The 20 Best Music Videos of 2018

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10. Madeline Kenney, “Cut Me Off”

“Cut Me Off,” the guitar-driven first single from her second album Perfect Shapes features a video of Kenney jamming in a technicolor elevator and parading through a fluorescent-lit office complex. Pairing snackable, sparkly guitar riffs with choral layering, Kenney delivers on “Cut Me Off” a more sporadic spread of sounds than on her more muted 2017 debut. She (literally) hits her stride on “Cut Me Off,” jolting and jiving through the music video’s bleak backdrop: an office. She makes the workspace appear fun, though, as her dancing borders on hip-hop and her facial expressions change from bored to enthralled. If “Cut Me Off” played through the loudspeakers in your office, we bet you’d be dancing through the work day, too. The grooves might be new territory for Kenney, but when she decidedly dances through the day, jigging on the office coffee table is the only catharsis she needs. —Ellen Johnson

9. Idles, “Danny Nedelko”

In “Danny Nedelko,” Danny Nedelko himself runs around joyfully making the “OK” hand gesture with people of all walks of life, culture and nationality. While Stereogum says it’s probably a move to take the symbol back from white supremacists (who have, for some reason, tried to make the hand symbol their own), it could just be a literal interpretation that immigrants are totally okay, not detrimental like, well, white supremacists tend to say. The video proudly proclaims that immigrants are friends, not foe, and it’s a message that should be shouted loudly. As Nedelko’s shirt says, “No one is an island.” —Annie Black

8. Anderson .Paak, “Til It’s Over”

Back in March, “Til It’s Over” dropped seemingly out of thin air as a soundtrack to the Spike Jonze-directed Apple HomePod video spot back in March. And while the song itself doesn’t appear on .Paak’s Oxnard album, the video is a winner for its instantly iconic visual of FKA Twigs dancing in a room of moving walls—like a modern day “Virtual Insanity”—as much as it is for .Paak’s creamy delivery over a beat by Frank Ocean collaborators Michael Uzowuru and Jeff Kleinman. Jonze leads a perfect trifecta with .Paak and Twigs and like all ubiquitous Apple commercials, the song and visual will linger far longer than whatever the ad was selling. —Adrian Spinelli

7. The Carters, “APESHIT”

So…there’s a lot to unpack here. When you’re Beyoncé and Jay-Z, making a collaborative album about love, race in America and a gargantuan net worth is your couples therapy. Also—and again it cannot be overstated that this is only the case if you’re Beyoncé and Jay-Z—that couples therapy happens in a private session at one of the most significant art institutions in the world. Whatever your opinion about The Carters, their flaunting of fortune and their fourth child—the largely critically underrated EVERYTHING IS LOVE—you have to admit this video is something powerful. After Bey and Jay released their respective albums detailing their marital troubles (his: last year’s 4:44; hers: 2016’s Lemonade), they began making music together and dropped this record and video out of nowhere—on a random Saturday in June. It’s a massive power-flex showing Beyoncé and Jay-Z unapologetically owning their space and their art in what is perhaps the most well-known art space of them all: the Louvre. Throughout six striking minutes, dancers commune at a shockingly close proximity to the masterpieces while The Carters mostly stand their ground in front of the Mona Lisa and swap knowing smirks. The Louvre is completely empty save for Bey, Jay and their comrades (seriously, what time of day did they film this thing?!). “APESHIT” is more than a contender for song of the summer—it’s one of the most important pieces of art this year, a mesmerizing glance into The Carters’ world and a severe challenge to what we know to be beautiful, especially when it comes to notions of black beauty. This is the most powerful couple in entertainment at their peak. How can they possibly top that? —Ellen Johnson

6. Tierra Whack, “Whack World”

In welcoming us all to Whack World, visionary Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack always intended for sight and sound to go hand-in-hand. She released her concise, yet ambitious debut album—15 songs, 15 minutes—and a full-length video on the same May day, billing the combo as “a visual and auditory project.” Whack’s music and its video, directed by Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger, interact in fascinating ways: She acts out album opener “Black Nails” with pictograph fingertips; glams up a taxidermied dog during “Flea Market”; offers “some swag you can bite off” while rapping “4 Wings” in a Chinese restaurant; eats pearls with chopsticks over “Hungry Hippo”; performs “Pretty Ugly” behind a wall of magnifying glasses; is laid to rest in a pinstripe suit and sequined coffin on “Sore Loser.” The chameleonic Whack frequently obscures her face or plays a character in these 15 vignettes, leaving us to wonder who she really is. But if there’s one thing a trip to Whack World teaches us, it’s the answer to that question: Whoever she wants to be. —Scott Russell

