The 25 Best Music Videos of 2017

5

Bicep, “Glue”

This is one for the motherfucking club heads of yesteryear, to leave them misty-eyed for those long-gone temples where the rave was the occasion for an act of near-spiritual communion. The video assembles images of the places where these sites once existed, of some of the roads that took you there, with text-on-screen remembrances from revelers who worshipped at the altar of the DJ. These missives, about days being off one’s box, laughing with friends, and coming down in ways like never before, suggest messages in a bottle: “It’s so hard to describe the feeling/25,000 people one with each other/No hassle/Just pure ecstasy.” Somehow, almost miraculously, the video captures the fullness of that sense of feeling by way of visions of places long abandoned by pleasure. Gonzalez

4

The Blaze, “Territory”

The opening of the Blaze’s poignant video for “Territory” parallels the trail of water churned by a ship that takes a man to Algiers with the tears that roil on the man’s face upon his homecoming. From there, the video proceeds as a symphony of movement, intimate grace notes that attest to how our memories are so often tied to our proximity to the people and places we love. Inside a medina, the man repeatedly jabs the air in perfect lockstep with the track’s synths. Throughout, the intensity of the beat is likened to the desperation of desire and the intensity of the bond between men, a story of kinship that’s subsequently passed on to the younger generation during an act of soul-giving playtime that sees the man surreally charged with the animating spirit that is home and tradition. Gonzalez

3

Danny Brown, “Ain’t It Funny”

It’s tempting, at first glance, to dismiss the concept for “Ain’t It Funny” as hackneyed and banal: Introduce Detroit hip-hop wildman Danny Brown into a lily-white, Growing Pains-via-Too Many Cooks ’80s sitcom family and watch as hilarity ensues. Once the jokey opening credits are over, however, it becomes clear that Brown and director Jonah Hill are doing more than just taking cheap shots at old trash-culture clichés. “I’m fucked up and everyone thinks it’s a joke,” says Uncle Danny between swigs of his 40-ounce; “I have a serious problem,” he declares to the camera like a beloved TV character delivering his catchphrase. By the end of the video, Brown is lying on the soundstage floor bleeding out while the studio audience leaps to their feet in applause. “Ain’t It Funny” may not be subtle, but its dramatization of the ways pop culture encourages and exploits self-destruction—especially in African-American entertainers—is damning and incisive. Hoskins

2

Björk, “The Gate”

Björk has leaned in extra hard on the talking point about Utopia being her Tinder album. But there’s nothing so remotely or summarily brief as a swipe in either direction from the video for the album’s lead single, though it certainly finds her reasserting her essential energy. Balanced between hardness and softness, light and dark, introspection and performance, it’s a celestial come-hither. In the same sense that Stéphane Sednaoui’s interpretation of “Big Time Sensuality” stripped away everything extemporaneous to find more than enough in that essential Björkish energy, director Andrew Thomas Huang sees the spectrum of life itself within his muse and assigns it the only appropriate visual analogue. Dressed in a corrugated prism, Björk gets her groove back in a spasmic frenzy of pure, OLED fireworks. In “All Neon Like,” she promised to weave a “marvelous web of glow-in-the-dark threads,” and with “The Gate,” she’s delivered. Henderson

1

Jay-Z, “The Story of O.J.”

In a year when emboldened, torch-carrying white supremacists march the streets, the burning crosses, slave ships, cotton fields, and white hoods portrayed in “The Story of O.J.” don’t seem nearly as antiquated as the animation, created in the style of Looney Tunes and Disney circa the 1930s. Jay-Z is portrayed here as Jaybo—a riff on the Sambo caricature—and he eats watermelon and sips orange drink as he runs through various stereotypical categorizations of African-Americans in a cartoon that’s both visually powerful in its 20th-century style and frightening in its 21st-century relevance. Goller

Previous