2011 has been a memorable year for music video. From Best Coast to Beyonce, Azealia Banks to Arctic Monkeys, here’s our pick of the most arresting audio-visual moments of the year.
50 ‘Bizness ‘
This is probably what everything looks like in Merrill Garbus’s mind – flashy colours, lots of dancing, ridiculous facepaint and a world made of paper trees and teepees – or at least we hope so.
Best bit: The little kids dancing around at the beginning – because what little kid doesn’t want to spend their schoolday doing just that?
You can’t really make a video for a song called ‘Abducted’ without an abduction, can you? It kicks off with a woman, with her hands tied, sprawled out on an open road, and then we see backwards flashbacks explaining the story.
Best bit: At the end, the abductor and abductee swap roles – either representing some kind of deep metaphor, or it’s part of a really weird kinky fantasy. Either way, this video’s quite beautiful to watch.
48 ‘Call Your Girlfriend’
This video might have actually worked better for her song ‘Dancing On My Own’ (for obvious reasons – she’s dancing on her own). But dang girl, you can dance. It’s one of the simplest video concepts we’ve seen all year, but she makes it work.
Best bit: Her little smile for the camera at the end.
47 ‘Yes I Know’
Ever wondered what like would be like if you were Gumby or Gromit? If you were made of clay and your entire body eventually disintegrated? This video is quite heartbreaking, but the effects are pretty darn admirable.
Best bit: When the flock of birds form the shape of the word “GONE” at the same moment the guy’s body disappears.
46 ‘When I’m With You’
When you hear this song, don’t you just dream of lounging on the beach with your loved one letting the summer breeze fly through your hair? Here, Best Coast take having the munchies to a whole new level, documenting a love story with fast food.
Best bit: When Bethany’s beloved cat makes a cameo at the end. You just can’t keep those two apart.
If you’ve ever wanted to ditch work early and wreak some havoc around town, then this video’s for you. (And by wreak havoc, we mean slapping on ridiculous masks and purchasing photos of old ladies at yard sales).
Best bit: When they knock down all the records in the shop and replace it with their own. Street teamers, take note. (Not really).
44 ‘Rill Rill’
It’s another one of those ‘what the hell is going on here?’ videos. Alexis is driving around with her seemingly-dead bandmate propped up and then she suddenly shoves him out of the moving car. In a weird flashback, we see her in some poltergeist-ridden high school where there’s a séance raging in her locker.
Best bit: Her mockery of class photos. If only they let us pose with crows in real life.
43 ‘Girl Panic!’
Nearly ten minutes in length, this short documentary/film shot at London’s Savoy Hotel was deemed too sexy for telly. But frankly, it’s not half as naughty as some of the other videos that we’ve seen this year. Forget the blatant product placements – it’s a great little nugget of a music video.
Best bit: Naomi Campbell fronting the band (as Simon Le Bon), of course.
Y’know how kids have nightmares about monsters lurking in their rooms at night? Imagine waking up and finding Tyler, The Creator hovering over you with a facemask on, writing on your mirror with lipstick. Scarier than the Boogeyman, eh?
Best bit: The cop’s doodle of a goblin. Or Tyler’s kitty cat tee. It’s a toss-up.
41 ‘Lovers Lane’
You don’t really have to get this band to appreciate this video. Embrace a bit of ‘60s nostalgia and travel back in time to the weirdest high school shindig around.
Best bit: When a hand crawls out of the punch bowl. Talk about spiking the drinks at prom…
In which Marina ditches her first incarnation in favour of the beach blonde Electra Hart, heads to the Californian desert and throws her own one girl dance party in a supermarket aisle before running off with a beardy bloke for some more diner-based fun.
Best Bit: The animal masks.
39 ‘Better Off Without You’
Elizabeth and Jeremy continue their broken hearted scrabble through teen pop culture Americana with this split screen video. It’s half mournful looks to the camera and half early 70s ‘found footage’ which eloquently illustrates their trashy aesthetic.
Best Bit: The dual shots of the crazed dance-off.
