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.

5. Ben Folds Five- “Do It Anyway”
Director: Phil Hodges
The reunited, mathematically challenged trio enlisted a bunch of Fraggles (is that a gaggle or a flock?) for their new video. The lack of Doozers is more than made up for by the presence of Rob Corddry as the slick, clueless producer, who intros the song, “Ben Folds Five, you ready to change rock ‘n’ roll?” Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick and actress Anna Kendrick also appear in the video but the real stars are Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, Red and Uncle Traveling Matt, along with Folds’ rollicking piano and a driving bass line from Robert Sledge.—Josh Jackson

4. Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”
Director: AG Rojas
“Sixteen Saltines” is a volatile mash-up of grubby kids and destruction for destruction’s sake. As Jack White struggles against his bound limbs at the hands of adolescents, the youthful cast finds creepily inventive ways of entertaining themselves. It seems to be a suburban wasteland and a breeding ground for dangerous ideas and creative drug use, when the participants aren’t busy taking part in some kind of flash mob or bloody outdoor baseball game. That kind of jarring and relentlessly energetic scene is the kind of thing that makes Jack White so fascinating. You never know what he’ll do next, and while it may be odd or vaguely unnerving, you just can’t look away. —Dacey Orr

3. Grimes – “Oblivion”
Director: Emily Kai Bock
In this beautifully shot clip, director Emily Kai Block places Grimes’ Claire Boucher and her dancy electro-pop within the seemingly opposite world of violent, masculine sports and physicality. But “Oblivion” is a video not only of presenting dualities, such as masculine and feminine, but of subverting preconceived notions regarding such opposites. Split between the spontaneous on-location shots of football games and motocross races, and the highly staged interiors of a locker room and a slam-dance house party, Grimes is placed at the center of it all. Rather than settle as a spectator, Boucher instead performs to the arena itself. Grimes’ music has often been described as feminine, and perhaps in many ways it is, but “Oblivion” displays a welcoming, inclusive nature where such definitions prove to hold little meaning.—Zachary Philyaw

2. tUnE-yArDs – “My Country”
Director: Mimi Cave
It’s easy to love these aggressively adorable swarms of children, but it may be easier to love the cause that drove tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus to make this memorable video. As funds for the arts in schools were being cut, she gathered kids from the San Francisco Rock Project, a non-profit organization that brings music to children, for a colorful exploration of how a world without arts makes the youngsters feel. Whether they’re angstily strumming a guitar, trapped in a claustrophobic room or strung up by their hair, these kids seem to be asking the question Garbus sings: “If nothing of this is ours, how will I ever know if something’s mine?—Dacey Orr

1. M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”
Director: Romain Gavras
The absurdities are what make this empowering. Speeding cars, provocative moves and smoky stunts may be necessities in any music video touting the phrase “Live fast, die young,” but transplanting these attention-grabbing extravagancies to a pummeled backdrop in the desert reveals them for the odd gimmicks that they are. From nonchalant nail-grooming atop a car on two wheels to women gyrating with assault weapons, it’s a chaotic jumble of powerful imagery. Blending the most stereotypical aspects of American and Middle Eastern culture into one common picture, this video can be enjoyed at face value or after devling deeper into the issues facing women around the world.—Dacey Orr

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