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The 25 Best Music Videos of 2012

Our list includes three videos from Sigur Rós's Valtari Mystery Film Experiment. [Photo: XL]

The 25 Best Music Videos of 2012

The entries on this list offer a glimpse of the staggeringly dissimilar outcomes of music video's democratization, running the gamut from shiny, well-choreographed dance numbers to high-art conceptual pieces. There's no theme or mood uniting these videos aside from the fact that a director no longer needs a cadre of set designers, caterers, stylists, and dancers to craft a captivating vision—proving that the power to not only make media, but imaginative media that reaches a large swath of the public now rests in the hands of a large and diverse group of not-always-professional auteurs.  Kevin Liedel

25. Le1f, "Wut" (Director: Sam Jones). Wut indeed. The hips of this rebel of the neon god, whose couture appears to have been designed by Project Runway alum and androgyne Fabio Costa, exist to shake things up. And like this swagger, the video's practically Dadaist images are a hilariously winking "fuck you" to rap music's heterosexist bias.  Ed Gonzalez

24. Björk, "Mutual Core" (Director: Andrew Thomas Huang). Leave it to Björk to anthropomorphize the Earth's tectonic plates. The lyrics to "Mutual Core" sometimes feel like she's reading from a science textbook ("As fast as your fingernail grows/The Atlantic Ridge drifts"), but the video brings the song to explosive life, with Björk, naturally, in the role of neglected Mother Nature.  Sal Cinquemani

23. Sigur Rós, "Ekki Múkk" (Director: Nick Abrahams). Practically a rebuke to the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog, starring Game of Thrones's Petyr Baelish being guided across a vast field by a wise snail toward an injured fox he comforts in its last moments. The snail's narration can be a bit on the nose, but the mood of loss and loneliness is striking, as is the image of three creatures of different sizes meeting each other on the same level of mortal understanding.  Gonzalez

22. Major Lazer, "Get Free" (Director: SoMe). "I just can't believe what they've done to me/We can never get free," Amber from Dirty Projectors sings on Major Lazer's "Get Free," her plaintive lamentation juxtaposed with images of people doing precisely that in the streets, gyms, salons, and discotheques of Jamaica.  Cinquemani

21. M.I.A., "Bad Girls" (Director: Romain Gavras). Wonderfully ridiculous in its juxtaposition of American excess and stereotypical Middle Eastern imagery, M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" treats viewers to illegal desert races full of drifting BMWs, burning oil wells, and hijab chic. In the middle of it all is M.I.A. herself, and deservedly so, as few other artists could lace such a wild, colorful collage with powerful but subtle nods to Saudi Arabia's "women to drive" movement.  Liedel

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