38 ‘When The Night Falls’
You can always trust dudes that use ladies’ legs as keyboard stands to make good videos. Dave 1 and P-Thugg take their own Zapp & Rogers-influenced disco funk’s cheese factor and raise it, adding in cliched chase scenes, knowing glances, and even more vocoder action.
Best Bit: When the female dancer gives birth do a discoball.
37 ‘Last Friday Night (TGIF)’
A bubblegum sweet, neon-drenched tale of sanitised debauchery full of nerds, jocks, and some industrial-sized braces – plus of course Hanson, Corey Feldman, the one and only Kenny G and, erm, Rebecca Black. Hey, A+ for effort anyway, there are enough jokes take your mind off the tune.
Best Bit: The frantic sax parps midway through.
36 ‘All Of The Lights’
Soundtracking perhaps the best cut from Kanye’s fucked up dark fantasy it’s a masterpiece of fonts (which is way less graphic designer nerdy when you actually watch it), strobes, police lights and of course Rihanna with her baps almost out. It’s almost enough to make Kanye look cool.
Best Bit: The neon KANYE when the vocals start. Rampant egotism as its best.
Visionary newish director Sam Pilling has created clips for everyone from Wu Lyf to Riz MC but it’s this bizarre horror show of a promo that really struck us this year, which alternates between abstract and explicit to create a real sense of unease.
Best Bit: The smoking tap at the end.
34 ‘How Come You Never Go There’
A very Fever Ray-esque promo sees Feist frolic in some wind ravaged woods, sporting long black tresses like Neil from The Young Ones if he let his hair grow for a couple of millenia. Artful, monochrome and utterly enchanting.
Best Bit: The spooky wind howls.
33 ‘Hunny Bunny’
The band play up the sepia-tinted, sun-drenched,fast car and pavement poser-filled streets of LA for a quick frolic along the freeways before an impromptu forest gig. Tongues in cheek, yes, but a fiting accompaniment nonetheless. And at least it’s got less boy-on-boy oral than ‘Lust For Life’.
Best Bit: The fireworks, first kiss, and flares ninety seconds in.
32 ‘The Look’
Cute looking pigeons play bumper cars while Metronomy do their thing in this simple but sweet promo. It’s a strangely compelling couple of minutes, like watching pigeons in the real life English riviera but way less depressing.
Best Bit: When the bird nicks the phone and smashes it up like a demented crack addict.
TVOTR’s nine minute promo displays the band’s dry humour at its best, as the group meet up in a diner after a fictional hiatus to talk straight-faced about the ludicrous hobbies they’ve pursued in the interim, including impersonating Prince.
Best Bit: When Dave Sitek starts talking about the Bush Administration On Ice show.
30 ‘Hoop Of Love’
Cartwheels! Wild swimming! Baseball! Cut fruit! This video has it all. A nostalgic amber-tinted romp through the fields and through memories of summertime love affairs, it’s a sweet straight up video, a perfect complement to the song’s uplifting melodic hooks and just what we need as Britain slumps in another winter of discontent.
Best Bit: The gymnastics, obvs.
29 ‘I Wrote The Book’
Solo Gossip girl does full on Madonna tribute with this black and white homage to ‘Justify My Love’ (not to mention the dancers actually vogue-ing). It’s all done with a black and white, stylish charm and Ms Ditto looks like she’s never had so much fun.
Best bit: Beth doing possibly her first synchronized dance routine.
28 ‘The Greeks’
Is Tropical augment their recent slice of frenetic disco punk with awesome footage of a bunch of pre-teens shooting each other’s guts out with toy guns, before engaging in fist fights, drug deals, and mega explosions.
Best Bit: When the cartoon explosions start, thirty seconds in, just as the galloping synths leave the starting blocks.
27 ‘Santa Fe’
We’ve pretty much all been there – losing someone we love, suffering from a bit of a financial catastrophe… But when it looks like this guy’s about to give up, he’s visited by the ghosts of his past to make him value his life again. It’s like It’s A Wonderful Life, condensed into a modern-day music video.
