The 20 Best Music Videos of 2018

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The 20 Best Music Videos of 2018

For many artists, music videos add another layer of artistry to a piece of music and they often add far more than just a visual accompaniment and a literal new dimension. Whether metaphorical and abstract, topical and timely or surreal and absurd, music videos are an avenue for musicians to place themselves in the director’s chair or put their acting skills and theatrics on display. Whether it’s the glitzy videos with a bottomless budget like The Carter’s “APESHIT,” the black and white, intimate documentary quality of Idles’ “Danny Nedelko,” the heartbreaking realism of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “Pa’lante” or the high-concept sci-fi of LCD Soundsystem’s “oh baby,” music videos moved us this year in one way or another. Paste selected and ranked 20 videos from the past year that made us laugh, cry, feel less alone or completely made our jaws drop. Grab some popcorn and enjoy this mini music video film festival below, as curated by the Paste staff.

20. Young Fathers, “Toy”

Scottish alternative hip-hop trio Young Fathers unleashed “Toy” from their excellent latest album Cocoa Sugar and its Salomon Ligthelm-directed video is just as disorienting, radiant and charismatic. The video is a spoof of the power-hungry dictators who run the world today. World leaders from the U.S., Russia, North Korea and other nations are depicted, but as young, spoiled children who pound their fists on their desks and give orders to their adult military generals. Vocalist Alloysious Massaquoi ferociously spits the words, “You’re just a broken little toy / a silly little boy,” and you can’t help but think of these lyrics in the video’s new context, which makes a mockery of the authoritarian-leaning world leaders. —Lizzie Manno

19. Sextile, “Disco”

The music video for Sextile’s dark, dreamy “Disco” is like a Gap commercial from the mid-’90s, if Gap was actually ultra cool and punk as hell. Sextile members Melissa Scaduto and Brady Keehn dance around a sparse white space, freely moving to the hypnotic beats in monochromatic glory. “Visually and aesthetically, the video was influenced by the NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle/New German Wave) genre,” the band said in Clash Magazine (who premiered the exceptional video.) Scaduto actually directed the video, and personally, I hope she continues to direct because she certainly has a knack for it. —Annie Black

18. Black Honey, “Midnight”

Brighton rock quartet Black Honey released their self-titled debut album earlier this year along with a series of Tarantino-esque music videos to reflect the album’s shimmery, cinematic aura. In a sequel to their puzzling, murderous “Dig” video, “Midnight” takes the glamorous violence up another notch. From the previous clip, it appears that a suave, blond, mustachioed man is the next on the kill list and a disco nightclub makes for the perfect, seemingly unsuspecting murder scene. Black Honey frontwoman Izzy Bee Phillips has enlisted the help of a few male accomplices (her three bandmates) to carry out the dirty deed—after all, you’d think she wouldn’t want to get any blood on her impeccable, sequined clothing. Though by the end of the disco ball-filled, Shaun James Grant-directed video, it’s clear that Phillips isn’t fazed by the sinister and isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty. —Lizzie Manno

17. A$AP Rocky, “A$AP Forever (feat. Moby)”

While much of the music video acclaim goes towards his peers like Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and Drake, A$AP Rocky has quietly become one of the most reliably great rappers in terms of his visual skills. From his trippy 2015 video for “L$D” to this year’s low budget and incredibly fun “Potato Salad” collaboration with Tyler, the Creator shot in in front of the Eifel Tower, the A$AP Mob leader and candidate for coolest rapper alive has been on a lengthy hot streak with his music videos over the last five years or so. But none are as impressive as “A$AP Forever,” the promo video for the lead single off the Harlem native’s third album Testing. Vertigo inducing and visually stunning, “A$AP Forever” sees a rotating camera taking us through a tour of Rocky’s New York, complete with shots from the streets of his home neighborhood to him lying on the ground underneath the above ground subway. The rapidly flipping cameras eventually calm as they give way to Rocky smoking a joint as he falls into a black abyss as the Moby sample takes over. Not only is “A$AP Forever” a technical feat, it’s one of the most creative and unique videos in recent memory. —Steven Edelstone

16. Little Dragon, “Love Chanting”

You gotta love a video that ambitiously builds a distinct setting and accompanying aesthetics. On Little Dragon’s latest, for the title-track single of their Lover Chanting EP, we’re transported into an Everquest-like RPG candyland. The Jack Whiteley and Joe Wills-directed fantasy world stars Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano and a hunky virtua-Prince, traversing the gardens of Allington Castle in Kent. The costumes are gorgeous as the video leads into a cosmic dance party inside of the castle that the human RPG player has guided Nagano (now in different and even more elaborate attire) and her beau too. These are the types of visuals a band of Little Dragon’s caliber ought to be exploring alongside tweener new releases like “Lover Chanting” and Nagano’s impossibly silky vocals on this sticky dance-pop jam. —Adrian Spinelli

