This year was a weird one for music videos, what with Miley trying her very best to offend as many people as possible, and Robin Thicke not quite understanding how to make his provocative lyrics feel any less misogynistic. Billboard has begun to count YouTube views in their chart calculations, and any decent song can hit number one if the video’s innovative (or provocative) enough to go viral. That said, there were droves of music videos that set expectations higher this year, more than can fit in any list. Here are 10 that exemplify the qualities that keep a video on our minds, from feel-good simplicity or cinematic value to good humor or interactive elements.
10. Alex Bleeker & The Freaks – “Step Right Up
Directed by: Richard Law
Alex Bleeker, who has certainly seen his share of big musical festivals with his other band Real Estate, captures the spirit of the campgrounds with this video for “Step Right Up.” Featuring Bleeker walking around the festival site with a strange hat and a natural cast of festival oddities mulling around in the background, it’s a simple, feel-good expression of the way people can still enjoy music in an organic,refreshingly un-processed way.
9. HAIM – “The Wire”
Produced by: Good Company
Given their take-over of the airwaves and the Internet, seeing the Haim sisters break a few hearts in their music video for “The Wire” is probably to be expected, but that doesn’t make their depiction any less fun. The sisters take turns coolly dumping their unsuspecting boyfriends, who take it pretty tough as the girls brush it off, singing “I know, I know, I know, I know that you’re gonna be okay anyway.” It turns the track into an anthem of post-break-up eye-rolls, and the sisters’ impatience for their exes’ emotional theatrics feels on-point for a generation of Katniss Everdeens. (Besides, GIRLS fans, can we all agree it’s kinda fun to watch Booth Jonathan get dumped for a change?)
8. Phoenix – “Trying to Be Cool”
Directed by: CANADA in conjunction with The Creator’s Project
If Phoenix’s idea of trying to be cool involves fog machines, animals in office chairs, firing off cannons and mirrors on the ceiling, maybe they’re onto something. None of the events in this seem to have absolutely anything to do with each other except maybe that they might make you feel like a badass, from owning a kid at chess to showing off ping pong skills to busting through a paper wall. Besides, nothing says “trying (too hard) to be cool” like picking out a pre-groomed mustache from a board of options.
7. Kanye West – “Bound 2”
Directed by Nick Knight
Yep, this video is cheesy. Yep, Kim Kardashian’s naked in it. Yep, “Bound 2” is the reason we were all subjected to “”Bound 3*. But despite all of this, in less than a month, the imagery in this video has already reached an iconic status, a reminder that even when Kanye West kind of sucks, he also kind of rules, and none of us can look away.
*It should be noted that “Bound 3” received several votes as well.
6. Django Django – “WOR”
Directed by: Jim Demuth
With the help of the folks over at Noisey, Django Django turned the video for their epic song “Wor” into a mini-documentary of sorts, focusing on the Well of Death riders in Allahabad, India. It’s exhilarating and exciting, but the most fascinating part of the video is the interview aspect, in which the riders explain away their profession. “There’s danger in everything, even in walking on the road.” It’s an interesting perspective that pairs well with the track.