Of all the wonderful mediums through which sound/song/meaning/music can be conveyed, the music video is by far The Lazy Flame’s favorite. The visions that the artist and various directors may have for their song could vary wildly from the idea you hold in your mind, but that’s what makes it so exciting; to see the artist’s take, or a completely new way of explaining a song that you might have already found personal meaning in, especially if it’s done with intention and creativity.
After watching hundreds of videos, diving into every genre we could, and agonizing for months over the benefits of neutral vs. high camera views we’re proud to offer you the best music videos of 2018. Please enlarge, crank up the resolution, and enjoy.
Tom Misch – “Water Baby” (ft. Loyle Carner)
Director: Georgia Hudson
It’s simple in concept; a runner, a dancer, and the two artists involved are set in various g-og-ra-phee. Thanks to lighting and camera angles though, everything appears saturated (by a colored street light, or diffused beams through slats of wood, etc.) and suspended in water. 3/4ths credit for the execution of the clip goes to the Director of Photography, Ben Fordesman, but Georgia Hudson is a practiced hand at making enriched music videos, all made with a sense of depth and care.
Anderson .Paak – “Til It’s Over”
Director: Spike Jonze
If this wasn’t primarily a commercial for an Apple product (le sigh), it might be closer to the top of our list. But with product placement comes money, and with money comes the ability to do more. Director Spike Jonze specializes in creating elaborately designed scenes that jump and cut throughout a single location. And thanks to the production in Anderson .Paak’s “Til It’s Over”, dancer FKA twigs and the multitude of adept talent behind every aspect of this elaborate dance (they hired a movement coach and that’s RARE), it turns out beautifully.
Tobe Nwigwe – “HËÂT RŌČK”
Zainob + Mathew Create
Tobe Nwigwe (Na-Wig-We) gets the award this year for the most prolific video artist. Flanked by his wife and his producer, he’s released eight videos in 2018 alone. But in a single shot, with panning cams and polished choreography, his clip for “HËÂT RŌČK” is one the smoothest bits we saw all year.
Sigrid – “Sucker Punch”
Sigrid’s video for her Pop flare “Sucker Punch” is a perfect example of a music video with style over substance, but also substance. In the middle of a flurry of chaotic location and lighting changes, our only through-line is Sigrid herself, starting a twirl on a running track in the afternoon, and finishing inside an anime action shot. It’s just fun to watch.
Caroline Rose – “Jeannie Becomes A Mom”
Director: Amanda Speva
There’s a story about domestication and death by a thousand dull cuts floating right on the surface of this music video, but the smartest choice Director Amanda Speva made for Caroline Rose’s “Jeannie Becomes A Mom” was letting Rose loose in every scene. An avid spokeswoman for the power of satire, she excels at crafting Pop sounds around serious messages that might be otherwise abrasive. Now, if we could only digitally insert Rose into The Stepford Wives …
Little Dragon – “Lover Chanting”
Jack Whiteley & Joe Wills
We’ve piped plenty of Little Dragon into our ears and clickity-clacked plenty of MMORPGs straight to our eyeballs, but we’ve been desperately afraid of ever combining the two for fear of summoning a substance with a pH level of 24. Well, lo adventurer and behold the video for “Lover Chanting”, where all the best bits of each are smeared across your screen in colors your Paint program would give you parental advisories against. If you haven’t tried acid well, this isn’t really a substitute, but the Whiteley and Will directed clip is spot on filler for Bonnaroo.
MK, Jonas Blue, Becky Hill – “Back and Forth”
Director: Finn Keenan
It begins with a man making a truly terrible sandwich, but then takes a turn towards something you won’t know whether to laugh or cry with. If you’re familiar with Avicii’s video for “Levels”, you’d be justified to cry foul at the story-line, but the editing and the horrifying circumstances akin to the Strasbourg dancing plague of 1518 make it something else.
TOMMY CASH – “X-RAY”
Director: Tommy Cash & Anna-Lisa Himma
Estonian rapper Tomas Tammemets seems intent on keeping the cringe factor top tier in his country, by way of his music videos alone. There’s no arguing against his acumen for striking visuals however, placing himself on a golden massage chair amongst a cultist following in a surreal onslaught of brow-creasing images and scenes. It may be hard to look at Tommy Cash, but it’s harder to dismiss the style in his videos.
Tierra Whack – “Whack World”
Director: Thibaut Duverneix, Mathieu Léger
Fifteen songs in fifteen minutes, “Whack World” plays like a sampler menu of everything the artist is capable of, and we’re ordering more of everything. Pennsylvania’s Tierra Whack is a human crane game, a comedian on stage with a million impressions at her disposal, able to be anything she wants, and in this video smorgasbord she chooses to be fifteen types of unique and odd and coy. It’s a concept album in video form, unlike anything else we saw this year.
Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
Director: Hiro Murai
No list of music videos is complete this year without Childish Gambino’s one video campaign of shock and awe. “This Is America” seemed to drop exactly at the right (?) time, when many in the United States are ringing their hands at the circumstances. Some of our greatest anxiety as humans comes from dissonance, or the simultaneous existence of two contrary things that stretch our ability to handle stimuli. Which is another way of saying that some of the most dynamic reactions can be drawn out by confusing your audience, i.e. we see a slick and smiling Donald Glover, creating and surrounded by violence. It’s sad in many ways that in order to get a wide-reaching message about brutality against minorities in (North) America across, you might have to package it inside a sugar-pill. But Gambino has us talking about it right now to you, when we otherwise might not have. Does that make us complicit, or part of the solution?
DJ Snake – “Magenta Riddim”
Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia
Bollywood can be insane IN A GREAT WAY, but if you see a pyromaniakid get kicked through a window by a fire commander into a certain future of academia, you might take the scale up a notch. The video for the dance-frantic “Magenta Riddim” by the French DJ Snake is a non-stop kinetic ride of amazing colors and edits with a twist waiting for you at the end. It’s all choreographed and designed to let you have the most fun watching it as possible. The song and video are inseparable; each fueling the other to motivate us to keep a closer eye on our local officials. And although it is certainly trite; when you want to immediately hit play again, you know it’s a good video.
The WORST Music Video of 2018
Beck – “Colors”
Director: Edgar Wright
We know what you’re thinking. “Beck? Allison Brie? Directed by Edgar Wright of ‘Baby Driver’ fame? How could it be bad?” But when Allison Brie holds an imaginary flute up to her mouth for a FOURTH Pan Flute solo, and the choreography amounts to people in colored suits waving their arms around (seriously, try to find a scene where they’re not…), we’ll need to take our media on the ceiling because our eyes have rolled so far back.
We get it Beck/Wright. Colors. There’s multiple colors. And when you switch them around, it looks kinda neat. But when everything in the video is pantomimed, down to taking the sparse lyrics, the meaning you’re squeezing from stone comes out meaningless. If Beck is allowed to look bored in the video, then we’re allowed to be bored watching it.