The 25 Best Music Videos of the 2010s

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The 25 Best Music Videos of the 2010s

Music videos can often serve as fun, even necessary, additions to a song—almost like a happy bonus. Videos from the 2010s spanned short stories and frivolities, mini docs and visual masterpieces, dance parties and comedic satires. But some of the most memorable music visuals from the 2010s did more than please the eye and prod the mind—many of these videos sparked cultural conversation. Like a good movie, or even an album, music videos have the power to make major waves. If nothing else, music videos force us to hear our favorite music in a new way, perhaps in a way that’s closer to what the artist intended. These 25 videos made us think, laugh and maybe cry, and they’re all visually stunning, opening our eyes to ideas that felt true to the times in which they were made. Here are the best music videos of the decade, as voted by the Paste staff.

25. Solange: “Cranes in the Sky”
Directors: Alan Ferguson and Solange Knowles

Solange’s work has become synonymous with eye-catching, highbrow aesthetics, and her clip for A Seat at the Table single “Cranes in the Sky” is no exception. Solemn but undeniably stylish, the video features the youngest Knowles in a variety of colors and textures (one dress is made entirely of purple yarn and another is fashioned out of plant leaves) and sings outdoors against stark nature backdrops, lays pensively on cold-looking tile and sits beside a team of equally statuesque companions, all of whom are in white underthings. There is nothing particularly remarkable about these activities, but Solange has a keen eye for art direction—every shot resembles either a Vogue photoshoot or interpretive dance performance (and there’s plenty of that in “Cranes in the Sky”). But most of all, and perhaps most important to the video-making process, “Cranes” has artistic vision—one that is uniquely Solange’s. —Rachel Brodsky

24. The Carters: “APESHIT”
Director: Ricky Saiz

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 2018. 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” was more than a contender for song of the summer last year—it’s one of the most important pieces of art in 2018, 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

23. Carly Rae Jepsen: “I Really Like You”
Director: Peter Glanz

Tom Hanks  is currently making headlines for his heartwarming role as Mr. Rogers in the forthcoming A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood film, but could his purest, most jovial role actually have taken place in 2015, during a three-minute music video for a pop song? I’d argue the affirmative. In his starring role in the video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” (from her 2015 masterwork Emotion), a grin-bearing Hanks mouths every word to the titular song as he sashays around lower Manhattan, stopping to play ping-pong with strangers and pose for selfies, before meeting up with Ms. Jepsen (and, randomly, Justin Bieber?) for a Hairspray-worthy dance number in the streets. It’s entirely nonsensical, but entirely wonderful. And why shouldn’t two of our greatest cheer-spreaders appear in a short film together? It’s good, clean fun. Let’s just let this be good. —Ellen Johnson

22. Janelle Monáe: “PYNK”
Director: Emma Westenberg

Janelle Monáe’s “Pynk” dropped just a couple of weeks before she officially came out as pansexual, and it left no doubt she was ready to stop beating around the bush (sorry) after years of ambiguously alluding to her sexual liberation. Decked out in stunning vulva-inspired pants cascading with a gradient of pink ruffles, doling out coy references to fingering and cunnilingus and surrounded by a joyful entourage of black women—including the bisexual actress Tessa Thompson, whose head appears between the singer’s thighs—Monáe made her message loud and queer. Awash in pink from the outfits to the desert landscape, bed sheets, popsicles and chewing gum, the video celebrates the color our culture still associates most with femininity. “Pynk” is a vital empowerment anthem, paying tribute to women’s bodies, queer desire, and a spirit of solidarity between queer WOC. What makes it even more radical is the expansiveness of its vision, which goes beyond Monáe and Thompson’s clarification that “Pynk” was an ode to womanhood in all its forms, not to anatomy. “Boy, it’s cool if you got blue / We got the pink,” sings Monáe, but that’s not the whole story. We’ve all got the pink, even the boys out there—it’s “the folds of your brain,” “the lid of your eye,” “the holes in your heart.” To deny it, says Monáe, is to deny your own humanity. —Amanda Gersten

21. Radiohead: “Lotus Flower”
Director: Garth Jennings

Have you ever danced like no one was watching? Maybe you have. But have you danced like no one was watching in front of nearly 60 million YouTube viewers? Probably not. One man who famously achieved this feat was Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke back in 2011. In the video for The King of Limbs single “Lotus Flower,” Yorke appears in a bowler hat, twisting and squirming like he’s having some kind of fit. This black and white video has inspired countless parodies, and any time someone mentions Yorke’s dance moves, they’re most likely referring to this arty video. At times, he looks like he’s swatting bees, doing the potty dance, practicing kung-fu, drying his hands, being electrocuted, trying to escape a straitjacket or just flat out dancing out of sync with the beat. When it comes to iconic, idiosyncratic indie rock dance routines, Yorke has no competition. —Lizzie Manno

