Outside of the MTV-VMA pantheon, there's a new breed of video artist that deserves your praises. Lemonade, "Nikes," Views, and, of course, everything Kanye committed to film in 2016 will no doubt top many "Best Of" lists this year. But at the end of a tumultuous 12 months, we think it's time to celebrate some unsung music videos heroes.
Our world is one of cyclical trends, and it's time once again for big characters, high concepts, and explosive attitudes to take the podium — in politics, on the runways, and on the silver screen. Even television this year has been full of bizarre, extravagant productions. Music videos have been much the same. Though money for videos has slowly dwindled, in times of hardship artists prosper. The ideas have stayed strong, liberated by not being chained to big corporations or having to tick boxes. No longer solely propelled by Top 40 sales, artists can express themselves on social media and YouTube in all new ways, governed only by a savvy bunch of online tastemakers and shareability. Visuals have never been more important.
Obongjayar — "Creeping" (directed by Frank Lebon)
In his stylish and subtle video for "Creeping," Obongjayar spits truths whilst staring straight into the lens, before eventually ascending into a South London dawn. Director Frank Lebon brings a refreshing charm to a lo-fi concept-driven performance video, coolly commenting on (while also not overtly commenting on) social issues in a year where no one knew where to lay the blame, but everybody was pointing the finger.
Nadia Rose — "Skwod" (directed by Reece Proctor)
Croydon young gun Nadia Rose serves bun-bunched realness in the flawless one-shot MOBO Award winner for Best Video. Featuring the freshest adidas gear and girl gang dance moves, the video for "Skwod" by frequent collaborator Reece Proctor, steps right up to your face and demands you listen. Guess who's back? She never left!
Mura Masa — "What if I Go?" (directed by Yoni Lappin)
Before the big collaboration with A$AP Rocky, Mura Masa released this video in celebration of young love and cool kids in a crap city. Racking up nearly 8 million views on YouTube, the film by Yoni Lappin features repetitive GIF-style photography which forces you to look again and again and again. With Boomerang now a much-loved feature of Instagram, the video feels especially reflective of our times.
Clams Casino & Vince Staples — "All Nite" (directed by Ryan Staake)
Technically brilliant, Ryan Staake's video for "All Nite" is a pulsing, puzzling effort, and just one chapter in a very visually exciting year from Vince Staples (check out his surrealist fish-out-of-water story in Prima Donna, a 10-minute short by Nabil). Layered strips of video in various shades of pastel pass over one another in a day-long performance by a bouncing Staples decked out in a Palace hoodie. This one still has us reeling.
Mykki Blanco — "Loner" (directed by Anthony & Alex)
Banned on YouTube, then reinstated with an age restriction, this video prompted speculation that its "otherness" was to blame for its controversy. Like all great artists, Mykki Blanco is provocative and cunning. Here, along with directors Anthony & Alex, he's responsible for creating a powerful set of images that challenge a heteronormative gaze. Whether or not the video was censored for its queerness, the online stir it caused cements "Loner'"s place in online history and our hearts.
Grimes — "The Ac!d Reign Chronicles" (directed by Claire Boucher)
One of 2016's several long-form masterpieces, "The Ac!d Reign Chronicles" is a visual album by Canadian queen of the internet Grimes, and her regular bunch of collaborators, including her brother Mac. Shot all over Europe and conceptualized, directed, and edited by Claire Boucher herself, The Ac!d Reign Chronicles proves more than ever that if you want something done well, you'd better do it yourself.
Happy Meal Ltd — "Stained" (directed by Jenkin Van Zyl)
Already masters and commanders of their own breed of squelching, sprawling, riotous punk, Happy Meal LTD have released only one single so far, accompanied by a Jenkin Van Zyl-directed video. The promo is an invasive, full-throttle, fleshy experience that perfectly matches the stomping, throbbing glam-swagger of "Stained."
Cosima — "Girls Who Get Ready" (directed by Cosima)
In the multi-format, Vaseline-sheened, self-directed video for dreamlike single "Girls Who Get Ready," Cosima prepares for an unconventional night out — accompanied by an immaculately styled girl gang, a pig, a goat, and a forkful of cherry-topped chocolate gateau. Subversive, shimmering, and complete with a giant singalong chorus, "Girls Who Get Ready" hints at an arena career for the South London star. We just can't wait to see what she's preparing for!
Charli XCX + Sophie — "Vroom Vroom" (directed by Bradley and Pablo)
PC Music's go-to filmmakers Bradley and Pablo shoot a leather-clad Charli XCX in a futuristic dance video that looks exactly like the sound of Sophie's lacquered pink PVC production. Like a shinier version of "Single Ladies" with a technicolor finale, "Vroom Vroom" is a perfect embodiment of where music's heading in 2017. Dark, slick, and tongue in cheek, its high concept matches an even harder performance.
Keith Ape — "Diamonds" (directed by BRTHR)
A psychedelic interactive adventure that serves as the follow-up to "It G Ma." The user can manipulate the neon-lit visuals, which change pace at an alarming speed (blink and you'll miss the puffer-fish man). Follow South Korea's most exciting export Keith Ape on a hazy nighttime walk into a storm where it literally rains diamonds.
Text Tom Ivin