video epic, and so it proved.
1. MIA – ‘Bad Girls’
The second collaboration between video director Gavras and Maya Arulpragasam, ‘Bad Girls’ is one of the most visually arresting pieces of video art you’re ever likely to see, shot on location in Morocco featuring burning oil wells, kohl-eyed burqas and speeding automobiles, it won plenty of deserved awards.