The 25 Best Music Videos of 2015

5

Mykki Blanco, “Coke White, Starlight”

Taking its cues from the works of João Pedro Rodrigues, in particular his extraordinary 2011 film To Die Like a Man, Tristan Patterson’s odyssey of a woman in trouble finds its protagonist (Blanco) leaving behind a life of drugs and depressing politics (television broadcast footage of Greece’s despicable, neo-fascist Golden Dawn party) for the lush forests and restorative waters of the coastline. Like the heroine of Rodrigues’s film, this decisive break from society affords the opportunity to completely reconstruct one’s gender identity, or to disregard it altogether, burdened less by the need to keep up an appearance than more practical concerns, like hunting for octopus on the ocean floor with a bowie knife. It’s a beautiful, strange, and ultimately very moving clip from one of rap’s true progressives. Mac

4

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

It takes some gall to stage a #BlackLivesMatter block party and cast yourself as the messianic force floating above it all. But the immense, vibrantly photographed hubris of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” is, in itself, a galvanizing fulfillment of that same political concept, and a stern rebuke of the insidious #AllLivesMatter backlash. Whereas #BlackLivesMatter confirms the individuality of each person as self-evident and something to be celebrated, #AllLivesMatter insists on shutting down the conversation and stripping everyone of what makes them unique. The iconography of “Alright” is frequently contradictory and inscrutable. But it’s alive, and that’s all that matters. Henderson

3

Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell Williams, “WTF (Where They From)”

You can spit just one clause out to justify Missy Elliott’s placement on this list. Simply, “breakin’ marionettes.” Or “disco-ball tracksuit.” Or “hoverboard handstands.” Or “lens flare.” Or “that Biggie cap.” Or “hip-hop Shiva moves.” Or “two-faced pirouettes.” Or “funky crump of the living dead.” If just one of those things were all you could say, it would be a return to form for the woman who, a decade ago, seemed like she was on track to have as many classic videos as anyone else in the business. That all of those things can be said ensures that she still has a shot at fulfilling that goal. Henderson

2

M.I.A., “Borders”

With its soft, flattering cinematography and dazzling, kaleidoscopic set pieces, M.I.A.’s music video for her pointedly titled single “Borders” risks turning the life-or-death plight of refugees into a fashion runway for her decidedly understated duds: A jersey she sports reads, “fly pirates,” and at one point she literally walks on water. But the image of the artist as the fearless leader of an army of émigrés, trudging forward across land and water, is a simple, potent, and timely one. M.I.A. has often used her early life as a political refugee to highlight and subvert common perceptions of the immigrant experience, but perhaps never as bluntly, accessibly, or—yes—beautifully as she does here. Cinquemani

1

Run the Jewels, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”

Truthful, direct, impossible to misinterpret. Run the Jewels’s roaring “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” is granted a stark counterpoint, as a white cop and a black youth struggle in a seemingly unwinnable battle pitched somewhere between DashCam video, the cover of Time magazine’s May 11, 2015 issue, and Dr. Seuss’s metaphorical butter battle. Killer Mike’s furious “We killin’ them for freedom ’cause they tortured us for boredom” plays out in grim real time as the dueling figureheads wear each other down. In the video’s pointed punchline, it seems that neither side fully knows why they’re out for blood. But only one side represents the system that knows damn well why they are. Henderson

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