The 14 Best Music Videos of 2014
There’s really only one guideline to follow, in my humble opinion, when making a great music video; it should serve the song it’s drawn from, not distract/detract from it.
Very often, the imagery of a video can become the story, and the song that inspired it becomes just a title in the headline. When a director/artist puts substance at least on par with style however, a clip can make a real and lasting impact on a viewer. If you think back to any videos you’ve seen in 2014, what pops out? (Maybe Sia’s personification in “Chandelier”, Nicki Minaj’s writhing in “Anaconda”, or Adult Swim’s incredular “Too Many Cooks”?) Here are the 14 music videos that made a dent in me (*soapbox dismount*).
You can also view the entire YouTube playlist of 2014’s best music videos, featuring 100 clips of every type you can imagine, right here<<<.
14. ODESZA – “Say My Name (ft. Zyra)” – Dir. Ian Pons Jewell
Turning the couple-does-an-adorable-home-invasion trope on it’s head, you’re left with a narrative twist that manages to simultaneously break your heart and then just barely tape it back together.
13. Paolo Nutini – “Iron Sky” – Dir. Daniel Wolfe
This is 2014’s example of a song’s attitude and tempo being
perfectly superbly matched by it’s video. In this case, Nutini’s vocals are the color used in Wolfe’s arcing faux-documentary about a fictional drug’s impact on a eastern european populus.
12. Glasser – “Shape” – Dir. Jonathan Turner
As completely surreal as Turner’s vision for Glasser’s “Shape” is, if you actually think about it, the director needed to have every space and scene of the quicksilver microverse mapped out before Cameron Mesirow was even brought in to do the physicality. Then they needed to build/find/describe those objects she interacted with in the studio. And while that ponderance might dull some of the magic of the video for you, it thrills me.
11. Fever The Ghost – “SOURCE” – Dir. Felix Colgrave
The wild and miscellaneous creature feature direction this video takes might be a stretch for my one rule, but the saving grace is that it’s abundantly clear by the pacing and rhythm of Felix Colgrave’s animation that he had Fever The Ghost’s “SOURCE” in his head the entire time he was sketching. The result is an acidic treat for your eyes.
10. Dizzee Rascal – “Pagans” – Dir. Emile Sornin
For a song that pretty much amounts to rapid fire shit talking directed at today’s young punks, the video for “Pagans” does a fantastic job of convincing you that Rascal is a certified badass and well entitled to every laurel he has placed on his (own) head. But mostly it’s just fun to watch Dizzee shoot lightning at bad guys.
9. Panda Bear – “Boys Latin” – Dir. Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch
I’ve read a lot of interpretations of what this video featuring a woman, a man, and a kid in a very psychedelic world made of tidal pools may “mean”, but every one comes out as some gender psychobabble about role reversal or binary sexuality. But if you really don’t think about it, and enjoy it for what it is, it’s a beautiful clip that makes the most sense with some herbal help.
8. The Staves – “Blood I Bled” – Dir. Nick Rutter
This may be a case of a fantastic song painting a video in a rose-tinted light, but director Nick Rutter and photography director Ben Fordesman have done a beautiful piece of work for the sibling group The Staves. The Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) produced “Blood I Bled” would probably become an amazing inspirational backdrop for any clip, but the way Rutter and Fordesman weave the street casted stories together in the Uran region of India is a naturally lit sight to see.
7. FKA Twigs – “Video Girl” – Dir. Kahlil Joseph
Initially, seventh place was a dead heat between FKA Twig’s “Video Girl” and her “Two Weeks”, but the former choice directed by the great Kahlil Joseph is much harder to watch for all the right reasons.
6. Brave Shores – “Never Come Down” – Dir. Tony Ho
Because you’ll smile every time you watch this tale of the perfect wish and its consequences coming true.
5. Kimbra – “90s Music” – Dir. Justin Francis
If your long-term memory was in place by the 90s, you’ll know just how spot on Kimbra’s lead single of The Golden Echo is at capturing several styles of the decade into one song. Even more remarkable is how director Justin Francis’ has recreated the visual styles that could only be previously seen if you somehow managed to find an old VHS tape that had four hours of VH1 hip-hop/rap music videos on it. The make-up, the outfits, the dancing, all of it is straight from Missy Elliot’s sugar-fevered dreams.
4. Hawk House – “Chill Pill (Experiment 2)” – Dir. Thomas Rhazi
Symmetry in music videos is underrated/undervalued. Thomas Rhazi and UK’s Hawk House know this.
3. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (ft. Kendrick Lamar)” – Dir. Hiro Murai
Hiro Murai is a goddamn superstar in the music video world right now. Click on his name in the title above and you’ll see just how many of the best clips of the last five years were directed by the man. He can tell a story with deceptively simple touches, you won’t even realize how deep it’s already gone into your memory. Together with director of photography Larkin Sieple, choreographers Keone and Mariel, and recent events being what they are, his clip for Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me” mixes grief with just the right amount of joy.
2. Ten Walls – “Walking With Elephants” – Dir. NEZ
This was the only video this year that actually made me say “…whoa…” aloud. May we never take drone operated camera work for granted.
1. Iamamiwhoami – Blue Cycle – Dir. WAVE
If you haven’t heard of who or what Iamamiwhoami (I am, am I, who am I) really is, it’s essentially a Scandinavian collective, made of Jonna Lee, the vocalist and woman featured in the videos, Claes Björklund the producer of the music behind the songs, and on the brand new Blue project, John Strandh as the director of photography. Together, the three of them create synchronous audio and video that tell stories.
Throughout 2014, the trio have released ten sequential videos, one for every song on the Blue album, each one featuring gorgeous aquatic landscapes, and mysterious figures in black following Lee. The exact meaning of these videos is always a matter of international fan debate/obsession (just look at any comment section), Iamamiwhoami never explain or ascribe any detailed narrative to their videos. But to me, that’s exactly what makes them better than anything that has been released this year. Every album and every video they make connects, but lets the viewer/fan make their own interpretations at their own pace.
And while it’s all admittedly gloriously odd, if you sit down and watch one video, you’ll admit they’re also gorgeously memorable. And over the course of the ten videos, set designer Agustín Moreaux and designer Mathieu Mirano help make the Blue cycle one of Jonna Lee’s best efforts thanks to their slow progression of open and colorful backdrops, into something darker with more confining costumes and scenery; a winding and wild journey from day to night.
*As an egotastical bonus, this is my entire playlist of my favorite music videos, collected throughout the year. There’s 101 of them. Click play at your own risk, and enjoy.*