Great music videos were few and far between this year, despite the plethora of fantastic albums. That said, 2019 had a hard task following last year, which saw Apeshit and This Is America, both of which could compete for video of the decade. After shifting through tons of material, I boiled this year down to 20 music videos that stood out either due to their creativity, humour or political message.
20. BLACKPINK – Kill This Love (Hyun Seung Seo)
With this video BLACKPINK, one of K-Pop’s biggest bands, makes it instantly clear why they are one of K-Pop’s biggest bands. From the horns that open this thing, to them dancing in a bear trap (!!!), everything is turned up to eleven. Kill This Love is pure excess, in the best way possible.
19. Future – XanaX Damage (Henri Alexander Levy)
Future’s EP Save Me shows a more vulnerable side to the rapper, one that isn’t explored so much in rap music. The video for the opening track matches the mood perfectly, with a lo-fi approach, as the footage of broken Future spilling his heart on the phone is intercut with anime running in the background and polaroids of models. It’s like a party, only all the fun disappeared and nobody want to be there anymore.
18. YNW Melly ft. Kanye West – Mixed Personalities (Cole Bennett)
This VFX-heavy video arrived early on in the year and has been stuck in my head ever since. Featuring a free man Melly and bipolar atheist Kanye West (both of who changed drastically since the release) as well as a catchy hook, the song on itself was fun. However, Cole Bennett of Lyrical Lemonade adds just the right amount of his own voice into the mix to elevate the song. Mainly, I’m just impressed with how well it turned out considering that 95% of it is CGI. Oh and that spaghetti moment…biggest fake out of the year.
17. Halsey – Nightmare (Hannah Lux Davis)
Director Hannah Lux Davis emerged in the past year as one of the most reliable in her field of work, delivering multiple hit videos for Ariana Grande. However, her greatest work came when she joined forces with Halsey for the empowering anthem Nightmare. Majority focuses on a street fight among a group of women, in a set reminiscent of a vintage Brooklyn street. The song goes from a punk-like chorus to tender bridge and the video captures all of it, Halsey front and center, with the likes of Dolly Parton, Cara Delevingne and Suki Waterhouse in cameo roles.
16. DaBaby – Pony (Reel Goats)
North Carolina rapper DaBaby had a massive year with two highly successful albums. Part of his appeal is due to his dark sense of humour, which is on full display in Pony. Armed with a terrible wig, mariachi band and the titular animal, DaBaby manages to both rap and disperse of his enemies in a matter of a few minutes.
15. Tierra Whack – Unemployed (Cat Solen)
If you thought DaBaby’s humour was off-beat, wait until you see the Philly native, Tierra Whack. She made waves last year with the 15 minute Whack World that captured both her skills and the dark, yet childish gags peppered throughout her work. Unemployed continues with this formula and elevates it, showing Whack as a chef cutting down sentient potatoes for a particularly peculiar consumer.
14. Foals – Exits (Albert Moya)
Starring Christa Théret and Game of Thrones’ very own Isaac Wright, Exits plays like a small scale action spy film. With a fencing training, matching black outfits and blindfolded kids running through a forest, you’ll quickly feel like watching a six minute stylised underground movie trailer set to equally engaging and exciting music.
13. Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road (Calmatic)
In 2019 it was damn near impossible to miss the fusion of country and rap that was Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. The song broke every streaming record, made Nas into a superstar and somehow brought Billy Ray Cyrus back into the public conscience. Old Town Road’s video continues with that very fusion, jumping from the wild west of cheesy 60’s Hollywood to a present day neighbourhood. Apart from the two artists, the music video also contains appearances from comedian Chris Rock, producer Young Kio and fellow musicians Rico Nasty, Diplo and Vince Staples, each breathing a bit more life into this already lively ‘official movie’.
12. Doja Cat ft. Rico Nasty – Tia Tamera (Roxana Baldovin)
A match made in heaven, the combined energy of both rappers can only be matched with the equally dynamic video. In a four minute throwback to the 90s, the video throws at screen everything from vibrant colours and slime to extravagant hairstyles and even more lavish sets. Tia Tamera’s video is the perfectly matched body to the soul that is one of the most entertaining songs of the year.
11. Tove Lo – Glad He’s Gone (Vania Heymann, Gal Muggia)
Boyfriends, especially in pop music, are tricky to say at least. They usually cause more harm than anything else and it that case, what else can you do than turn to your girl friends for help? Glad He’s Gone is a comedic illustration of how far (quite literally) is a friend willing to go to help you. The video gets increasingly more over the top, as Tove Lo goes from walking around the city to traversing a desert, stopping a burglary, escaping prison and eventually changing her identity. All while offering some much needed advice, and graceful in doing it.