20. Phoebe Bridgers: “Scott Street”
Director: Alex Lill

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

19. Danny Brown: “Grown Up”
Director: Greg Brunkalla

Over one of the slowest and prettiest beats in his discography, Danny Brown raps about his childhood on 2012’s “Grown Up,” a surprisingly touching song from an artist known for shocking his audience with his warped sense of humor and occasionally violent and drug-fueled lyrics. So it makes total sense that Brown would cast a child look-alike to play himself in the track’s video, a song that celebrates youth and his rough upbringing. But of course the child actor had to personify Brown’s ADD-addled personality, which he does to perfection here, lip-synching as he bikes, plays on a playground, tosses books around a library and trashes a classroom and a clothing store. “Rushing as a kid just to be grown up / Whoever thought I’d be the greatest growing up?” Brown raps as his highly-fashionable doppelgänger innocently tries to pretend he’s older as he jumps around various Williamsburg locations. It all ends when present-day Brown seamlessly takes over for his younger version, wearing the same gray hoodie, black jeans and Converse shoes. Who could’ve thought one of rap’s biggest pranksters was capable of such a simultaneously heartwarming and poignant music video? —Steven Edelstone

18. FKA twigs: “Two Weeks”
Director: Nabil

FKA twigs is deservedly ending the decade among avant-pop’s most beloved leaders, but she wasn’t always such a sensation. Following some acclaimed but not-star-making 2012 and 2013 singles and videos, 2014’s “Two Weeks” visual propelled her to royalty both literally and figuratively. An unsubtle Queen of the Damned tribute, the “Two Weeks” video begins with steam rising from FKA twigs’ headdress and continues to swelter. As Nabil’s camera pans down to her and then moves out, her sovereign position within a humid coliseum becomes clear, with comparatively smaller dancers slowly entering the frame. The twist? All these dancers are also her, all performing their own routines to this gently pulsating, lusty banger. Though FKA twigs’ now-field-dominating video and dancing work would arguably advance with 2015’s M3LL155X EP and peak with this year’s “cellophane,” “Two Weeks” remains, by far, her most viewed visual, the moment she took the throne for good. —Max Freedman

17. Kirin J Callinan: “Big Enough”
Director: Danny Cohen

“Big Enough” by Kirin J. Callinan might not make any of our other best of decade lists, but we’d be absolutely remiss to neglect its inclusion here among the best music videos of the 2010s. Released in 2017, “Big Enough” shows Callinan as a lone cowboy who makes amends with fellow cowboy Alex Cameron. Though Callinan is in a snowy tundra and Cameron is far away in a desert ghost town, the spirit of camaraderie (portrayed by a screaming Jimmy Barnes in the sky, Mufasa-style) cannot keep them apart. Top that with Molly Lewis’s whistle solo and you’re in for a wild ride. If you’ve never seen this video, none of this will make sense, but to quote Pusha T, “if you know, you know.” There’s a reason this video was turned into a meme and has almost 47 million views on YouTube. —Annie Black

16. Sharon Van Etten: “Seventeen”
Director: Maureen Towey

Pick your favorite lyric about New York’s cultural stagnation. Maybe you’ll go with an LCD Soundsystem classic: “New York you’re safer and you’re wasting my time.” Perhaps you’ll spring for a deeper cut, like The National’s “New York is older and changing its skin again / It dies every 10 years and then it begins again” from 2017’s “Born to Beg.” But no one showed us how New York—and herself—has changed over the past decade or so quite like Sharon Van Etten in her video for “Seventeen.” Chock full of visuals from Manhattan and Brooklyn music venues past and present, Van Etten takes us down her own personal memory lane (alongside her younger-looking but not 17-year-old Wooing frontwoman doppelgänger Rachel Trachtenburg), showing us her old haunts, from music venues to apartment front doors. Opening with a shot of Van Etten walking up the stairs at the Marcy Street JM (but certainly not Z—does it even exist?) subway stop in Williamsburg, she proceeds to sing in front of Baby’s All Right’s iconic glass light stage, Pianos (a venue that certainly isn’t nearly as cool as it was in its early-2000s heyday), Union Pool, underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and at the locations of the now-shuttered Cake Shop, Sin-é (home of Jeff Buckley’s star-making residency) and Zebulon, the latter of which has since moved to Los Angeles, where Van Etten currently lives. Using Trachtenburg to play her younger self, 2019 Van Etten shows her 17-year-old counterpart how she’ll grow and how much things will change over the next 14 years since she moved to New York in 2005. It’s a gorgeous and heartbreaking look at how cities, music scenes and people change over time. —Steven Edelstone

15. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment: “Sunday Candy”
Directors: Austin Vesely, Ian Eastwood & Chance The Rapper 

There’s no way they shot that in a single take, right?!” Turns out, they did: With rotating sets and highly choreographed movements, Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods took us back to the ’50s with a charming romp through a diner, complete with dance numbers, letterman jackets and suspenders. Like an extremely well-produced high school musical set chugging along in real time (Chance sings outside of Woods’ “apartment” window as it’s wheeled across the stage at one point), “Sunday Candy” is a marvel of what commitment to an idea looks like when everyone buys in. The video’s aesthetic completely matches the song’s innocent lyrics depicting a love song taking place at church—Chance later referenced the song in his now-legendary verse on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam”: “I made ‘Sunday Candy,’ I’m never going to hell”—so much so that it’s nearly impossible to hear the track without seeing the visuals in your head. There were certainly more culturally relevant music videos this decade, the ones that tackled the political and social issues of the day, but none were as fun as “Sunday Candy,” a video that acted as a respite to the near-daily news about police brutality and mass shootings that dominated 2014 and 2015. —Steven Edelstone

14. HAIM: “Want You Back”
Director: Jake Schreier

Rock’s favorite sister-trio HAIM would later work with the one and only Paul Thomas Anderson on a string of visually appealing music videos (including the excellent recent take on their new song “Now I’m In It,” which features an unforgettable mug courtesy of Danielle), but “Want You Back,” directed by Paper Towns’ Jack Schreier, remains their most striking visual release, especially considering that we’d never seen anything like this from the band before. Shot on a completely-empty L.A. street (Ventura Boulevard, to be exact), the “Want You Back” clip features the jean-and-leather-clad siblings strutting and dancing to their token regret-tinged heartbreak song. It’s so memorable because of the perfectly-timed choreography, and the stunning single-take shot. The video also gave us our first taste of the now iconic HAIM “walk,” the same one they employ in the PTA-directed “Now I’m In It” and “Summer Girl” videos. The HAIM sisters know how to sing and play music, but they could easily make their careers as strutters. —Ellen Johnson

13. David Bowie: “Lazarus”
Director: Johan Renck

It’s fitting that a man who foresaw the internet’s wide-ranging possibilities back in 1999 ended up using it as a tool to foreshadow his own death. It’s even more amazing that said man happens to be one of the most iconic and influential artists of all time—David Bowie. When Bowie recorded his 25th studio album, Blackstar, in secret, he knew it would be his last. Though the public was unaware, Bowie was battling liver cancer, and he tragically died just two days after the album’s 2016 release. The video for Blackstar’s second single “Lazarus” is nothing short of chilling as it finds Bowie lying in a hospital bed, signalling to fans that his days were numbered. On the very first line, he sings while clutching his bed covers and with cloth covering his eyes, “Look up here / I’m in heaven,” and for the many people who hadn’t seen the video until he passed, it was beyond goosebump-inducing—it was upsetting, beautiful and masterful. “Lazarus” shows that nothing was too personal or intimate, not even his own imminent death, for Bowie to convey in his art. —Lizzie Manno

12. M.I.A.: “Bad Girls”
Director: Romain Gavras

M.I.A. is one of this century’s most continually impressive rule-breakers in rap, hip-hop and beyond. Following 2007’s Kala, which featured the incredible immigration satire “Paper Planes,” and 2010’s Maya, M.I.A. stunned us again with the bold and ballsy “Bad Girls.” She brings the Middle Eastern influences in the song to the forefront of the video, which was shot during a dusky, dusty twilight in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Women swank around in speeding cars while their male counterparts look on, a fairly on-the-nose response to the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia which lasted until 2018. “Bad Girls” is a fun song about having sex in cars and living life recklessly, and the video is—on the surface—a Fast and Furious desert fantasy, but it’s also a loud social statement, like so much of M.I.A.’s best work. —Ellen Johnson

