The 25 Best Music Videos of 2013


Kanye West, “Bound 2”

Wherein Kanye continues to dismantle white American iconography, subverting it by placing himself (and his topless reality star of a honey) in the middle of it all. This is Kanye deconstructing Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Elvis all at once while instilling fear of a black planet. Fowle


Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife”

In which Paul Thomas Anderson obliges Fiona Apple, making her heart a CinemaScope screen. But he doesn’t show the dancing bird of paradise—rather, through a series of multiple split-screen shots that juxtapose his former squeeze with her backup singers (Apple and her sister), he cannily keys us to the rhythmic intricacies of the song. This isn’t so much about the genesis of rhythm as it is about furthering our appreciation of it. Gonzalez


Beach House, “Wishes”

In which Ray Wise straddles a white horse and rides off into the sunset, but not before bringing the gathered crowd at what appears to be the prep-sports version of the Hunger Games to an equine frenzy with his siren song. Somewhere out there, Laura Palmer is crying into her bloodied pom-poms. Henderson


M.I.A., “Y.A.L.A.”

In M.I.A.’s world, vibrant paisley, candy colors, inner illumination, phosphorescent lipsticks, and flickering strobes are all among the many tools in a bottomless supply of artistic assault weapons. Despite the obligatory warning to epileptics that kicks it off, “Y.A.L.A.” means to leave viewers nursing a magenta bruise. Henderson


Earl Sweatshirt featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies, “Hive”

If Tyler, the Creator’s videos are all about overblown, colorful images in line with OFWGKTA’s Loiter Squad aesthetic, Earl’s “Hive” acts as a counterbalance, more in touch with the menacing Odd Future of a few years ago. The minimalistic, barely lit setting presents Earl and his crew as a hooded force lurking in the shadows, and suggests that Odd Future—and rap music—doesn’t have to be loud and abrasive to be threatening. Fowle


Shugo Tokumaru, “Katachi”

Not since Michel Gondry’s prime has lo-fi craft been this dizzying, as the beats of Shugo Tokumaru’s bouncy, recorder-laced ditty serve as the pulse for a stop-motion adventure in traversing construction paper cut-outs. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one frame. Henderson


Gesaffelstein, “Pursuit”

With equal amounts fascination and repulsion, this gorgeously constructed whatsit perpetually pulls away from a series of ostentatious tableaus that evoke aristocratic authority, surveillance, sex, and military might. Fittingly, no expense seems to have been spared in the desire to convey humankind’s pursuit of power since time immemorial. Gonzalez


Duck Sauce, “It’s You”

This predictably goofball video from Duck Sauce sweetly tributes the barbershop as a nexus of African-American experience. More slyly, it reckons with and celebrates identity as cultural costuming. What’s hair got to do with it? Everything if it can give you a beat. Gonzalez


Chance the Rapper, “Everybody’s Something”

Using the simplest of superimposition techniques, director Austin Vesely profoundly articulates how the “Chicago blues,” all of the city’s joys and demons, past and present, not only perpetually seethe inside Chance the Rapper, but define him as a man and give his music its unique fire. Gonzalez


FKA twigs, “Papi Pacify”

Only the cinematography is strictly black and white in this clip, as inscrutable, disturbingly shaded dynamics of a possibly unwanted and uninvited sexual encounter play out in forward and reverse, like a nightmare counterpart to Bruce Conner’s Breakaway with an insistent oral fixation. Henderson