2018 is almost coming to an end and that means it is about time to look at all the highlights it brought us. It sure was an interesting year for pop music! We kick off our end of year lists with the 20 most interesting, thought provoking or simply entertaining pop music videos of the year!
20. James Bay – Wild Love
‘Wild Love’ was our first sneak peak at James Bay’s new image that went with a change of sound as well. Comeback single ‘Wild Love’ is a romantic and sensual electronic ballad and the video, directed by Marc Klasfeld, completely matches that vibe. We see Bay in a night club where he locks eyes with Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer. Surrounded by butterflies they are lifted to a stage, away from the dancing crowd, but before they can touch, Dyer disappears and only the butterflies remain. A simple, but classy depiction of the longing in the lyrics of the song!
19. St. Vincent – Fast Slow Disco
For the upbeat rework of her ballad ‘Slow Disco’, St. Vincent invited a whole lot of bears (the name often given to hairy gay men) for a steamy disco session. The track starts out with St. Vincent dancing in a club with the men, with the second part looking more like an orgy. They all end with a passionate slow dance though! St. Vincent surrounded by all those sweaty male bodies is an excellent visual that elevates the track.
18. Silk City & Dua Lipa – Electricity
After a place in the top 3 of this list last year, Dua Lipa made another eye-catching video in 2018, together with Mark Ronson and Diplo as Silk City. For the single ‘Electricity’, directors team Bradley & Pablo created a video that ironically starts out with a power outage. Lipa, who has been criticized for her dancing abilities before, convincingly dances around an apartment in a white top and underwear, while joining a sweaty rave after. Her star power carries the video while Diplo and Ronson are stuck in an elevator. A hot and steamy video!
17. Drake – God’s Plan
A lot can be (and has been) said about Drake’s music video for ‘God’s Plan’, which currently has over 900 million views on YouTube.The video budget was almost a million dollars, which he all gave away to less fortunate people with cheques, scholarships, cars, groceries, you name it! Critics were quick to judge the video as an ego trip, but in the end he did actually donate all that stuff and the reactions of the people who were on the receiving end make for a heartwarming feelgood music video!
16. Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus – Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus waited until the end of the year to drop one of the best videos. In the visuals for their collaboration ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’, a whole lot happens. Miley is chased by police while driving a car through a strip club with priests, a shooting range with practicing kids, past kneeling football players and fans who closely follow the chase. The scene with Miley crawling from the front seat to the back (possibly in reference to a paparazzi video of Britney Spears) is lowkey iconic and the crash scene towards the end is beautifully filmed. A great watch full of political easter eggs.
15. Florence + the Machine – Big God
Florence + the Machine almost topped this list back in 2015 and this year she delivered again in the music video department. We can always cound on Florence for an eye-catching, modern and expressive choreography. Director Autumn de Wilde captured Florence and a group of female dancers, performing the song ‘Big God’ in water. The concept is simple, but the raw emotion in the performance makes it impossible to look away.
14. Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry
Ariana Grande made her big comeback in April with ‘No Tears Left To Cry’. Both the video and single were a triumph. Directed by Dave Meyers, the video shows how Grande’s world was turned upside down and how she learned to navigate it. With dazzling special effects, we see her dancing on the side of a skyscraper, hanging from a stairway and moving over walls and ceilings. ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ is subtle with its message while at the same time a stunning spectacle.
13. Say Lou Lou – Golden Child
Swedish-Australian pop duo Say Lou Lou returned with a new sound and new image with some extremely strong visuals. These sisters clearly knew what they wanted with their second album Immortelle and created a powerful, slightly unsettling video in which they are forced by men to watch all kinds of violent footage while also having to take drugs. In the end they are free, riding horses and walking around naked. ‘Golden Child’ is a piece of art that deserves way more viewers than it has at the moment.
12. Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next
‘Thank U, Next’ is Ariana’s second (and not her last!) video in this top 20. For this record breaking smash hit, she revived some classic rom-coms by putting her own spin on the most famous scenes. Ari and director Hannah Lux Davis pay hommage to Mean Girls, Bring It On, 13 Going On 30 and last but not least Legally Blonde (bend and snap!). This is the first time in a while that the release of a music video was a viral event. Thank u, Ariana, for making the music video an event again!
11. Taylor Swift – Delicate
After a second place in this list last year with ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, Taylor Swift continues to slay her music videos this year. With director Joseph Kahn, she explores what it is like to be invisible. We see her crazy busy life with reporters, fans and bodyguards currently around her until not a single soul can see her anymore. She does an endearing dance routine all over the hotel, subway and rainy streets until she realizes human contact ain’t so bad after all. Taylor is electric as her goofy self!