11. Kendrick Lamar: “Humble”
Directors: Dave Meyers & The Little Homies

Besides being one of the most badass music videos in recent memory, “Humble” features some serious technological advances, utilizing robotic arms, 360º cameras and multiple cameras rapidly shifting back and forth. With religious and political imagery, high fashion, horrible golf swings and a flow so good Kendrick’s head is literally on fire, “Humble” was almost guaranteed to win every music video award in 2017. —Steven Edelstone

10. Charli XCX: “Boys”
Directors: Charli XCX and Sarah McColgan

The concept for Charli XCX’s “Boys” (definitely kindred to Lizzo’s song of the same name) video was a simple one, but it’s so effective, sexy and adorable, it warrants inclusion on this list of master visuals. On a sticky-hot summer’s day in 2017, Charli released a Mario-theme-infused song called “Boys,” about boys, for people who find boys attractive, and the coinciding video (which is only two-and-a-half-minutes long) features of a bunch of boys just putzing around, washing cars, operating machinery, doing bike tricks—you know, boy things. But these aren’t just any boys—they’re pop culture fixtures, musicians, athletes, internet stars and rapper sweethearts. Characters included Ezra Koenig (and Rostam), Tom Daley, Joe Jonas, Denzel Curry, Khalid, Brendon Urie, Mac DeMarco and Charli XCX herself with a pencilled-on mustache. It’s filled with pancakes and pillow fights, tattoos and abs, and it’s the very embodiment of eye candy. Also, puppies! And a baby! What’s not to love? —Ellen Johnson

9. Jamie xx: “Gosh”
Director: Romain Gavras

Romain Gavras never takes the easy way out. The Greek-French music video director, who is most well-known for directing M.I.A.’s provocative “Born Free” and flamboyant “Bad Girls” (which also appears on this list) videos, doesn’t just make music videos as much as he makes musical short films. The world of “Gosh” sees Hassan Kone—an albino of African descent—as its focal point, traversing the city amidst hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese boys, whose soldier-like choreography and visual and mechanized uniformity is masterfully portrayed by the Xiaolong Martial Arts School. Kone comes across as the last hope for the decrepit cesspool of Tianducheng, as he races through the film in a Subaru and ends it standing beneath the 300-foot tall Eiffel Tower replica, while the Xiaolong boys circle him in patternized movement. It’s what Busby Berkeley choreography would look like in the year 2100. All the while, Jamie xx’s opus, founded on elements of ragga drum and bass, is hypnotically in sync with the movements of the characters. Mattias Rudh’s drone cinematography pans out to show the sullen buildings of Tianducheng, creating a CGI feel, which adds to the eerie, futuristic feel of the video. Gavras tosses out his usual violent themes in favor of a different type of fear. The fear that this utopian city from the future is actually from the present. Kim Chapiron and Iconoclast’s “Behind The Scenes” mini-doc is a welcome companion to Gavras’s “Gosh” video and a look into the method behind the artistic madness of one of the most intriguing music video directors in the business and one of the best videos of the decade. —Adrian Spinelli

8. Angel Olsen: “Shut Up Kiss Me”
Director: Angel Olsen (with collaborative input from Ashley Connor and Jethro Waters)

The woozy rock ‘n’ roll number, “Shut Up Kiss Me,” is Angel Olsen’s best track to date, and we recently named it one of the finest songs of the past decade. This My Woman cut is ballsy, playful and exhilarating, and its accompanying video follows suit. The clip features Olsen in the same silver wig from her “Intern” video, sitting on the roof of a car, skating in a roller rink and perched on a stool in a dive bar. As the tempo of the distorted guitars start to ramp up, she’s whisked away by two figures in the skating rink, and her eyes appear maniacal. Olsen’s vibrant facial expressions perfectly capture the song’s alluring, confident and confrontational lyrics, and by the end, we see her skating down the street, reaching out towards the camera and cloaked in red light, totally free of inhibitions. We even get a tiny outtake at the end as she asks, “Do I need to give more attitude?” Lucky for Olsen, it’s hard to imagine a song or video holding more attitude. —Lizzie Manno

