The 18 Best Music Videos of 2020 (So Far)

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The 18 Best Music Videos of 2020 (So Far)

It feels like there’s not a whole lot to celebrate in 2020, but one aspect of this godforsaken year that has proved fruitful is music. While the music industry itself has essentially collapsed, that hasn’t stopped artists from sharing albums, songs and music videos, in addition to livestreams from home. It’s been an especially colorful year for music videos, so we decided to round up our favorites. From a juicy beachside frolic to a Nashville apocalypse to a drag queen’s personal hell, here are the best music videos from 2020 so far, listed in alphabetical order by artist.

1. Arca: “Nonbinary”

Director: Frederik Heyman

Arca’s very existence defies conventions—not to mention the challenging experimental soundscapes that brought her fame. Several of the visuals for her latest album KiCk i portray the Venezuelan-born electronic artist as an androgynous cyborg, and they are subversive, sensory explosions. The start of the video for “Nonbinary” finds a human Arca presumably mortally wounded before she’s gradually revived by highly-advanced cyborgs and gracefully reemerges from a shell. In the final scene, two identical Arcas appear while arguing—one dressed in black, and one in white—amid violently shaky cameras and raging flames. It’s full of contradictions and cloaked in symbolism, both subtle and overt. We see a dramatic, mythical tug-of-war between organic matter and machines, masculinity and femininity, heaven and hell—plus the “thorn” in her side, and the lyrics displayed on screen which alternate between lowercase and uppercase letters. —Lizzie Manno

2. Cafe Racer: “Faces”

Director: Zach Harris

“Faces” is led by immensely blustery vocal distortion and anchored with a steady, blissfully lulling beat. Then come the frenzied guitar whooshes, cutting through the monochromatic, meditative grooves and injecting radiant chaos. It’s both a graceful, psychedelic retreat and a hyperaware paradox of art rock sounds. This Zach Harris-filmed, black-and-white video stars co-lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Santana. It follows Santana as he solemnly makes his way through town to a graveyard—though we’re not sure if he’s there to visit anyone in particular. Suddenly, the camera cuts to two figures dancing expressively and longingly in a dark room, and as soon as we’re reacquainted with Santana, he arises from a bench and begins a similar interpretive dance. Images of these two scenes are then superimposed, resulting in an artful, emotional surge. Were these dancers someone that he knew and have since passed away? Is Santana hallucinating these images in the snowy cemetery where he’s perched? Or do they simply represent the dramatic tides in Santana’s mind? —Lizzie Manno

3. Cam: “Till There’s Nothing Left”

Director: Dano Cerney

“Till There’s Nothing Left” looks at love from a different angle. Cam wrote it for her husband, and it’s about going all in on a relationship. “My husband and I will go drive and have a quickie in the back of the car,” she divulges. “Why am I embarrassed to sing about that? ‘Till There’s Nothing Left’ is a commitment. It’s saying—I am gonna love you with everything I have, physically, spiritually, I’m so in.” We’re so in, too. Dano Cerney (The Chainsmokers, Elle King, Bishop Briggs) directed the song’s video, which briefly depicts one of those aforementioned car hookups, but with a twist: It’s the night of the apocalypse in Nashville, Tenn., and this pair of lovers aren’t wasting a single second that they have left. The smart, sensual song plays along as hurricanes and debris swarm around Nashville landmarks while saloon-dwellers (including a couple of gay cowboys, which is still a touchstone worth making a note of in country music, even in 2020) take their last breaths—and drinks. —Ellen Johnson

4. Christine and the Queens: La vita nuova

Director: Colin Solal Cardo

Earlier this year, Christine and the Queens released a surprise EP with an accompanying short film titled La vita nuova. The film was shot by Colin Solal Cardo at the Palais Garnier and features Caroline Polachek, who appears on one of the EP’s tracks. Choreography for the film was handled by Ryan Heffington, known for his work with Maddie Ziegler for Sia’s “Chandelier” video, as well as Arcade Fire’s “We Exist.” The film has a luscious, glittery sheen and bodily, primeval dancing reminiscent of Luca Guadagnino’s recent Suspiria remake. Chris (or Héloïse Letissier) struggles with her feelings for a horned creature credited as “The Fauna” (Félix Maritaud). There’s several gorgeous shots of the famed Parisian opera house, with styling that reflects the eclectic blend of baroque, classic and renaissance architecture present within the building. —Austin Jones