Best bit: When the dog’s eating a slice of pizza.
26 ‘Sadness Is A Blessing’
Here we see Lykke Li dancing around a posh restaurant by herself, with people trying to restrain her and return her to her seat. Whether Lykke Li is meant to be slightly deranged or just a bit strange, this is an extremely powerful video.
Best bit: The moment Lykke’s dinner companion finally joins her to comfort her.
25 ‘Hello Sadness’
It’s like Los Camp! sat around in a room, thinking of the most ridiculous forms of torture, and ultimately decided they wanted to masochistically suffer from all of them themselves. It seems quite funny until you realise the ultimate torture here is being forced into marriage.
Best bit: The sunburn in the shape of a pineapple – the ultimate revenge?
24 ‘We Bros’
Wu Lyf soundtrack their simple scene of a gang of kids jumping a fence in a bid for freedom, leaping into an unknown future. Simple, effective and pretty stirring stuff.
Best bit: The jumping the fence.
23 ‘Midnight City’
Touching at the core of Anthony Gonzales’ twin themes of lost childhoods and being, well, a bit creepy. The cinematic video for ‘Midnight City’ is stunning with nods to ‘Carrie’, ‘Village Of The Damned’ and more.
Best bit: When the kid lifts the trailer off the ground.
22 ‘Moment 4 Life’
Minaj makes her fairy godmother alter ego come to life in this high gloss, Cinderella story made flesh. Drake plays the role of the ‘Handsome Prince’ showing off his amazing chemistry with the rapper (whilst Nicki shows off her dodgy Mockney accent).
Best bit: When Nicki and Drake front like the reigning king and queen of hip hop.
Anyone for tennis? A cheeky, geek chic bit of fun, which is as amusing as the song is short. And kudos to them for attempting to make bowling look sexy…
Best bit: The rain of tennis balls.
As epic as anything you could imagine. Herds of bison run through a desolate landscape of canyons collapsing, all with the no-expense spared energy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Really we wouldn’t expect any less.
Best bit: The sideshot of the bison running.
19 ‘Jesus Fever’
This video perfectly complements this song’s driving-through-the-woods vibe, with Kurt traversing through a deserted, snow-flecked urban scene guitar in hand, like some sort of indie pied piper.
Best bit: That wonderful shot of Vile playing his acoustic whilst outdoor footage is projected on him.
18 ‘Will Do’
How much of love is real and how much of it is imagined? This is the question that comes to the front of TVOTR’s ‘Will Do’ video. Here the members dissolve into their own romantic fantasies using strange virtual headgear.
Best bit: The very end where we realise that it wasn’t real.
17 ‘Ice Cream’
The double entendres in this video are so numerous that we’re getting in a tizzy just thinking about ‘em. The licking of the bulbous ice cream scoops (dripping cones!) and more isn’t what makes the video so great though. It’s also the breakneck speed edited series of colourful sensual/surreal images that ping at you.
Best bit: The lady carrying the person size ice cream.
16 ‘Raw Meat’
The Lips play dumb, corrupt New York cops on the beat, in this hilarious promo for the snappy slice of Ramones-like punk pop. On the back of this we think that, at the very least, the band should get their own 30 minute sitcom.
Best bit: When “sergeant” Alexander covers himself in police tape.
The Foos continue their brand of iconic, funny videos with their tribute to Michael Douglas’ ‘Falling Down’ . Tipped over the edge by a traffic jam, an obnoxious kid and Coldplay bumper stickers, Grohl is the vigilante railing against petty bureaucracy, with lol-tastic results.
Best bit: The golf buggy in the water.
14 ‘Paper Forest’
A simple and effective piece story telling from the singer/songwriter. This is a brilliant bit of film encompassing the feeling of living with the unreality of former fame. Emmy ambiguously plays the daughter/ carer/spirit of the main actress’ delusional former showgirl.
Best bit: The taking off the make up, de-masking scene.
13 ‘Suzanne And I’
Calvi’s traffic stopping visual presence is paired with a mesmerising modern dance routine that’s all ruffled bed linen and raucous Sapphic undertones.