5. Caroline Rose, “Jeannie Becomes a Mom”

From Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs to oodles of TV shows set in the suburban hinterlands, suburbia is a topic oft covered in American music and entertainment. Indie-pop artist Caroline Rose has her own take on the subject in the darkly hilarious song “Jeannie Becomes a Mom,” from her album LONER, which was released in February. For the song’s video, the title character fulfills Rose’s predictions of moving outside Topeka, Kan., to assume domestic duties, but not without a few fumbles. On LONER, Rose makes the huge leap from country/folk to dark pop satire, which she executes marvelously. LONER is chock-full of humor and absurd characters, including Jeannie, who tries her gosh-darn best to be a good wife and homemaker in the video, but quite literally falls short (with a rainbow Jell-O cake in hand). —Ellen Johnson

4. Flasher, “Material”

D.C. trio Flasher released their debut album Constant Image earlier this year via Domino Records and it made its way onto our albums of the year list. “Material” is one of the album’s most infectious, vibrant cuts as Flasher’s ping-ponging, overlapping pop vocals make for possibly the most satisfying vocal tradeoff you’ll hear all year. Bassist Danny Saperstein’s snotty, playful vocal delivery circles around Emma Baker’s snappy drums as guitarist Taylor Mulitz joins Baker for an unparalleled, ethereal shoegaze vocal rapture (“Construct / Interrupt / Material”). The video is a post-modern, late-capitalist deconstruction of Internet culture, and its surreal humor sheds a light on just how pervasive and crazy that culture has become. Twenty seconds in, they purposely freeze the video—spinning onscreen circle, cursor, groans and all—before clicking onto a fake lyric video of the song and resuming the tune. What follows is a series of absurd Internet parodies of the band performing the track—an a cappella version, an instructional dance video, a cringeworthy karaoke version and a behind-the-scenes clip. They even make a satirical advertisement for socks so high they can’t fall down and a fake conspiracy theory video that accuses the band of having Illuminati ties. It closes with the band being devoured by a devil-like creature—perhaps a reference to the real-life, often ignored ramifications of constant entertainment, connection and sensory overload. This Nick Roney-directed video says more about the Internet in four minutes than the 1975’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships does in an entire hour. —Lizzie Manno

3. LCD Soundsystem, “oh baby”

You can comfortably say that LCD Soundsystem’s brought in some big names for their “oh baby” video. The American Dream track’s accompanying video was directed by none other than Star Wars director Rian Johnson, and it stars Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn. The video is a miniature sci-fi tragedy, focusing on Strathairn and Spacek’s invention of a teleportation device. It’s beautiful and artful, and Johnson’s steady directorial hand is clear. “My goal would be that it works as a video for the song and the song works as a good soundtrack of the film,” said James Murphy in a statement about the video. “Rather than a video that serves the song.” Johnson notes in a tweet about the video that it was shot in the same house that David Lynch shot in for the new season of Twin Peaks. —Justin Kamp

2. Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”

Janelle Monae’s third studio record and futuristic concept album Dirty Computer found its way into the top 15 of our best albums of the year list and the visuals behind this LP are just as noteworthy. Her album was accompanied by an “emotion picture,” a 46-minute narrative film of the same name. Part of that picture was the video for “Make Me Feel,” a powerful, colorful display of frolicsome sexuality, free from boundaries. Monae’s pansexuality and empowering force of individuality is on full display here—teetering between female and male love interests. Her countless clothing changes and seductive dance moves are cloaked with so much personality and attention to detail that it’s hard to think of many other musicians that reach her level of artistry and fearlessness. If St. Vincent’s Masseduction was last year’s game-changing, earth-shattering pop statement, this is the year of Dirty Computer. —Lizzie Manno

1. Childish Gambino, “This is America”

After hosting and performing on SNL, Donald Glover debuted two new songs live and simultaneously shared a music video for one of them. The “This is America” video was directed by Atlanta’s Hiro Murai and it was instantly iconic. To say “This Is America” is a return to Childish Gambino’s rap roots would be a vast oversimplification, but it’s certainly a departure from the electrifying funk and soul of his Grammy-nominated third album, 2016’s Awaken, My Love! The song’s deceptively breezy intro gets a hole blown in it when Glover pulls a gun without warning and executes the guitarist, declaring, “This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up.” Good luck taking your eyes off Glover: Murai’s lens paints him as both hero and villain, his dance moves and facial expressions delighting us one moment, his murderous actions disturbing us the next. —Scott Russell

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