Features I by and I 05.12.17

The 10 best music videos of 2017

It was a blockbuster year for music videos – but which was the greatest? 

Boundary-pushing animations; epic fantasy voyages; emotional stays in pastel-colored fantasy towns, and nostalgic trips to faded locales we once spent our youth. Yep, music videos have taken us to some special places this year, as innovations in VR and AR technologies continued to breathe new life into the format. In 2017, despite the almost total disappearance of music television channels, they remain a vital part of artists’ aesthetic-building, still able to provide important pop culture moments: Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ may have been a fairly disastrous piece of music but its video’s arrival was an event that sparked a million watercooler debates. See also Charli XCX’s charming ‘Boys’, Migos’ The Revenant-esque ‘T-Shirt’ and many, many more.

But what were our favorite videos of the year? We’ve narrowed it down from a long list of almost 50 and after many FACT office arguments, the results are in. Here are the 10 best music videos of 2017. Got a problem with our picks? You know where to find us.

10. Björk – ‘The Gate’
Dir. Andrew Thomas Huang

Making a Björk video in 2017, after so many decades of transportive, envelope-pushing videos attached to the Icelandic star’s music, must be somewhat daunting. What terrain is left to explore, what innovations left to make? The answer for regular collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang was to make literal the title of Björk’s astounding new album, Utopia, taking us on a whistle-stop tour of this otherworldly paradise. By day it’s a peach-hued wilderness full of tall grass, huge cliffs and vagina-shaped floating objects drifting through the sky. Then at night, it transforms into a neon garden of eden where colors dance around the star in an elegant, exciting ballet. Björk’s music video winning streak continues. AH

9. Washed Out – ‘Get Lost’
Dir. Harvey Benschoter

Washed Out’s collage-crazy ‘Get Lost’ video is a delirious cut-and-paste tribute to Los Angeles, home to his new label Stones Throw. The video cleverly takes all its images from old advertisements creating a model-filled vision of California even more sunny and surreal than the real thing. It’s one you want to take in a frame at time just to marvel at everything they sneak in. MB

8. Princess Nokia – ‘FLAVA’
Dir. Destiny Frasqueri and Milah Libin

“You don’t know what it is to be me,” begins Princess Nokia’s self-written, co-directed video for ‘FLAVA’. That may be true, but this video is a pretty strong crash course in the life and times of the artist born Destiny Frasqueri. Contemplative and intimate – until the track comes bellowing in after three minutes and Nokia and her suited squad invade a series of glitzy New York shopping locales – it’s immaculately shot and further proof that Frasqueri’s talents don’t end with the mic. AH

7. Young Thug – ‘Wyclef Jean’
Dir. Ryan Staake

What do you do when the star of your big budget music video turns up 10 hours late, then refuses to get out of his car? If you’re director Ryan Staake, you create this hilarious glimpse into the burdens of working with a hip-hop icon whose diva dial is turned up to the max. ‘Wyclef Jean’ promptly went viral upon release in January and understandably so: you won’t have seen a more unique video in 2017, or any other year for that matter. AH

6. Vince Staples – ‘Big Fish’
Dir. David Helman

Already one of the best video artists of his generation, Vince Staples continues his balance of apocalyptic and dreamlike imagery with ‘Big Fish’. The rapper sits in a luxury boat slowly sinking into the ocean, maintaining his trademark steeliness as shark fins circle around. Its final image of Staples floating underwater as a giant gold fish is as absurd as it is haunting. MB

5. Kamasi Washington – ‘The Truth’
Dir. AG Rojas

Jazz master Washington’s Harmony of Difference EP was another winner from the saxophonist, and this video only helped elevate its charms further. The video for ‘The Truth’ is as astonishingly shot as they come, full of the kind of imagery you could look at all day – that birds eye view of two men wrestling in a ring made out of pink blossom? C’mon now. AH

4. St. Vincent – ‘New York’
Dir. Alex Da Corte

For the heart-rending centerpiece of St. Vincent’s latest album, Alex Da Corte coats ‘New York’ in cartoonish, Hollywood-sized set pieces and candy-coated colors. Look closely and you’ll see the Big Apple peeking through the cracks between billowing curtains as Annie Clark sings through painful memories. It’s a song about looking back on an album about moving forward, and the star couldn’t have found a more touching or epic way to capture that complicated feeling. MB

3. Bicep – ‘Glue’
Dir. Joe Wilson

Director Joe Wilson pays tribute to faded rave memories here with immaculate tracking shots of old party sites now reduced to empty fields, warehouses and parking lots. They’re faded, but not forgotten, as anonymous comments taken from YouTube form a deeply touching eulogy for a bygone era. Recent years have given us many great albums exploring rave’s past, but no one has delivered a visual this definitive. MB

2. Avalon Emerson – ‘One More Fluorescent Rush’
Dir. Hayden Martin

Avalon Emerson once gave us a track called ‘2000 Species Of Cacti’, but with ‘One More Fluorescent Rush’ she uploads that and plenty more images of flora and fauna directly into our brains. This video’s light-speed biology lesson is contained to a smaller window however, while increasingly complex shots of forests (and the producer herself) pan across the screen. It’s overlaid with effects straight out of a sci-fi movie, making this a perfect combination of nature and technology. MB

1. Kendrick Lamar – ‘HUMBLE.’
Dir. Dave Meyers and the Lil Homies

It’s a sign of Kendrick’s unparalleled aesthetic excellence and belief in the power of music videos that this is merely one of three K.Dot clips that could have easily taken the top spot this year. His ‘DNA’ and ‘Loyalty’ videos were captivating but his effort for ‘Humble’ – the first single from new album DAMN. – has just too many arresting moments to compete. From the opening shot of Kendrick in papal robes, lit by a single burst of light through a church window, to the trippy bike scenes and Being John Malkovich-esque shot of Kung-Fu Kenny amidst a crowd of heads around the one-minute mark, picking a standout moment from ‘Humble’ is almost impossible. The bar has been raised once more. AH

Read next: Björk and Rihanna director Floria Sigismondi tells the stories behind her pioneering videos



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