10. YBN Cordae ft. Anderson .Paak – RNP (Fredo Tovar, Scott Fleishman, Edwin Tovar)
RNP, coming off of Cordae’s debut album, is a funky braggadocious cut harking back to the music of the 70s, like they just don’t do them anymore. The video throws you right in the middle of said decade, into the YBN Summer Classic basketball game. No one in this very self aware project takes themselves too seriously, as YBN and .Paak play big-shot athletes Big Play Cordae and Sweet Shot Anderson, respectively. One part music video, one part an entertaining match and one part homage to blaxploitation cinema, the charm of this one is undeniable.
9. The Weeknd – Heartless (Anton Tammi)
Heartless marks The Weeknd’s return to music after a year-long hiatus. Much in the vein of the rest of his discography, it is a fun, catchy song that has darker themes laying just below the surface. The hyper stylised setting of Las Vegas casino, showing The Weeknd as a drugged-up gambler, is filled with vibrant colours and visual references to Enter the Void and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas perfectly compliment the “crying at the club” nature of the song.
8. Anna Meredith – Paramour (Ewan Jones Morris)
Remember playing with LEGO? British composer Anna Meredith sure does, as her playful video is shot from the perspective of a LEGO train going through the house, around her band members, under plants and over furniture. The best part? The tracks are synced with the music, emphasising different moments throughout.
7. Injury Reserve – Koruna & Lime (Parker Corey)
When talking about Injury Reserve’s sound, the phrase “alternative hip-hop” often arises. However, in their case “DIY hip-hop” may be more accurate. The trio made it from nothing, as their first project was recorded inside a dentist’s office. While they got bigger and more refined with following albums, the low-budget do it yourself approach is still at the centre of the music, translating into the visual form as well. Directed by a fellow member Parker Corey, the video for Koruna & Lime is composed of one continuous take inside a warehouse. The scenery is accentuated with multiple mirrors hanging around the space, as the camera flows between them, capturing this carefully coordinated chaos.
6. Kanye West – Closed on Sunday (Jake Schreier)
Halfway through Closed on Sunday, a video shot entirely on Kanye’s four thousand acre ranch, you wonder ‘How can he be even more extra?’. As an answer Kanye stands in the centre of his choir, looking to the distance, while they sing to him. The whole scenery reminiscent of a renaissance painting, it’s one of the most poetic videos, beautiful in its simplicity and the only reason it isn’t higher on the list are the very last seconds.
5. Rina Sawayama – STFU! (Ali Kurr, Rina Sawayama)
Much in the same way as Nightmare, Rina Sawayama releases her pent-up anger in the nu-metal single STFU!. Rina, a Japanese-born British singer, has endured more than a few racial comments in her life. The video provides one such example, picturing Rina on a date night with a white guy, who seems to know more about the culture and delightfully presents his ideas. Their interaction is humorous while also deeply uncomfortable, seeing as this is the reality for many women.
4. James Blake – Can’t Believe The Way We Flow (Frank Lebon)
Blake’s highly emotional video for an equally absorbing song is a masterclass in editing, a must watch for anyone even remotely interested in filmmaking. Can’t Believe The Way We Flow is one of those rare music videos that has to be watched at least twice to be understood and countless more times to fully enjoy it, easter eggs and all. Love and relationships are front and center, telling a 100 different stories while also focusing on just one.
3. Sasami – Morning Comes (Eric Notarnicola, Sasami Ashworth)
Cooking and music are among my favourite hobbies, which is why I’m overjoyed watching Morning Comes, a song from the debut solo album of Sasami, an ex-member of Cherry Glazerr. The video, starring grandmother Halmoni, is a 5 minute guide to making authentic homemade kimchi, a surefire hit with your friends. Coupled with cute anime-like animations and Sasami’s beautifully crafted mellow rock, there’s really nothing to dislike here.
2. FKA Twigs – Cellophane (Andrew Thomas Huang)
Starting as a pole dance in a room without walls with Twigs powering through the minimal text with anguish in her voice and slowly turning into a graceful horror, this is a video where you never fully know what’s going on. Cellophane, with visual effects and production design to rival feature films, is a display of an artist at the height of their abilities, both in front and behind the camera.
1. Stormzy – Vossi Bop (Henry Scholfield)
As the biggest act of showing off this year, Stormzy closed down one of the most iconic places in London and the whole UK, for that matter. Because how else should you flex on your haters, deliver a political message and establish yourself at the king of grime?