The 25 Best Music Videos of 2014

The 25 Best Music Videos of 2014

 

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Trendspotting is a tricky enterprise. Styles, gimmicks, and pop formulas quickly come and go; it’s more about finding patterns. One theme that emerged over and over this year was the music video that offered a behind-the-scenes, sometimes meta, look at image-making. Beyond the clips that made our list, like Cashmere Cat’s “Wedding Bells” and Odesza’s “Say My Name,” which cleverly underlined the function of the single as an album trailer and examined the line between fiction and reality, respectively, runners up Philip Segway’s “Coming Up for Air” and Hawk House’s “Chill Pill (Experiment 2)” provided literal glimpses into how moving images are shaped, while OK Go’s “I Won’t Let You Down” and Clipping’s “Work Work” made it impossible to ignore the technical agility with which they were created. The practical ins and out of cinema, however, weren’t the only topics deconstructed by artists and video directors this year: DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” explored the unexplained impetus behind the urge to move, Vic Mensa’s “Down on My Luck” dissected the consequences of impulse, and material girl Brooke Candy’s “Opulence” spotlighted the obscenity of excess. And while we’d be remiss not to mention 2014’s other “big” trend (on proud display in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” Mastodon’s “The Motherload,” Arca’s “Thievery,” Kylie Minogue’s “Sexercise,” and of course, Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea’s “Booty”), there just wasn’t room for all that donk on our list. Sal Cinquemani

Editor’s Note: Watch the full playlist at The House Next Door.

25

They Might Be Giants, “Am I Awake?”

Director Alex Italics, who won They Might Be Giants’ music-video contest for “Am I Awake?”—describes his clip for the band’s 2004 song as “Narcoleptic existentialism meets broadcast journalism and the assassination of an American president.” To wit, the video skillfully recreates TV footage revolving around John F. Kennedy’s murder, including the iconic CBS News bulletin wherein Walter Cronkite informed the nation that the president had been shot. They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh and John Linnell were barely teens when JFK was assassinated, and whether or not lyrics like “When I get through this day/Can someone tell me how/And how much longer now/Am I awake?” relate directly to the fall of Camelot, Italics’s video further venerates the sense of stunned disbelief Americans felt on that tragic day. Cinquemani

24

Blood Orange, “You’re Not Good Enough”

Tim and Eric having raised the bar considerably for faux-vintage, the message of Gia Coppola’s video for “You’re Not Good Enough” video would appear to be that practice makes gloriously imperfect. As scores of scrubby dancers thrust it and do their pique turns, their would-be lothario sneaks off to the side room to run the moves again and collect some flowers. The clip lets you linger in the low-contrast video sheen just long enough to set up the kicker: It’s all more or less a ploy to get you to shop Urban Outfitters. Nostalgia always comes with a price. Eric Henderson

23

Ten Ven & Riply x Zebra Katz, “1 Bad B*tch”

This latest from the House of Zebra Katz does not mince words like “Ima Read.” Katz sashays into a moneyed abode and, one by one, transforms four giddy white women into literal trophies. It’s a perverse wish-fulfillment fantasy that satisfies nothing more than making transparent the antagonism that underlies even the most symbiotic-seeming social spectacles between races. Ed Gonzalez

22

Odesza featuring Zyra, “Say My Name”

By playing on the concept of both the actor who is perpetually trapped in a state of performance and scene partners’ projection of their characters’ emotions, Seattle electronic duo Odesza’s “Say My Name,” starring Stephanie Hunt, quickly morphs from what seems like one of the most trite, commercial music videos of 2014, blatantly and methodically hitting all its marks (slick production values, crass product placement, low-stakes love story), into one of the year’s saddest and most unexpected. Cinquemani

21

Cashmere Cat, “Wedding Bells”

It was a good year for credits. Norway’s Cashmere Cat turns “Wedding Bells” into the soundtrack for a preview of…well, itself. Disguising his EP as a crazy/stupid love epic between two hopelessly volatile youths, the video also keeps its tongue firmly planted in cheek with every “LOL this sux” comment in place of more legitimate critical blurbs. A helpful palate cleanser during yet another eye-rolling awards season. Henderson

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