The best pop videos of 2013

Best Videos pop 2013

The fifteen best videos in pop in 2013

In the next few days I will publish some end-of-year lists to show you what my favourites were in pop music this year. I will start with the best 15 pop music videos that were released in 2013. There were quite some great videos to see the light of day this year, here is my pick:

15. Antti Tuisku – Rakkaus On.
Finnish pop star Antti Tuisku made a comeback this year with the single ‘Rakkaus On.’. The video for the song features Tuisku in various gorgeous landscapes with beautiful colours that symbolize the four elements. The parts where he is partly buried in sand are gorgeous and Antti standing on a mountain with his clothes flowing in the wind is a tad dramatic, but pretty great to look at. Visually, this is one of the most beautiful videos I have seen this year.

14. Chlöe Howl – Paper Heart
Chlöe Howl is a newcomer in the British music scene, but she will probably be one of the biggest new acts next year. The video for her single ‘Paper Heart’ has a simple concept, but is very effectively executed. We follow Chlöe when she gives a show in a park to break up with her boyfriend. The video plays nicely with the words of the song and this could definitely be called an epic way to break up with some douche bag. Well done Chlöe, we’ll hear more from you next year!

13. Gabrielle Aplin – Salvation

2013 was a big year for Gabrielle Aplin, as she released her successful debut album. She released ‘Salvation’ as the last single this year, with a gorgeous and fitting video, directed by Zaiba Jabbar. The story of needing someone to get through a tough period in life is perfectly depicted in the choreographed video. The movements, setting and atmosphere of the video all complement the song and Gabrielle herself looks stunning throughout the whole thing.

12. Jenni Vartiainen – Junat Ja Naiset
2013 has been a good year when it comes to videos by Finnish pop stars. Just like Antti Tuisku, Jenni Vartiainen made a gorgeous music video in breathtaking landscapes. In comparison to Tuisku, Vartiainen’s ‘Junat Ja Naiset’ is depicted way darker and more mysterious. The video is intriguing with all its metaphors and dark costumes. Almost every shot is beautiful and leaves you wanting to see the video again and again.

11. Diana Vickers – Cinderella
Sometimes, all a good music video needs is a cute love story. Diana Vickers must have known this when she filmed the video for her single ‘Cinderella’. The video is basically a modern take on the fairytale in which Vickers escapes from a party with a cute looking guy she just met. The two steal some drinks and end up in a pool. Nothing complicated, but just a beautifully depicted little love story of a cute and gorgeous couple.

10. Tom Odell – Another Love
This beautiful song by Tom Odell has two different videos which are both worthy of a place in this top 15. The first one was released in November 2012 and features Tom Odell in a room stoically singing the song to the camera while his girlfriend is putting op a fight with him. This was quite a hypnotic and impressive visual. In the second one, we see Odell spreading pictures of a missing girl through the city while he does not recognize her when he meets her. It is a beautiful story that goes well with the touching song. Two great videos for one song, impressive stuff!

09. Lily Allen – Hard Out Here
This, ladies and gentlemen, was the big comeback of the enfant terrible in pop music, Lily Allen. She came back in style with a funny and cheeky video that caused some controversy. The video criticized Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ with some satire, including the line ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’. The video, directed by Christopher Sweeney, in which the judgement on women in the music industry is criticized, sparked some controversy, because people thought Allen was objectifying black women. To all those people, Allen can only say: ‘If you can’t detect the sarcasm you’ve misunderstood’.

08. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
This was the year of the comeback of Justin Timberlake as well. He released some music after quite some years of focusing on his acting career. ‘Mirrors’ was his most successful single and by far his best video. The video, directed by Floria Sigismondi, depicts the love of two people throughout their lives. We see different phases of getting to know each other, a first pregnancy and the death of one of them. It is al beautifully acted and shot and in the finale, we see a beautiful scene with Timberlake surrounded by mirrors. This video was definitely the best part of his comeback.

07. Veronica Maggio – Sergels Torg
Veronica Maggio is one of Sweden’s most popular artists and she made one of the most touching and heartbreaking videos of the year for her gorgeous single ‘Sergels Torg’. The video, directed by Mans Nyman, is shot in sunny territory, which contrasts with the feelings the song and video are about. Maggio, preparing for a party on her own in an apartment with a swimming pool, is beautiful to watch and her frustration and loneliness are intense in the climax of the song. We literally see her fall apart and this never looked so beautiful before.

