The 25 Best Music Videos of 2012

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In this age of Internet searches and YouTube playlists, a great video can pluck a song from obscurity and make it a worldwide sensation. Music videos can also be political statements, emotional confessions, or even just lighthearted fare for established fans of the music. Here are the 25 music videos that brought humor, insight, opinions, and often just plain fun into the world of music this year.

10. Wilco – “Sunloathe”
Director: Peter Glantz
Imaginative artwork and animation emphasize the relaxed-yet-dark lyrics in “Sunloathe.” With a different song in the background, the scene might feel creepier, what with the torch-wielding animals, flame, smoke and monsters, but the soft sounds of Wilco make the monsters and their plight endearing and relatable. As the song picks up in the last third, the monsters take on the persona of the sun, and as their animated eyes gaze into the camera the video closes with a child-like, nostalgic feel.—Dacey Orr

9. Fiona Apple- “Every Single Night”
Director: Joseph Cahill
Fiona Apple has knack for delivering beauty in a surprising ways. Sometimes it’s an unexpected note or a particularly stirring lyric, and in this case it’s with slimy animals and cool color tones to visually portray her track “Every Single Night.” The octopus hat is certainly an unexpected visual decision, but Apple’s performance shines in the distinctively cold and random flashes of images. Apple’s deadpan stare as she delivers the lyrics to the camera in several uncomfortable situations make the song feel that much more chilling. The coy smile at the end makes the entire video feel like a mysterious message you might be on the brink of understanding, and the clip is hard not to watch more than once.—Dacey Orr

8. Rufus Wainwright – “Out Of The Game”
Director: Phillip Andelman
The mere presence of Helena Bonham Carter makes this video a natural candidate, but it’s not just the movie-star name that makes “Out of the Game” such a wicked fantasy of a video. Wainwright’s performance, embodying several personalities, only adds to Bonham Carter’s portrayal of an up-tight librarian. Unsurprisingly, Bonham Carter’s performance carries this video from the first second as her sad eyes gaze at the camera through those distinctive glasses. Between the wistful moments and the pant-worthy, passionate exchanges, Bonham Carter plays the line between frustration and fantasy in a way that’s flawless and somehow relatable.—Dacey Orr

7. David Wax Museum – “Harder Before It Gets Easier”
Director: Shutter & String
We’ve been fans of David Wax and Suz Slezak for a while and loved watching them play with face-and-body paint in this clever video—painting eyeballs on their eyelids and making an accordion out of painted hands. The bright colors are a nice fit with the upbeat nature of the Mexican-influenced track. It’s the brainchild of the directors of one of our favorite videos from a few years ago, Josh Ritter’s epic mummy-puppet story, “The Curse.”—Josh Jackson

6. Arctic Monkeys – “R U Mine?”
Director: Focus Creeps (Aaron Brown and Ben Chappell)
While not their first one-shot camcorder music video (see 2009’s “Cornerstone”), the Arctic Monkeys take it up a notch here. What starts as a playful home-video-style sing-along between singer Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders quickly evolves into a sequence of increasingly surprising visual flourishes with little logical connection. Band members pop in and out of frame, masked cowgirls appear out of nowhere, a cloudy, chaotic performance reveals itself outside, all while maintaining the single-take format. Not simply settling for the now archaically fashionable videotape aesthetic to hold attention, directing team Focus Creeps twist their own concept and defy viewer expectations, achieving a video that is at once darkly cool, ridiculously fun and unexpectedly fluid, encouraging repeated view after view.—Zachary Philyaw

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