5. Crack Cloud: “Ouster Stew”

Director: Self-directed

In comparison to the tightly-coiled, guitar-driven post-punk of Crack Cloud’s self-titled release, “Ouster Stew” is more colorful and eccentric—adding synths and saxophone into the mix. Lead singer Zach Choy’s (the group are adamant not to call him a frontman, doubling down on their decentralized model) vocals are positively waggish as their guitars squawk with an art-rock-meets-funk vivacity. Perhaps most unexpected is the bare, pronounced, mid-song drum solo, during which chaos breaks out in the song’s dramatic, high-concept video. Their visuals and sonic ambition recall the aesthetics of U.K. outfit HMLTD, whose 2020 debut album, West of Eden, also infused militaristic, high art, gothic and theatrical imagery. —Lizzie Manno

6. Dehd: “Loner”

Directors: Ryan Hart & Emily Kempf

Dehd play around with the ideas of heaven and hell during this uproarious video for the lead single from their new album Flower of Devotion, “Loner.” A strung-out drag queen falls into a rather stark interpretation of hell, only to dance with the devil and reclaim her wings in the process. The song itself needs no external visuals to be enjoyed, but this video is a hell-of-a great time to watch. —Ellen Johnson

7. Fontaines D.C. : “A Hero’s Death”

Director: Hugh Mulhern

Fontaines D.C.’s announcement of their next album A Hero’s Death arrived with the unveiling of the album’s title track and an accompanying chat show-themed music video starring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire, Peaky Blinders) as the smiley host. The song features brooding plug-and-chug guitars, but there’s a lightness in their Beach Boys-like backing vocal “bop’s” and a strange bittersweetness in Grian Chatten’s recitation of the phrase “Life’s not always empty.” Another phrase “goes around, goes around” is a subtle nod to their Dogrel track “Too Real,” which features the same line with emphatic power. —Lizzie Manno

8. HAIM: “Don’t Wanna”

Director: Jake Schreier

Shortly after releasing their new album Women In Music Pt. III, HAIM unveiled a new music video for the groovy song “Don’t Wanna.” Working with director Jake Schreier yet again, the three women walk in the parking lot of L.A.’s Forum, gradually falling out of step and struggling until they’re running. It’s a symbol for the messy interconnectedness of sisterhood, plus there’s a pretty sunset in the background. —Danielle Chelosky

9. Harry Styles: “Watermelon Sugar”

Directors: Bradley & Pablo

The former One Direction frontman shared the beachside music video for his song “Watermelon Sugar” (from last year’s Fine Line) in May, and it’s a bonanza of sexually suggestive images, from slurps of the titular juicy fruit to the piles of smiling women to Styles pointing his lips skyward and licking them at no one in particular. However, this sugary summer masterpiece is in no way sexually explicit. Yet, it’s more lewd than nudity because it’s fruit, we’re talking about here—a most innocent food! And the best part is Harry’s being entirely upfront about his intentions for the video: The opening credits proclaim, “This video is dedicated to touching.” Sigh, remember “touching”? Truly nothing in this world sounds as scandalously enticing as frolicking through a beach party hosted by a horn-dog Harry Styles, but since that is impossible for a number of reasons, the pure delight of watching this video will have to suffice. —Ellen Johnson

10. Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me”

Director: Robert Rodriguez

The music industry has seen some high-profile sisterhood blossom over the past few months, including this fantastic female collaboration: Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande sing together of Gaga’s Chromatica single “Rain On Me.” “Rain On Me,” the second single released off of her May 29 album, is all about the catharsis—and freedom—of being able to embrace life’s cloudier days. The music video is a pink and purple pop landscape featuring lots of latex, raining knives (?!) and some much appreciated Gaga/Grande hugs. —Lia Pikus

11. Orville Peck: “No Glory in the West”

Director: Isaiah Seret

Masked country cowboy Orville Peck traverses snowy caps and fields on horseback in this deceptively dreary clip. The landscapes call to mind Game of Thrones or True Grit, but Peck brings his own smooth singing and Wild West attitude to otherwise familiar scenery. The result is a video that’s pleasant to watch, if only for its striking portraits of nature. —Ellen Johnson

