The 25 Best Music Videos of 2017

10

Run the Jewels, “Don’t Get Captured”

Director Chris Hopewell puts the underground rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P on a stop-motion agitprop carnival ride from hell, with Ray Harryhausen’s skeletons taking on the roles of top-hatted capitalists, the downtrodden people they exploit, and the corrupt justice system that enforces their interests. Think Corpse Bride but woke—and with much better music. Hoskins

9

Kesha, “Praying”

The video for Kesha’s comeback single, “Praying,” features the bright, glittery neon colors we’ve come to expect from the former queen of party anthems, but it’s in service of an entirely new sonic palette—and mission. The clip predates this year’s #MeToo movement, but it dovetails serendipitously with the current mood of the country. Directed by Jonas Akuerlund, the video opens with a shot of the singer lying in a makeshift coffin, flanked by two suited men wearing pig masks, saliva dripping from their mouth-holes, a neon cross glowing overhead. Messianic imagery abounds throughout, including a striking black-and-white shot of Kesha stranded at sea on a wooden raft, arms outstretched. In the end, Kesha emerges reborn, escaping her swine-faced tormentors, breaking free from a tangle of fishing nets (pun intended), and, in a triumphant final image, walking on water. Cinquemani

8

Leonard Cohen, “Leaving the Table”

Released weeks before the singer-songwriter’s death in November of last year, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker was as purposeful and poignant a goodbye as David Bowie’s similarly timed Blackstar. With his posthumous video for “Leaving the Table,” Canadian animator Christopher Mills doesn’t avoid the inevitable Blackstar comparisons, dramatizing Cohen’s passing just as Bowie did his own in the video for “Lazarus.” But where Bowie was the engineer and star of his own cinematic funeral, Mills uses Cohen’s absence to the video’s advantage, depicting the artist as a two-dimensional, occasionally transparent figure drifting above the rooftops of Montreal, through his own psychic geography (note the literal bird on the wire, among other references), and finally “out of the game.” At once moving and whimsical, it’s a tribute worthy of Cohen’s idiosyncratic legacy. Hoskins

7

Kendrick Lamar, “DNA

“Kendrick Lamar. Two first names, huh? What the fuck is up with that?” Don Cheadle’s sneering interrogator lays into the handcuffed, Compton-born rapper before sitting down, punching a button on a polygraph machine, and suffering a violent seizure as a sample plays of Fox News hosts deriding Kendrick’s lyrics about police brutality. When Cheadle snaps back to functionality, he’s possessed by Kendrick, looking around warily before rising and laying down bars that are equal parts braggadocio and an exploration of the duality of human nature, which is full of “power, poison, pain, and joy.” It’s a visual rendering of the internal struggle the artist wages with himself about both the oppressive forces he’s overcome and his own internal darkness. In a frenzied climax, the swaggering side of his psyche wins out and Kendrick, now filmed in black and white, frantically gestures at the camera and directly refutes the notion that anyone else should dictate how he lives his life. Goller

6

HAIM, “Want You Back”

In the single-take video for their single “Want You Back,” the Haim sisters make Ventura Boulevard their runway, strutting in time to the beat of the song and endearingly acting out their respective parts (a solitary kick drum here, an isolated backing vocal there—the little moments you might not have even noticed until now) like ardent fans pantomiming their favorite pop song on the radio. Cinquemani

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