5. Flasher, “Material”
The difficult thing about writing about this music video for people who haven’t already seen it is that I don’t want to spoil anything. Out of the five videos that made our list, “Material” is the one that could also be considered a social experiment. As of now, I have made somewhere between five and 10 friends watch it, and they all comment, react, exclaim at the same points. The band’s attention to detail and willingness to take a risk are what pay off here, as they explore various YouTube subcultures while also gently forcing us to recognize the ways in which we interact with the platform. This music video is low-budget done right, served with a refreshing side of humorous Illuminati conspiracy theorizing, sure to delight even those completely unfamiliar with Flasher’s music.
— Sean Lang, Daily Arts Writer
4. Mitski, “Nobody”
“Nobody,” Mitski’s first single from her incredible album Be The Cowboy, found its way into the ears of many old fans and new listeners alike upon its release, cementing the songwriter’s place in indie rock history as a true legend. But the song itself isn’t the only reason Be The Cowboy is so successful ― Mitski’s savvy use of visuals, like the Christopher Good-directed video for “Nobody,” proves her prodigal status in the music world even further. In the video, she searches for others in the world around her, only to find faceless versions of herself everywhere she turns. Mitski claws through paintings, goes on a treasure hunt with a phone book and even looks through her own diary to find the remnants of other people, but is constantly met with the blank-faced stares of “nobody.” It’s a brutal visual to compliment the song’s inventive yet poignant lyrics, taking on loneliness with the artistic flair that only Mitski could come up with.
— Clara Scott, Senior Arts Editor
3. A$AP Rocky, “A$AP Forever”
A$AP Rocky’s music video for “A$AP Forever,” directed by Dexter Navy, pulls viewers in and through the artist's roots that grow and breathe deep in New York. The music video is in constant rotation, pulling off an insanely difficult process of perfecting camera angles and speeding through each frame while making it appear effortless. This composition itself makes the music video something completely fresh and awe-inspiring. This newness, coupled with the flash images of A$AP Rocky with his friends in familiar locations throughout New York, allows viewers to see that Rocky is moving and growing — but not without the recognition of the process, not without regression and reflection, not without his roots.
— Selena Aguilera, Daily Arts Writer
2. Tierra Whack, “Whack World”
The video for breakout artist Tierra Whack’s most recent album, Whack World, is 15 minutes long. It’s comprised of a series of short music video clips based on each one of the album’s songs. Each clip travels to a different location — from nail salon to dog groomer to Chinese restaurant — and each clip features a different iteration of Tierra Whack — from R&B icon grooming a toy poodle to mumble rap queen with a disfigured face staring stoically into the camera to a beret-donned girl sitting in a cemetery behind a crowd of various canine puppets singing about how she misses her dead dog over upbeat production and a heavy bassline. It truly is a “whack world,” and one that Tierra Whack is consistently the star of.
Despite each video clip’s one-minute run time, none of the concepts Tierra Whack presents come across as underdeveloped. Instead, as she leads you throughout her surreal funhouse, the songs themselves take on new meanings depending on the visuals surrounding each lyric. Whack World is best viewed as an audiovisual album, with the full extent of Tierra Whack’s boundary-pushing artistic and creative experimentation evident through the interpolation of song into video.
— Shima Sadaghiyani, Daily Arts Writer
1. Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
“This Is America” is the music video that makes music videos. It retools the notion of what the form of a music video can do, the notion that so many before it have hinted at: that a music video can move like a poem, dance like a sport, teach and deconstruct like an essay, live like a force of its own and like a distinguished face of the artist it represents. In “This Is America,” it represents Childish Gambino — because as far-reaching as the video is, it is also a Childish Gambino event. Most of the video focuses on his movements and actions, and on the day he released it, he both hosted and was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Within 24 hours of the video’s release, critics and fans alike were raving about the scope and thoughtfulness of the piece, the ways in which every frame carry a doubled meaning, from the contrasts between dancing and violence to the use of old-fashioned cars in a parking garage.
Indeed, it is difficult to think of a time when an artist has so completely, succinctly and meticulously carried out their vision. “This Is America,” both as a song and as a music video, comes across as Donald Glover’s honest portrait of American life as it pertains to racial inequality and injustice, rendered in a way designed to provoke organic reflection and change. If this is indeed how “This Is America” is meant, Glover uses the far reaches of history and the cultural present to make his point, from the use of gospel music and trap to the allusions to police violence and America’s history of blackface minstrelsy. “This Is America” is the ultimate music video for not just an age, but a country defined by violence, tension and warring rhetoric: dark, shocking, multifaceted and troubling in a distinctly American way.
— Laura Dzubay, Daily Arts Writer