12. Perfume Genius: “Describe”

Director: Mike Hadreas

Mike Hadreas returned this year like you’ve never heard him before. “Describe,” finds Hadreas exploring all-new sonic territory, embodying Americana classics like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, with arena-filling slide guitars and roots-rock, blue-collar attitude. Of course, given who Hadreas has been as an artist so far, it feels intentionally iconoclastic, a play on masculine expectations and boundaries. The video opens with Hadreas taking a big, confrontational puff of a cigar, donning a dirty white tank top as he occupies a prairie farm. —Austin Jones

13. Phoebe Bridgers: “Kyoto”

Director: Nina Ljeti

“Kyoto” followed the previous single released from Phoebe Bridgers’ new album Punisher, the somber “Garden Song.” Originally set to be filmed in Japan earlier this year, the global pandemic halted those production plans. But Bridgers opted to cheekily use a green screen in order to create a magical video, donning a skeleton-print onesie, gliding on electric train tracks and flying over the ocean. “This song is about impostor syndrome,” Bridgers says. “About being in Japan for the first time, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and playing my music to people who want to hear it, feeling like I’m living someone else’s life. —Natalia Keogan

14. Protomartyr: “Processed By The Boys”

Directors: David Allen & Nathan Faustyn

The first single from Protomartyr’s forthcoming record, “Processed By The Boys,” has the classic wall-of-noise feel of a Protomartyr track, with the hilarious visual of a C-SPAN studio audience member being harassed by a puppet while Casey sings. The music video, directed by David Allen & Nathan Faustyn, and produced by HLPTV & LooseMeat.Biz, is actually based on a viral video clip titled “Puppet trolling viewer during the concert live on Brazilian TV.” The band apparently became obsessed with the clip and knew they wanted to recreate it themselves. “As soon as we heard the concept, we knew how to take the band’s ideas and coalesce them into this sort of timeless public access chaos,” Faustyn says in a statement. —Natalia Keogan

15. Rico Nasty: “Popstar”

Director: Jason Joyride

At first pass, the folly and downright foolishness of this Rico Nasty video might resemble the aesthetic of Regina George’s Burn Book in Mean Girls. But it’s actually a mood board for being unbothered, a mood that few pull off as well as the D.C.-born rapper. With newspaper clippings and batting eyelashes abounding, Rico Nasty warns the listener to never fall in love with a pop star—or a rock star, for that matter. —Ellen Johnson

16. Selena Gomez: “Rare”

Director: BRTHR

The music video for the title track from Selena Gomez’s 2020 album Rare is nothing short of a jungle fever dream. The editing is spectacular, and the visuals—flashing club lights, bubbles, towering palms, tie-dye ambience—are a delight to behold. While it may look like visions brought on by hallucinogenic drugs, the “Rare” video is actually the companion to one of Gomez’s most down-to-earth songs. Who doesn’t want to feel special in a relationship? Gomez is being ignored, and she’s so distracted by feelings wanted that she’s burning the toast in her toaster. You’ll practically smell the ashes before the video transforms into what looks like a bonus scene from Annihilation. —Ellen Johnson

17. Tennis: “Need Your Love”

Director: Luca Venter

Tennis have always had great music videos, thanks in large part to their creative partner Luca Venter, who through the years has helped the husband-wife duo maintain their distinct retro aesthetic. “Need Your Love,” a track from their 2020 album Swimmer, has a simpler concept than most of their videos, but that’s why it works so well. The desert and shoreline scenes are just beautiful, and Alaina Moore appears as confident as ever standing boldly in front of a cobalt-blue sky. Sometimes the prettiest music videos are the best. —Ellen Johnson

18. The Weeknd: “Blinding Lights”

Director: Anton Tammi

The Weeknd’s 2020 album After Hours has a daring urgency to it, so it makes sense that the video for highlight track and massive hit “Blinding Lights” would involve a high-speed car chase. But the sleek convertible isn’t even the best part: The Weeknd dances through the streets in a crazed Joker-style, parades through empty ballrooms and smokes a cigarette like it’s his last. The whole video is indulgent, and I’m not even sure what the point is, but it has the feel of a thrilling amusement park ride (specifically the Tron test track ride at Disney World’s Epcot—anyone?). So if convertibles and dancing like a lunatic are your thing, buckle up. —Ellen Johnson

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