15. Phoebe Bridgers, “Scott Street”

Nobody makes airy, folk-leaning ballads quite like Phoebe Bridgers. Her track “Scott Street” from her debut album Stranger in the Alps is crushingly beautiful—it hurts as much as it heals. However, its Alex Lill-directed video does its very best to lift our spirits and it more than accomplishes this task. “Scott Street” sees a crowd of Bridgers lookalikes, each dressed in black and with silvery-blond wigs, lip-synch, ride a mechanical bull and a double decker bus, hop on trampolines and take whacks at a Bridgers pinata. It’s like watching the greatest birthday party ever held and given those hijinks and the fact that it concludes with a boat ride with the real-life Bridgers under the moonlight, we hope we get the invite for next year’s bash. —Lizzie Manno

14. Mountain Man, “Rang Tang Ring Toon”

This Mountain Man video might be the most relaxing three-and-a-half minutes to happen on the Internet in 2018. The comments section on a YouTube video is rarely home to exchanges of gentle repartee, but one remark underneath the “Rang Tang Ring Toon” listing reads as such: “This is really pleasant.” Pleasant! Now there’s a word you don’t usually associate with the Internet. But I cannot begin to think of a better one to describe this airy, whimsical, warm visual treat. “Delightful and charming,” writes another ‘Tube dweller. Indeed, this enchanting video set during a bewitched dinner party for “Ring Tang Ring Toon,” a standout track from Mountain Man’s first album in eight years, is so darn enjoyable even notoriously rude commenters are on board. Magic Ship is itself a tribute to comfort and connection, and the video pretty much sums up all the album’s warm and fuzzy feelings: Friends arrive with potluck dishes, dine by candlelight and offer to help each other with the dishes. As on the record, harmony abounds. Then, the whole thing culminates in a witchy rain dance that looks like a scene from The Crucible, if Abigail Williams and co. had shopped at Urban Outfitters and took delight in eating heirloom tomatoes. I’m not sure what “Rang Tang Ring Toon” means, but maybe it’s a spell—some kind of good-natured hex that works like a hug. Whatever the meaning behind that mumbo jumbo, Mountain Man have worked their magic on me. —Ellen Johnson

13. Hop Along, “How Simple”

Philadelphia indie rock quintet Hop Along’s latest LP Bark Your Head Off, Dog found its way onto our albums of the year list and one of its singles “How Simple” has a stellar video. “How Simple” offers both a whimsical edge, with its keyboards and guitars, and a familiar sound, with its introspective theme and Frances Quinlan’s rich lead vocals. Its video marks the first time the band has starred in one of their videos. Starring Quinlan and directed by Derrick Belcham, the video features a spotlight that follows the singer as she spontaneously dances, wanders around and eventually eats some cereal as the band performs in the dimly-lit room. Quinlan joyfully dances like no one’s watching amid a flurry of flashing lights and it’s this juxtaposition of a euphoric emotional display and a backdrop of solitude that’s inspiring and immensely gratifying. —Lizzie Manno

12. Japanese Breakfast, “Boyish”

Sad streamers, dreary disco balls and slow-moving gyms are nothing new in the realm of musical visuals, but Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, who directed the “Boyish” film herself, brings a new wink to the high-school-themed-video trope. After its release, Zauner said of the video on Instagram: “Boyish is a song that has gone through many transformations but ultimately it’s a song that’s simply about wanting to feel pretty & loved. It’s my favorite video yet.” And Zauner should be proud: The four-minute “Boyish” clip absolutely charms. The subject is a shy student trying to make it through her school dance. She, like Zauner, just wants to feel loved and appreciated and noticed. By clip’s end, our heroine is living her dream of being on stage, but, unfortunately, we realize it is only a dream. The video has racked up more than two million views on YouTube (quite a lot for an indie video) and is a joy to watch from start to finish. This music video has it all: balloons arcs, a studly love interest and a cameo from Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, who appears as a cheerleader. The utterly lovely and thoughtful “Boyish” will have you saying “Go team!” —Ellen Johnson

11. Hurray for the Riff Raff, “Pa’lante”

Last year, Hurray for the Riff Raff released the much-buzzed-about track “Pa’lante,” a rousing reckoning with Latin identity, as well as lyricist Alynda Segarra’s own past. The song, one of Paste’s favorite tracks of 2017, is stirring, multilayered and emotionally heavy to say the least. The band released an eight-minute short film about a working-class Puerto Rican family, with a spliced-up version of “Pa’lante” providing a sweeping soundtrack. The phrase “Pa’lante” translates roughly to “step forward” in Puerto Rican slang, and, with the wreckage of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as a visual backdrop, it feels more like a call to arms than anything else. Alongside a collage of other Puerto Rican faces, the video stitches together a story of the island nation’s struggle in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The video, directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa (aka Kris Merc), is both a story and a call for help at once: Segarra pleads with viewers to help Puerto Rico “step forward.” —Ellen Johnson

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