06. Britney Spears – Work Bitch!
And then there was a not so impressive new single by Britney Spears. The video, directed by Ben Mor, however, was quite spectacular, when compared to her visual output in recent years. She showed us some attitude and the settings in the desert, at the pool with the sharks and some of the dance scenes were all very pleasant to look at. Britney looks better than she did in years and the whole vibe of the video comes across like she had a lot of fun at the shoot. Shame about the song, but that video was pretty great!

05. Katy Perry – Unconditionally

Actually, the same goes for Katy Perry. ‘Unconditionally’ might be her weakest single so far, but that video, directed by Brent Bonacorso, is just undeniably beautiful. Perry looks gorgeous, the sets are breathtaking and the slow motion/fast forwarding editing is completely in line with the melody and beat of the song. Great dancing scenes, beautiful owls and that car crash scene, all completely gorgeous. The ‘Roar’ video was fun, but this is absolutely impressive. One of her best videos so far!

04. Anouk – Birds
Anouk, the Dutch pride at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, not only did a great performance at the show, but recorded a beautiful video for her song ‘Birds’ as well. She worked together with director Dana Nechushtan and gave the song a whole new meaning. The music video kind of feels like a short film and breathes a similar atmosphere to Black Swan. Anouk herself only plays a small part as ballet teacher. The story about suicide is not what most people had in mind with the song at first and therefore gives the song a new dimension. That is quite something to achieve with a video!

03. Beyoncé – Pretty Hurts
One of the hardest tasks in making this top 15, was choosing just one Beyoncé video from her visual album. Quite a lot of videos on this album would be good enough for this list, but I wanted to pick only one per artist. The most meaningful and impressive video on BEYONCÉ was for ‘Pretty Hurts’, directed by Melina Matsoukas. We see Beyoncé participating in a beauty pageant and the peek behind the curtain shows she is not that happy with her life. The scene halfway through where the host asks her what her aspiration in life is, which seems like an eye-opener for her, is beautifully depicted. It tells the story of the song perfectly and this is definitely one of the best videos in her career.

02. Hozier – Take Me To Church
This is the video that surprised me the most out of all the things I have seen in 2013. I was absolutely moved and impressed by it. The video, directed by Brendan Canty, shines a whole new light on the meaning of the song and it is definitely a very powerful message of love and acceptance. It is obvious that this video is saying something about the new laws in Russia that make it harder for LGBT people to live their own life and easier for hateful people to discriminate them. It is a brave step for new Irish artist Hozier to record such a video and song and I will definitely look forward to new material next year!

01. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
Most of all, 2013 was the year of Miley Cyrus. Hit after hit, controversy after controversy. Her video for the single ‘Wrecking Ball’, directed by Terry Richardson, truly delivered some iconic visuals of her naked, swinging on a wrecking ball. These images will still be remembered in a few years time in pop culture. The video is daring, but Miley at the same time acts out the vulnerability that is described in the lyrics of the song. I am not a huge fan of the hammer licking, but other than that, everything in the video perfectly complements the song. Not only did this video have a lot of impact, it is executed very well and deserves it to be crowned as best video of the year!

Last but not least, some honourable mentions: Lana Del Rey’s stunning short film Tropico, did not qualify as a music video, Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’, Beyoncé’s ‘Mine’ and ‘Haunted’ and Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’ did not make it, because other videos by the same artist did and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’ just missed out in 16th place.

Album Review: Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ

Beyoncé BEYONCÉ album cover

Beyoncé surprises the world with impressive new record

After a few unreleased promo singles and songs for commercials, a world tour without new material and a few delays of a new album, Beyoncé surprised everyone with the immediate release of her new record last Friday. No title was known, no release date was announced; she just put the self titled album on iTunes. It seems like a risky move to release without promoting the album itself, but the hype that arose on Friday could have never been created without this innovative way of releasing. The marketing strategy of this campaign is truly outstanding so far, as BEYONCÉ is breaking records when it comes to first days sales on iTunes, but does the content of the album justify the hype?

In the only press statement released, Beyoncé explains she wanted to make a ‘visual album’, because all of the songs had strong images accompanying the music, in her head. That is why she decided to shoot a music video for all of the songs on the album. These videos are available on iTunes as well, and will be released on a DVD, put together with the physical album release on the 21st of December. I put my thoughts on the videos in another post (read it here), as I have enough to go on about when it comes to the music, because this is definitely Beyoncé’s most coherent, interesting, exciting and above all, best album to date.

