From high-concept pieces of art like Gord Downie’s “The Secret Path” and Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” to an eerily prophetic effort featuring David Bowie, 2016 was a big year for music videos.
Here are the music videos that captured our attention this year.
Arkells — “Drake’s Dad”
The Arkells partied with Dennis Graham in this video, hence the name. Max Kerman wrote a note on the experience that inspired the video: “Last summer I was on a road trip with my best friends through the American south, and in the magic of the night, we happened to meet Drake’s dad — Dennis Graham — in a Memphis bar…He couldn’t have been more gracious, especially given that there were 16 of us, drunk on friendship and cheap American beer. This chance encounter inspired this song.”
The Avalanches — “Because I’m Me”
This video features an adorable kid performing for a woman he loves and wishes would love him back. Camp-Lo verses over breakdancing and brass “knock it out the ball park, Frankie.”
Band of Horses — “Casual Party”
Band of Horses’ video for “Casual Party” will probably make you feel violated. Who knew a meat covered man bathing in a tub of sausages could be so disturbing.
Beyonce — “Lemonade”
On April 23 Beyonce wowed us with the release of her visual album Lemonade, as well as an accompanying 60-minute film that premiered on HBO. Along with the album release, Beyonce released a number of standalone music videos, including this one for “All Night.”
David Bowie — “Lazarus”
This video for “Lazarus” was released shortly before Bowie died following a long battle with cancer. Images of Bowie in a hospital bed and struggling to write his thoughts down haunt this video.
DJ Shadow feat. RTJ — “Nobody Speak”
In the words of Run the Jewels, “Nobody speak, nobody get choked.”
Gord Downie – “The Secret Path”
While this list is filled with creative concepts and stunning images, it would be a pointless exercise to try and find a video that is more important than Downie’s “The Secret Path.” The film/album/graphic novel tells the story of Chanie Wenjack’s attempt to escape a residential school in 1966. The project is in line to become part of school curriculum in Canada.
Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
Most of this video is shot in a Toronto subway and shows Grimes and her crew dressed up as Cyberpunks and driving an alleged Barbie-mobile. Apparently when Grimes envisioned this video, she felt inspired to create something that was a “mixture of Godfather and Twilight.”
Jamie xx — “Gosh”
Jamie xx always makes cool music videos. This one has plenty for your eyes to feast on.
Japanese Breakfast — “Everybody Wants to Love You”
Rumours have it that the traditional Korean hanbok that Michelle Zauner is wearing in this video was actually her mother’s. She spent her entire time filming trying not to ruin it.
July Talk — “Beck + Call”
Watch Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay aim to express the frustration behind “the common unbalance of power dynamics in modern relationships” in movement and dance. A very beautiful and well-done video.
Kaytranada — “Lite Spots”
So far a common theme on our “best of” lists has been Kaytranada, because this new artist has blown us away on so many levels this year. This music video is no exception — who doesn’t love a dancing robot?
Mitski — “Happy”
This ironically titled music video is full of commentary on everyday American life and values. Some have even expressed their desire to have this made into a movie.
Ok Go — “The One Moment”
Fun fact: this entire video was actually shot in only 4.2 seconds.
Phantogram — “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”
Latex + Phantogram walking away from a tsunami + random images that will make you feel weird = a really badass music video.
PUP — “Sleep in the Heat”
Honestly, this video will just make you cry. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Andy Shauf – “The Magician”
The opening track from Andy Shauf’s 2016 album The Party sets the mood perfectly for his Polaris Prize-shortlisted effort. Directed by Winston Hacking, the video for “The Magician” features perfectly bizarre moving cut-and-paste visuals over Shauf’s face.
The Shins — “Dead Alive”
The Shins released their video for “Dead Alive” (not to be confused with the 1992 gore film of the same name) just in time for Halloween. The video features some of the best 1950s horror movie tropes out there. Try The Blob meets Attack of the 50 Foot Woman meets Poltergeist, with a few low budget skeletons sprinkled on top. Is the name of the song a bad pun on Evil Dead? We’ll never know.
Solange — “Cranes in the Sky”
Beyonce wasn’t the only Knowles sister with a few tricks up her sleeves this year. Not only did she drop a widely acclaimed album A Seat at The Table, but in October she released this extremely powerful, free, and telling music video for her song “Cranes in the Sky.”
Tanya Tagaq – “Centre” (ft. Shad)
Tagaq’s throat-singing and Shad’s verses are complemented by Chad VanGaalen’s visuals of themes that “Centre” around life and the universe. VanGaalen has said “Truth be told, I would have enjoyed having a full year to work on it…”
Tegan and Sara — “Dying to Know”
This Miami Vice inspired music video has everything you love about Tegan and Sara. These two sisters never fall short.
A Tribe Called Red – “The Virus”
The Ottawa, Ontario-based trio enlisted activist/poet/rapper Saul Willams and First Nations drum group Chippewa Travellers to lend a hand on this visually-stunning video directed by Tunkasila.
Vince Staples — “Primma Donna”
This short film is both creepy and brilliant. With hotel wallpaper that matches the design of the carpet in The Shining and references to late artists like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, and Tupac, there is so much happening in this video that you’ll probably discover something new each time you watch it.
Stay tuned to Indie88.com over the holidays for our entire Best of 2016 series.
Up next: Best Movies of 2016 (Wednesday, December 28)