7. Tyler, The Creator: “Yonkers”
Director: Wolf Haley

When Tyler ate that cockroach, rap changed forever. Gone were the days when clubbing and strip clubs ruled hip-hop’s music videos: The L.A.-based leader of the rambunctious group known almost as much for their skateboarding as their mixtapes ushered in a new era in which a self-directed, simple black-and-white music video could win a VMA for Best New Artist. Released on Feb. 10, 2011 (and I can still tell you exactly where I was when I first watched the video), Tyler, the Creator signed to XL—a predominantly indie rock/electronic-focused label—just four days later, and by Feb. 23, he already had Kanye West declaring it the best video of the year. “Yonkers” is a horrifying, dark yet fascinating look into the Odd Future leader’s Supreme-capped mind, a world where depression and anxiety manifest themselves in cockroaches, vomit, the word “kill” written on his hand, heavily dilated pupils and suicide via hanging. But most importantly, amongst a bevy of millennial references (Rugrats, Adventure Time) and mentions of our generation’s darkest moments (the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings), Tyler gave his generation a new mantra: “All I want—fuck money, diamonds and bitches, don’t need ‘em.” —Steven Edelstone

6. Kanye West: “Runaway”
Director:   Kanye West  

Before the Wyoming listening parties and the travelling Sunday Services, Kanye West maintained a narrower scope for the visual complements to his work, releasing 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy alongside the half-hour visual Runaway. The centerpiece of the film is the music video for its eponymous track, featuring West in his rarest, most vulnerable form. “Runaway” strips down the bravado, the feuds and the tweets, leaving Kanye alone to plink at an out-of-tune piano. Soon, he’s flanked by a troupe of somber ballet dancers, shot in gorgeous slow motion that highlights their grace and the massive effort they’re putting in to achieve it—fitting as West mourns what his ego has cost him across a sprawling nine-minute track. Even with humility, Kanye does it big. —Katie Cameron

5. Flasher: “Material”
Director: Nick Roney

D.C. trio Flasher released their debut album Constant Image in 2018 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 could hear last 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

4. Beyoncé: Lemonade
Directors: Beyoncé and Kahlil Joseph

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so it’s not strictly one music video, but Lemonade is too iconic and too monumental to not earn a place on this list. As the visual counterpart to Beyoncé’s reckoning with infidelity on her 2016 masterpiece, Lemonade is a carefully-crafted arc through her anger, pain, introspection and ultimate sense of redemption. The visual album is densely packed with poetic narration and lingering imagery—black women in antebellum outfits in plantation homes, Beyoncé resting atop a New Orleans police cruiser as it sinks beneath the surface, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown holding pictures of their sons—as Beyoncé’s gaze shifts outward, eventually culminating in her rallying cry for action on “Formation.” If there were any doubts that the personal is political, Beyonce obliterates them with every stunning visual in Lemonade. —Katie Cameron

3. Kendrick Lamar: “Alright”
Directors: Colin Tilley & The Little Homies

Like so many of his earlier videos, “Alright” is filmed entirely in black and white, but this time, the stark colors greatly benefit the end result. “Alright” begins with his “Luci” speech that dots the entirety of To Pimp a Butterfly, later giving way to Kendrick and his friends rocking out in a car held up by police officers. Kendrick floats throughout the whole song, literally and figuratively, held up at times by his friends or by a string on top of a lamppost in Downtown L.A. Onlookers gaze in awe, their jaws to the floor, witnessing what could eventually go down as one of the most iconic video of this generation. Everything about this music video—from the cinematography to its addressing of social issues—seems to reflect the song itself, depicting the joys and horrors experienced by Black America. “We gon’ be alright” became the slogan for a new civil rights movement, and the music video that accompanies it only further illuminates why Kendrick Lamar deserves to be at the front lines. —Steven Edelstone

2. Tierra Whack: “Whack World”
Directors: Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger

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

1. Childish Gambino: “This Is America”
Director: Hiro Murai

When Childish Gambino released “This Is America” while simultaneously hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live in May 2018, the searing music video accompanying the track sparked a national conversation about the binary black Americans occupy and the complex intersection between entertainment and race in this country. Split between delicate folk melody and pulsing trap beats, the song’s symbolism-drenched video, directed by Atlanta collaborator Hiro Murai, required (or rather, demanded) rewatch. In it, Gambino performs choreography derived from viral hip-hop videos and traditional African dance with schoolchildren, all smiles even as violence permeates the fringes of the video: He manically pantomimes Jim Crow caricatures and shoots bystanders in the head; riots erupt behind him, but never quite take center stage; guns are laid down gently on red velvet, while gunned-down black bodies are hastily dragged out of sight. The music video faced its share of criticism—some felt it exploited real-life tragedies like the Charleston church shooting, others noted similarities between the track and Jase Harley’s “American Pharaoh”—but, regardless, the song’s unsettling and unshakeable coda makes it a grim success. —Katie Cameron

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