The album starts off with ‘Pretty Hurts’, co-written by Sia. This song could be described as the most mainstream track, as it is not miles away from Beyoncé’s previous work. It is a strong pop song with a meaningful message about today’s beauty ideals. On the next track, ‘Haunted’, Beyoncé shows a whole different side to her as an artist. The track is sensual, dark and literally sounds haunting. The pumping beats and flawless production make this track into one of the most exciting tracks of her new sound, which could be described as neo R&B that is not designed to score radio hits, but an honest, creative and personal effort.

On ‘Drunk In Love’, one of the more instant songs of the album, Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z features with a rap, but it is the immense chorus that makes it into a potential smash on urban radio. Her vocals sound wild and not so polished, which fits the sexual nature of the song. ‘Drunk In Love’ is not the only song on which Beyoncé presents herself as daring and sexy. ‘Blow’, ‘No Angel’, ‘Partition’ and ‘Rocket’ are basically all sensual sex jams, although their sounds vary from a more funky sound on the first to a typical slow jam style on the latter. ‘Rocket’ could have done with a bit more variety and a shorter duration, but this is one of the few small errors on the record.

‘Superpower’, her collaboration with Frank Ocean, who seems to have inspired the new sound of Beyoncé, has got a great hook and interesting lyrics, but the mesmerizing atmosphere and build up on ‘Mine’, which features Drake, are from an even higher level. The track takes a few listens to fully connect, but the “stop making a big deal out of the little things, because I got big deals and I got little things” parts have an irresistible hook. This is the sort of track that keeps unfolding itself with every listen. ‘Jealous’ is a more instant song with a memorable chorus and emotional and honest lyrics about frustrating uncertainty in a relationship and is definitely one of the highlights as well.

‘XO’, which seems to be planned as the first single of the record, is an uplifting track with a catchy, sweet and light chorus that feels like a warm bath. This song is a potential huge hit as it creates an undeniably feel good vibe and I can imagine everyone singing along to the chorus. Beyoncé’s vocals on the track, and on most of the record actually, are not that polished and she does not feel the need to show how she can belt all the time, which makes the album sound more honest and personal. This is apparent on the two closing tracks ‘Heaven’ and ‘Blue’. ‘Heaven’ is about the loss of someone close to you which is expressed in the simple, but effective words: “heaven couldn’t wait for you”. ‘Blue’ is a lovely and very personal song about Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s daughter, who sings a few words on the song as well.

On the first few listens this album is quite a lot to take in (that explains this lengthy review I guess), but with every listen another song grows on you and just like the release strategy, the album is a brave and risky thing to do. It is not very instant, commercial or mainstream, but the quality is undeniable. This album shows Beyoncé is still more than relevant and it definitely is her most interesting, personal and above all exciting work so far.

Must listen: Mine (feat. Drake), Haunted, XO, Drunk In Love (feat. Jay-Z), Jealous, Pretty Hurts.


Album Recensie: Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ

Beyoncé verrast de wereld met indrukwekkende nieuwe plaat

Na enkele niet uitgebrachte promo singles en liedjes voor reclames, een wereldtour zonder nieuw materiaal en uitstel van een nieuwe plaat, verraste Beyoncé vrijdag vriend en vijand met de plotselinge release van haar vijfde studioalbum. Er was nog geen titel of verschijningsdatum, maar ze bracht het naar zichzelf genoemde schijfje plotsklaps op de markt via iTunes. Het lijkt een risico om een album te lanceren zonder promotie vooraf, maar de hype die vrijdag ontstond zou niet hebben bestaan zonder deze vernieuwende manier van releasen. De marketing strategie is tot nu toe dan ook briljant te noemen, gezien BEYONCÉ records breekt als het gaat om de eerste dagen verkoop via iTunes. Maar leeft de inhoud van het album op tegen de hype eromheen?

In de enige persverklaring legt Beyoncé uit dat ze een ‘visueel album’ wilde maken, omdat alle liedjes voor haar werden vergezeld van beelden in haar hoofd. Daarom besloot ze om bij elke track op het album gelijk maar een video op te nemen. Deze clips zijn verkrijgbaar op iTunes en zullen op DVD worden uitgebracht samen met de fysieke exemplaren op 21 december. Ik behandel de video’s in een andere post (hier te lezen), omdat ik al genoeg te zeggen heb over de muziek. Dit is namelijk Beyoncé’s meest samenhangende, interessante, spannende en vooral beste album tot nu toe.

