The idea of adding music to a short film for marketing purposes began with the MTV generation during the 80s. At the time, it was something unheard of. Music videos quickly became the new cool thing and amateur moviemakers started experiencing with this fresh concept. Of course, some of the earlier music videos were just experimental films trying to captivate the viewer with weird camera angles and ridiculous sets. Through the course of the 90s, directors perfected the art of the music video and their production could cost a ridiculous amount of money. For instance, Micheal Jackson‘s Scream video, which features his sister Janet, was released in 1995 and had $7 million invested in it.
Before the music industry took a turn for the worst and had difficulty keeping afloat, record labels were willing to highly invest in producing visually striking music videos in a promotional effort for their artists. However, those days are long gone. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the music industry revenue has been in free fall for the past decade.
It is no secret the reason for this fast decline is the popularity of file-sharing services and even, as of late, the streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music. The lack of funding does not mean artistic music videos are not being made. In fact, I have found several which were released in the last 6 years. Here is a list of mesmerizing music videos which I have seen countless of times.
15. Primal Scream – Where the Light Gets In feat. Sky Ferreira (2016)
Primal Scream’s “Where The Light Gets In” is a fun play on its title. Since the song mentions the word “light” in the chorus, let’s just use projections and clever lighting throughout the music video. It is a retro idea for a nostalgic sounding song. The concept really works because it is a gimmick used cleverly.
The lighting mirrors the music and gives an interesting aspect to an otherwise average short film. Both artists are featured in minimalist lighting during the first verse and once the chorus hits, a bright red light with white circles covers the duo.
Maybe I love this video because of its technical aspect but it is also an enjoyable watch due to the chemistry between the artists. It is nice to see indie performers have a blank slate for their music videos as they seem to be full of creative ideas.
14. Grimes – California (2016)
Grimes seems to have been genetically engineered to become a music critic’s darling. She has complete control of her image, as she is the one who does literally everything in her songs and music videos.
Unlike other artists, Grimes does not let anyone tell her what to do and who to be which is refreshing in today’s landscape. Even though I really like her music video for Kill V. Maim, I decided to add California to this list because it just has me glued to the screen every time I watch it. The music fits the video incredibly well as they both feel very easy going and dreamlike.
13. OK-GO – Upside Down & Inside Out (2016)
OK GO have made a name for themselves with their visually stunning music videos. Most of you remember them for their viral treadmill video uploaded in July 2006 on a new platform at the time known as YouTube. OK GO has not been idle since and have produced some of the most amazing videos with outlandish concepts.
The latest addition to their list of accomplishments is their video for Upside Down & Inside Out, which was shot in zero gravity from an airplane. It must have taken hours of preparation and choreography to manage to get it right. I don’t know who directed this video, but they deserve the highest of awards because it seems like an utter nightmare to produce.
It is sacrilege this video only has 3 million views on YouTube considering how fun it is to watch. I have tried to figure out how they managed to film this video without using wires or green screen but I am at a total lost.
12. Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory (2011)
Of course, I had to add a Lady Gaga video on this list as she has been the most visually striking artist in recent memory. There is an extensive list of possible entries, but I chose my personal favorite. The Edge of Glory is dedicated to her grandparents, and it is evident Lady Gaga loves this song as much as I do. She shows a little facet of her personal life with the lyrics but keeps the mystery of her persona alive.
The video works because it is a great throwback to the visual style of the music videos from the early 80s. Moreover, it features a force to be reckoned with, as Lady Gaga is just a fun artist with captivating performances.
11. M.I.A. – Bad Girls (2012)
The video for M.I.A.‘s “Bad Girls” made the cut for this list because it showcases the coolest cars stunts I’ve ever seen. While watching the video, you will be shocked by the things an old BMW can accomplish when a skilled driver is behind the wheel.
Furthermore, the video was shot in Morocco, which fits the Middle Eastern vibe of the song. M.I.A. is a nonchalant artist, and she even keeps her cool demeanor when she is sitting on moving, almost 90 degrees titled car. In her position, I would be terrified, but she is filing her nails while defying the laws of physics.
Besides, M.I.A. is an artist who is capable of coming up with original ideas and achieves them in the most efficient manner. She is someone who can make any outlandish concept look astonishing and almost effortless.
10. Die Antwoord – Banana Brain (2016)
I used to not understand Die Antwoord’s appeal but, over the course of this year, I have become an avid fan to my own amazement. Their latest music video for “Banana Brain” explains to their fan-base why rapper Yolandi Visser has her peculiar haircut. Apparently, she drugged her parents and went to an underground rave where she met Ninja, the second member of the techno-rave duo and her partner in crime.
Of course, I don’t believe this music video is an accurate telling of how Yolandi and Ninja met, but it is kind of interesting they use their music videos as reflections of their real lives.
In true Die Antwoord fashion, the music video is bizarre, and I can’t say I understand why certain elements were added, but at the end of the day, I don’t care because I just enjoy the emotional roller coaster of watching the video.
9. The Strokes – Threat of Joy (2016)
After a three-year absence, The Strokes are finally back and this time with a new honest-to-god music video! It feels surreal to have them making content again like the good old days. What is also great is the amount of effort and creativity that went into their new music video for “Threat of Joy.”
The video starts with a disclaimer telling the audience some footage has been stolen from the band. The whole video is based on a young woman trying to get the reel back from the executives who took it from The Strokes.
It is no secret the band is not a fan of large label managers as they have had several misunderstandings with their record label. They have even gone independent on their new music project. This video serves as a metaphor for the struggles of being a musician in corporate America.
8. Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas – Instant Crush (2013)
Anyone who knows me or merely follows me on social media is aware of how obsessed I am with Julian Casablancas’ work. He is the type of artist who goes under the radar, but will be remembered as a reference in years to come.
His team up with Daft Punk reaped a melancholic song about a love that simply couldn’t be. The music video uses wax figures as symbols for the couple mentioned in the song. The male wax statue even looks like Julian.
The song narrates how the wax figures feel about themselves and, through the use of clever framing; the viewer feels the emotion of their story. It is a heart-breaking tale, which finishes with both wax figures melting in a fire while looking into each other’s eyes. Their hands melt into each other as they liquefy and the female wax figure even seems to shed a tear. This music video is one for the archives.
7. Zinc – Show Me (2014)
The Japanese dance duo is known as Aya Sato and Bambi has starred in several artists’ work and have grown quite a following. They are featured in “Show Me” by Zinc, a music video which seems average at first: a camera man is filming one of the dancers while she is standing in front of a studio mirror.
As the video goes on, the viewer becomes aware there are, in fact, two dancers in the shot; one of them was mistaken for the other’s reflection. It is the coolest cinematic trick I’ve ever seen, as it is very simplistic: they just put strings in between them and made it look like the space between two mirrors.
The reveal is surprising because the dancer’s reflection seemingly multiplies when a third dancer shows up, seemingly out of thin air, leaving the watcher flabbergasted as to how easily he was fooled.
6. Brooke Candy – Nasty (2016)
The rap artist Brooke Candy is known for her excessive look and overall outspoken attitude. The video for her song “Nasty” is lighthearted fun but with a powerful message behind it and is a perfect introduction to Brooke Candy and her persona.
Miss Candy raps about a man who tried to fool her into a relationship while dressed as a weird female version of Cupid. It would be doing the music video a disservice by omitting to mention her outlandish outfits. Unlike Lady Gaga, who became a model for the fashion industry, Brooke Candy wears weird clothes, not because a designer sent them to her, but because she likes them.
This honesty is also seen in her music videos, as Candy performs in front of the camera conveying her over the top personality and confidence. She wears the most revealing outfits while being nonchalant about it. What’s more, Brooke Candy is the embodiment of cool as she raps with a scorpion walking over her face.
5. Charli XCX – Superlove (2013)
It should be obvious by now that I am a sucker for clever lighting. Charli XCX’s music video for her song “Superlove” seems to have been made with people with my taste in mind as it features the singer in a bright Japanese themed arcade.
I need to get the location of this arcade because it looks like the perfect Instagram hot spot. It has everything to make a night memorable such as cheesy dancing robots, incredibly cool sets, and neon lights. Charli and her posse are having the time of their lives with these robots, and you can’t help but feel their enthusiasm.
Towards the end, Charli stands in the middle of a motorcyclists party and seems totally in her element. She is the type of a girl you want to be cool enough to befriend. This video does not take itself seriously, and neither does she, which is why I highly recommend watching it at least once.
4. Black Keys – Lonely Boy (2011)
By far the simplest music video on this list, “Lonely Boy” is mesmerizing because of how common its concept is. By making this video, The Black Keys proved to everyone in the music industry that a good music video does not need to have great production value.
Lonely Boy has over 58 million views on YouTube, surprising amount since it just looks like an average homemade video. They put a random guy in front of a camera and let him jam out to this incredibly catchy song.
It doesn’t matter whom this person is, why they are dancing in front of a sketchy-looking building, or why he likes this song so damn much; it just works. This guy’s happiness is immediately translated to the viewer and will leave you wanting to rock out like no one is watching.
3. Lily Allen – URL Badman (2014)
Lily Allen’s writing often conveys details of her personal life and the struggles she had to face being in the public eye. In her song “URL Badman,” Allen attacks the people who insulted her on Internet forums and message boards, especially after she released the controversial video for Hard Out Here which had a lot of backlash from critics.
For the song’s video, she decided to cast several male actors and made them wear the tackiest outfits in existence. These men are the embodiment of how Lily Allen imagines the Internet critics who “don’t troll, but make statements.” During the video, the bloggers start melting away, this being a metaphor for their arguments not being solid and thus, disintegrating when someone calls them out on their behavior.
2. Gotye feat. Kimbra – Somebody That I Used to Know (2012)
Everybody has seen this music video from 2012 as the song it promotes a smash hit and was even covered in the T.V. show, the cultural zeitgeist predictor of the time. However, I added it to this list because I still remember my reaction the first time I saw it.
Gotye might be remembered as a one-hit-wonder nowadays, as he never managed to capitalize on the success of this song, but the music video for it will always be recognized for its visuals. It has over 800 million views on YouTube and inspired several parodies.
The short-film starts with Gotye staring at the camera, seemingly naked, in front of a skin-colored background. The video begins by being monochromatic and then becomes intensively colorful as invisible hands start coloring the surroundings. The song and the video both start slow and build up to a climatic ending.
1. Tame Impala – Let it Happen (2015)
Tame Impala’s music video for their song “Let It Happen” conveys the story of a man who dies from a heart attack while running to catch a plane. When he collapses after rushing through the airport, he starts hallucinating about the flight he was supposed to embark. In his dream, the airplane is about to crash, and he ejects himself from it.
In other words, he would have died regardless of him being able to catch the plane or not. While this tale unfolds, Tame Impala’s singer keeps saying the phrase “let it happen” and this repetition of the sentence gives the story a weirdly somber tone. It is a way to tell the viewer to embrace death and accept their faith in life.
It is a mesmerizing video because it is beautifully shot and is widely open to interpretation. The viewer never knows for sure if the main character died or was merely in an out-of-body state.