10. Troye Sivan – Bloom
2018 was the year in which Australian pop star Troye Sivan completely embraced his queerness in his art. In 2015, he topped our best music video list with a coming of age story and this year he warmed our hearts with a stylish video full of exciting looks. We see a lot of make-up, eye-catching outfits, as long as it has bright colours. Sivan plays the camera perfectly and wears his new image with confidence and pride!
09. Paloma Faith – Loyal
Paloma Faith is known to go all out to create the perfect visual for her songs, but for ‘Loyal’ she has outdone herself. The video, directed by Jamie Travis, opens with a disturbing, violent aftermath scene with the vinyl stuck on a loop in the background. We see Faith fight with her lover in an exciting choreography that leads up to the scene we saw at the beginning. Faith is a great actress and dancer and the styling in terms of clothes and setting is A+. The video is equally humorous and disturbing, but sure one of the most original I have seen in a long while.
08. Marshmello & Bastille – Happier
Marshmello & Bastille released a real tearjerker as music video for their collaboration track ‘Happier’. Seriously, this is more sentimental than most John Lewis Christmas adverts, but we love it! We follow the friendship between a girl (played by Miranda Cosgrove as a teenager) and her pet dog. The girl faces bullying, but always has her best friend at home, until he falls ill… No I’m not crying… The video has a nice pace, is well acted out and the ending is heartwarming!
07. Years & Years – Palo Santo Short Film
For their sophomore album Palo Santo, British synth pop band Years & Years created a short film set in a dystopian society led by emotionless cyborgs. The story was written by leadsinger Olly Alexander and Fred Rowson who also directed the piece. We see how Olly, one of the last humans, is found and brought to Palo Santo to be an entertainer. Olly convinces with sensual choreography, acting out a sub plot with a dancer as love interest and his intriguing relationship with the guy who captured him. Some might say it is all a bit extra, but I don’t see the problem with that! The concept is interesting enough and the execution, including appareances by Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench (voice only), is excellent.
06. Charli XCX & Troye Sivan – 1999
We can always count on UK pop star Charli XCX to deliver highly entertaining pop videos. After directing a bunch of famous men in her ‘Boys’ video last year, she pays tribute to the 90s in her video for ‘1999’ featuring Troye Sivan. Together they imitate scenes from movies like Titanic and The Matrix, as well as music videos by the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Eminem and TLC. They do it so well you wish the video would last way longer!
05. Billie Eilish – When The Party’s Over
Billie Eilish surprised us with one of the most simple, but compelling video concepts. For the heartbreaking song ‘When The Party’s Over’ she took inspiration from a piece of fan art where she was painted with dark tears. In the video we see her downing a drink which she cries out, creating a black stream of tears rolling down her face. Not much else happens, but it is impossible to take your eyes off the screen. A little work of art!
04. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Janelle Monáe made a big comeback this year with the album Dirty Computer and an accompanying shortfilm! While still being inspired by sciencefiction, Janelle did not hide behind any character this time. She explores what it means to be a black, queer woman in today’s society, through a dystopian future in which the ‘dirty computers’ (basically people who do not fit the norm) are wiped clean. We already knew she was a great actress, but judging by for example ‘PYNK’, she also completely masters the art of creating scenes with viral potential. Janelle’s ’emotion picture’, as she likes to call it, is fire from start to finish!
03. Ariana Grande – God Is A Woman
Ariana Grande’s best video of the year was ‘God Is A Woman’ if you ask me. The video is a whirlwind of exciting visuals and a dream for everyone who was hungry for some Ariana gifs. The high paced video switches quickly from scene to scene and it is the last minute that leaves the biggest impression. The tightrope, the choir and of course Madonna’s monologue… it is all perfect! Grande shows that music videos don’t need to be lengthy with an elaborate storyline; sometimes fitting, striking visuals is all you need!
02. Childish Gambino – This Is America
I think it is safe to say that Childish Gambino created the most talked about music video of the year with ‘This Is America’. The shocking video went viral almost straight after it was released. Eventhough it was the shock value that did get people talking to begin with (Donald Glover dances around shirtless while gunning down a guitar player as well as a full choir), the sociopolitical commentary on the current state of his home country definitely reached a bigger audience thanks to it. A strong message, but also one of the most striking and powerful visuals of the year.
01. The Carters – Apeshit
You kinda have to be Beyoncé to be able to rent one of the most famous museums in the world to record a music video. Together with her husband Jay-Z she did just that in the Louvre in Paris. The result is nothing short of brilliant. The use of the artworks in the museum that fit right into the narrative and message of the music video, the sociopolitical commentary, the choreography on the stairs and of course the natural star power of miss Carter… Every single frame in this video is an artwork!