Het album begint met ‘Pretty Hurts’, medegeschreven door Sia. Dit is eigenlijk het meest mainstream liedje wat op de plaat staat, gezien het niet heel anders is dan Bee’s voorgaande werk. Het is een sterke pop song met een betekenisvolle tekst over het streven naar uiterlijke perfectie. Op het volgende liedje ‘Haunted’, laat Beyoncé gelijk een hele andere kant van zichzelf zien als artieste. De track is sensueel, donker en creëert letterlijk een ‘haunting’ sfeer. De zware beats en perfecte productie maken ‘Haunted’ tot één van de sterkste visitekaartjes van Beyoncé’s nieuwe richting, die omschreven kan worden als neo R&B die niet gemaakt is voor hits op de radio, maar een eerlijk, creatief en persoonlijk is.

Op ‘Drunk In Love’, een van de meest pakkende liedjes, rapt Beyoncé’s man Jay-Z weer een stukje mee, maar het is vooral het grootse refrein dat het tot een potentiële urban hit maakt. Haar stem klinkt wild en niet zo gepolijst, wat perfect past bij het seksuele karakter van het lied. ‘Drunk In Love’ is niet het enige lied waarop Beyoncé zich uitdagend en seksueel presenteert. Blow’, ‘No Angel’, ‘Partition’ en ‘Rocket’ zijn eigenlijk allemaal sex jams, hoewel de sounds verschillen van funky op de eerste en echte slow jam stijl op de laatste. ‘Rocket’ zou echter beter uit de verf zijn gekomen als er wat meer variatie in de melodie had gezeten en er twee minuten van de duur af waren gehaald.

‘Superpower’, haar samenwerking met Frank Ocean, wie overigens een belangrijke inspiratiebron lijkt voor de sound van dit album, heeft een sterke melodie en een interessante tekst, maar de prachtige sfeer en opbouw die zijn gecreëerd op ‘Mine’, waar Drake aan meewerkte, zijn van een nog hoger niveau. Het lied heeft een paar luisterbeurten nodig om helemaal te klikken, maar de “stop making a big deal out of the little things, because I got big deals and I got little things” passages zijn onweerstaanbaar pakkend en mooi. Dit is een song die bij elke luisterbeurt nog beter wordt. Toch laat Beyoncé horen ook meer direct pakkende songs als ‘Jealous’ nog steeds onder de knie te hebben. Het meeslepende refrein en de emotionele en eerlijke lyrics over de frustrerende onzekerheid in een relatie, zijn ook één van de hoogtepunten op de plaat.

‘XO’, het lied dat gepland lijkt als eerste single, is een aanstekelijke R&B track met een pakkend, zoet en licht refrein dat aanvoelt als een warm bad. Het is dan ook een potentiële grote hit, dankzij de onweerstaanbaar vrolijke vibe en het refrein leent zich goed om uit volle borst meegezongen te worden. Beyoncé’s stem klinkt hier, en eigenlijk op het gehele album, minder gepolijst en ze doet minder moeite om met uithalen haar talent te bewijzen, wat de eerlijke en persoonlijke noot op het album ten goede komt. Dit blijkt ook op de grotendeels ingetogen laatste liedjes ‘Heaven’ en ‘Blue’. ‘Heaven’ gaat over het verliezen van een naaste wat wordt verwoord in de simpele maar effectieve zin: “heaven couldn’t wait for you”. ‘Blue’ is een lieve en persoonlijke song die Beyoncé voor dochter Blue Ivy zingt, die zelf ook even te horen is.

Tijdens de eerste paar luisterbeurten is het nieuwe album van Beyoncé best even wennen, omdat er veel op je afkomt (dat verklaart waarschijnlijk deze veel te lange review), maar met elke keer luisteren komt er weer een nieuwe favoriet naar voren. Net als de release strategie is het hele album een dappere en risicovolle keuze. Het is niet heel pakkend, commercieel of mainstream, maar de kwaliteit is niet te ontkennen. Dit album laat zien hoe relevant Beyoncé nog steeds is en het is zeker haar meest interessante, persoonlijke en bovenal indrukwekkende werk tot nu toe.

Dit moet je horen: Mine (feat. Drake), Haunted, XO, Drunk In Love (feat. Jay-Z), Jealous, Pretty Hurts.