The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015

The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015


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More so than any year in recent memory, 2015 saw the music video being wielded as a political weapon. The clips that hold the top two positions on our list of the best videos of the year serve as blunt objects, direct responses to police brutality and fear of the other. Hip-hop, perhaps expectedly, dominated the social discussion: Further down the list, Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples use the medium to lament urban and suburban decay, respectively, but pop and R&B artists like FKA twigs, Lana Del Rey, Grimes, and even Rihanna all attempted to resist convention or challenge and disrupt the status quo, even if it was simply their own. Of course, there’s always plenty of room for comic relief, old-fashioned eye candy, and, yes, even marionettes. Sal Cinquemani


Girl Band, “Pears for Lunch”

Video kills insecure masculinity in this prime-MTV-worthy clip from Dublin’s premier self-aware noise-punk purveyors. A man affixed with a television head goes through the motions of life—at work, with his girlfriend (who later becomes his fiancé), and in other normalizing social situations. All the while his screen/face flashes ads/stock footage that reflect less his honest emotional state in these situations than an aspirational version of the same, as encouraged by the broad influence of televised media culture. Girl Band themselves are present here too, in a lo-fi music video within the video that interrupts the more banal transmissions coming across our protagonist’s visage, and at the most inopportune moments. The reflexivity of the clip is such that we’re never sure if the band is subverting the boob tube’s stream of influence or merely contributing to it. The brilliance behind it is that they probably aren’t sure either. Sam C. Mac


Jack Ü with Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”

They invited fans (and others) to help create the video for their tune “Where Are You Now.” But maybe because Skrillex and Diplo’s song was a collaboration with the Biebs, what they got was a much more dazzling work of crowdsourced promotional synergy. At regular speed, it’s a charming flip book. But no one watching it on YouTube didn’t use the opportunity to randomly pause the stream of images, hoping to catch something tarnishing the singer’s image. (I landed on a vulgarity about once every dozen pauses.) Interactive schadenfreude never felt so good. Eric Henderson


Disclosure featuring Lorde, “Magnets”

Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as 18-year-old New Zealand pop star Lorde, has never been anything less than uncomfortably mature for her age, but the music video for Disclosure’s “Magnets,” a standout cut from the U.K. garage duo’s Caracal, transforms the gawky teen into a bona-fide femme fatale. The clip, directed by Ryan Hope, finds Lorde cavorting with a married man while his meek, buttoned-up, and sometimes bruised wife cautiously prepares his morning coffee and stares blankly out the window of their L.A. manse. “Let’s embrace the point of no return,” Lorde urges as she zombie-struts in her usual way down a glass-encased hallway in a patent-leather trench coat and blood-red lipstick. She gives the wife a knowing glance and pushes the man, tied to a chair, into the pool. Then, of course, she sets the whole thing on fire. Cinquemani


CL, “Hello Bitches”

Or, “Bitch, I’m CL!” K-pop’s most Western-minded artist answers “Bitch I’m Madonna” with every bit of the queen of pop’s confident swagger and an arsenal of whip-pans, rolling up to the club with an army of bad bitches (the Request Dance Crew from Taeyang’s “Ringa Linga” video) in skin-tight, tiger-printed leather jumpsuits. This is a power move for CL, a corrective to the video for her other big U.S.-targeted 2015 single, which ceded too much of the spotlight to overrated cloud-rap dudes like OG Maco and Riff Raff. There’s no distraction here from CL’s thrilling choreography or her deliriously debauched, bi-lingual raps (“Saki to soju/Nagasaki to Soyu/You know what these shots of baijiu do!”), and the last image—of a cackling CL against a backdrop engulfed in flames—sends exactly the right message for an artist poised to break the U.S. market: Say hello to your new pop queen, or say goodbye, bitches. Mac


Thundercat, “Them Changes”

One of the funkiest tracks from Thundercat or Flying Lotus is also one of the saddest, a breakup lament to rival the entirety of Vulnicura distilled into three-and-a-half lumbering, self-pitying minutes that make you embrace the fade out. But wounds that deep never heal, and the clip for “Them Changes” won’t soon let you forget it. In it, a samurai loses his livelihood when his rival in a millisecond slashes both his arms off. As a metaphor, it’s as blunt as the real-life experience of being rejected always is, and even the pulse of the Isley Brothers in the background can’t cover the sting of the conclusion: “Now I’m sitting here with a black hole in my chest/A heartless, broken mess.” Henderson