Welcome to the Four Weeks of Listmas, a holiday-themed breakdown of the year’s most important music. First up, the best music videos of 2018
Music videos are, above all, a matter of taste.
For example, “Thriller” might be the most iconic video of all time, but is it really the best? The dancing’s great and all, but is Michael Jackson’s character supposed to a zombie, or a werewolf or a werewolf zombie? Also, did he know that dance routine before he turned into a monster, or is dancing an innate part of the curse he’s under?
The point is, ranking videos is tough—a lot tougher than ranking albums, or songs or even Pop-Tart flavors. That’s why, instead of ranking my eight favorite music videos of 2018, I’m just throwing them out there: no numbers; no order.
If that sounds like a cop-out, that’s probably because it is. But whatever. Also, you can expect a lot more authoritative decision making throughout the rest of my “4 Weeks of Listmas” series, where I’ll be writing about all of my favorite things in music over the past year.
This is the first post in the series, but you can visit the end-of-year schedule to see everything else planned for this next month. In the meantime, sit back, grab a couple of strawberry Pop-Tarts (which are the best, by the way) and enjoy.
BROCKHAMPTON – ‘NEW ORELANS’
If BROCKHAMPTON had their own ride at Six Flags, it would look exactly like “NEW ORLEANS.” Seemingly shot in one take on a handheld camera, the video is a wild, hold-onto-your-seat ride through what it feels like to experience the band at their best.
It’s chaotic, it’s charming and, like everything BROCKHAMPTON does it’s a lot more calculated than it seems. It’s a perfect music video for a group that thrives on raw, unadulterated hype.
LCD Soundsystem – ‘oh baby’
No matter how angry you are about lightspeed ramming, Mary Poppins Leia or any of the other 12,000 things Star Wars fans hated about The Last Jedi, it’s hard to knock Rian Johnson’s raw directing skills. Love him or hate him, the dude knows how to make a sci-fi film (Looper? ever heard of it?). And with “oh baby,” that’s exactly what he got to do.
It’s not just the stunning visuals and high-concept plot that makes Johnson’s video so captivating, though. Above all, it’s the way each shot interacts with the music—equation-writing in lockstep with cymbal taps; scientific breakthroughs lined up with beat breaks—and how its sounds and imagery both culminate into a single, heart-wrenching ending.
Soccer Mommy – ‘Cool’
Not a lot happens during the “Cool” video, and that’s totally OK. Sophie Allison, better known as Soccer Mommy, spends most of the song’s three-minute runtime jamming with her band, trying on different outfits and posing around a handful of mid-2000s, Microsoft Paint-looking 2D graphics.
The video is pure aesthetic, and, in a year of big-budget, blockbuster videos—many of which show up on this list—”Cool” feels comfortingly satisfied with just being a vibe.
Childish Gambino – ‘This Is America’
Back in May, I—along with every other human being with a functional computer keyboard—wrote about what exactly made this video such a moment for Donald Glover. Everything that could ever be said about the now-440 million-view YouTube behemoth has already been said 100 times, but let’s just stop again to admire the degree of difficulty at play here.
Glover admitted as much in a recent GQ story, pointing out just how “preachy” and “pretentious” the project could have been if it hadn’t been handled with exactly the right level of subtlety, irony and jaw-dropping precision. At its heart, “This Is America” is all about execution: and thanks to that execution, it’s a bona-fide masterpiece.
Rich The Kid – ‘Plug Walk’
Ariana Grande might have pulled of the pop culture reference of the year with her “thank u, next” video, but why have accuracy when you can have irreverence? Grande’s Mean Girls tribute is impressively loyal to its source material, but Rich The Kid’s ode to Breaking Bad isn’t here for mimicry.
Beyond the fact that it features an RV and a few hazmat suits, the “Plug Walk” video has almost nothing to do with the iconic episode its opening seconds pay homage to. The visuals spin out into an outrageous, horny-alien-filled adventure: some Breaking Bad fans might not like it, but it seems like the type of party Jesse Pinkman would truly appreciate.
Janelle Monáe – ‘PYNK’
Did Janelle Monáe do anything in 2018 that wasn’t perfect? Her album received universal acclaim, she spent the summer touring the entire country and Billboard’s Women in Music event honored her with its annual trailblazer award.
Monáe is having her version of Klay Thompson’s “I literally couldn’t miss a shot if I tried” 37-point quarter right now, but, somehow, “PYNK” might be the best thing she’s done all year. The video is impeccably choreographed, oozing with raw sexual swagger and introduced the world to a totally not PG-rated new style of pants.
Mitski – ‘Nobody’
Sorry Jesse Plemons, but Mitski just might have made the best Black Mirror episodethis year. The video for “Nobody,” the second single for the singer’s now-adored Be the Cowboy album, is a frightening three-minute head-trip through a not-so-far-off future.
From iPad-faced strangers to numberless rotary phones to Russian nesting doll diaries, Mitski takes viewers on an absurdist journey through what loneliness in 2018 feels like. It’s hilarious, it’s horrifying and it takes the song’s powerful message to a totally new level.
The Carters – ‘Apeshit’
Just like “This Is America,” The Carters’ early summer masterpiece has been dissected almost as thoroughly as the classical paintings that serve as its unreal backdrop. It’s still not to be overstated though, that Beyoné and Jay-Z literally rented out the world’s most famous art museum to announce their musical return.
“Apeshit” is the flex to end all flexes, and it also just happens to make an immensely powerful statement about society’s perceptions of what—and who—we think of when we talk about wealth, art and power. Also, the fact that Quavo’s ad-libs were being played in the same room as the Venus de Milo is now an all-time piece of art history.