Best bit: The shadow scenes with the black sheet.
12 ‘We Found Love’
Like ‘Skins’ on acid, Ri-Ri’s video was permanently on music channels throughout the land for good reason; it is an artful mini-movie of a promo, an ode to crazy, youthful love.
Best bit: Our sick never looked as pretty as hers.
Another “simple, bold and effective” video. ‘Aroused’ is filled with shots of pretty models (filmed in loving black and white) saucily lighting up and blowing out puffs of smoke. Yes we know smoking isn’t suppose to be cool but in ‘Aroused’ it’s not only cool but really really sexy.
Best bit: The first shot of the model smoking.
10 ‘Big Bad Wolf’
Now it takes quite a lot to freak us out but to be honest Duck Sauce’s utterly disturbing penis-as-members (sorry) of –Duck-Sauce is pretty ‘chills-the-blood-in-our-veins’ freaky. Particularly disturbing in the ‘actual sex’ scene. *Vomits*
Best bit: The ‘pissing head’ scene is pretty memorable.
Looks like you’ve attempted to tune your TV into an obscure alternative MTV channel in the 80s with a rusty aerial. Death Grips’ MC Ride hits us with a hypnotic one shot from the passenger seat of a car.
Best bit: Ride’s head nod where his eyes look all coloured out. Spooky.
With nods to high fashion shoots, an Audrey Hepburn flick, a Feist promo and obscure Belgian choreographers, B’s vid for ‘4’s best track was as stunning as you’d imagine. It also managed to hide her baby bump pretty damn well.
Best bit: The rolling, multiple split screens.
A typically stylish video that perfectly matches up St Vincent’s mix of sweet and dark. Kidnapped by a family to play the role of the absent mother, St Vincent flits around awkwardly in Middle America with deeply creepy results.
Best bit: Buried alive by the Village Of The Damned kid? Sure…
6 ‘Our Deal’
Drew Barrymore brought her directional expertise to the video for one of our favourite Best Coast tracks. Casting a load of hot new teenage talent (including Chloe Moretz and Miranda Cosgrove) was a masterstroke, giving this Romeo And Juliet– like tale of gang violence, an element of stylized authenticy. And gosh that ending…*weeps*
Best bit: The big reveal.
5 ‘The Bay’
‘The English Riviera’ wasn’t just an album title, it was a complete aesthetic, as the video for ‘The Bay’ displayed. Duran Duran-style sprawling footage of bathing beauties and grandiose shots of the sea, were countered by Joe and the band dressed in their best sea-front pastels and posing on the glammy seafront (probably Margate…)
Best bit: The homage to Kylie’s ‘Slow’.
It’s a classic narrative; hot new rapper ingests rather large insect, gets a little hot and sweaty, develops characteristics of said insect (dead, bug eyes) and then, sadly, hangs self after the bug juice has got to his brain. A perfect visual from one of the year’s most challenging new stars.
Best bit: The dead eyes shot.
This opening shot from 2011’s Coolest Person perfectly illustrates her effortless why she topped the list. She was the x-rated potty mouth who dressed in a Mickey Mouse jumper and wore pigtails in her hair. She was fierce, funny and adorable all at the same time.
Best bit: The ‘212’ ‘walking/strut dance’.
2 ‘Suck It And See’
Helders and gamine gal pal go on classic ‘Badlands’/ ‘True Romance’ style mini-movie in the Monkeys most uncharacteristically bold video to date. P Diddy’s BFF is surprisingly effective in the bad boy role (although we still feel a bit voyeuristic when things go a bit ‘sexy time’).
Best bit: The ‘Suck It And See’ lighter!
1 ‘Video Games’
The re-invention of Lizzy Grant into Lana Del Rey was aided by this clip. Surrounded by iconic images of classic American (the Hollywood sign, the US flag, Tupac) Lana herself was a self made star – all big bouffant hair, and well, those lips.
Best bit: That shot of Lana looking straight into the camera, intoning the sad lyrics. A star was born.