50. Broken Machine, “Fly Me to the Sun”
I hope you’re ready for a whole bunch of animated music videos, because once the country went on quarantine that’s when all the animators started cashing checks. That said, it was a banner year for the animated music video and Elliot Lanam’s take on “Fly Me to the Sun” is a perfect place to start the ball rolling.
49. The Jayhawks, “Dogtown Days”
This year brought a lot of creativity out of the woodwork to get around the pandemic limitations, and one of my favorites was how The Jayhawks managed to turn in a music video they never actually appear in. Instead, the video focuses on a young couple embarking on a road trip to see the band, which is presented using footage from a 1985 concert to help make the whole thing period perfect. It was a clever way to explore making a music video, and it’s a shame that it took a plague before someone thought of doing it.
48. Hot Snakes, “Not in Time”
While I was in quarantine this year I got really into watching skateboarding movies as a way to explore the outside without, you know, dying. So “Not in Time” hit all the right buttons for me. A group of skaters drop acid, imagine their arms growing to ridiculous lengths, and then proceed to just keep doing tricks anyway. That’s the can-do spirit we need right now. Plus, it felt weirdly like an R-rated episode of The Wiggles, so extra points there.
47. Imperial Triumphant, “Rotting Futures”
Who’s in the mood for an old school, utterly incomprehensible metal video full of skulls and fetuses? In what can only be described as the fevered dreams of a Bluetooth-enabled piece of slaughterhouse equipment, “Rotting Futures” fulfills the deep need inside all of us to reduce life to sinister symbols and scream at them. Well done, indeed.
46. Kedr Livanskiy, “Ivan Kupala (New Day)”
Russian singer Kedr Livanskiy brings us this delectable, oddly post-apocalyptic video where gangs duel with wooden swords on skateboards and otherwise run around deserted cities. It’s essentially a LARP in the dark, a group of friends trying to inject a little fantasy into a grim industrial time to be alive. If you liked Lorde’s “Team,” then here’s a chance to see that same concept with a Russian twist.
45. Sylvan Esso, “Rooftop Dancing”
If “New Day” was post-apocalyptic, then “Rooftop Dancing” is utopian. It’s a great video that puts a happy face on the few activities left to us right now while still letting you know something is wrong with the world.
44. 93Punx, “Zombie”
Look, the death of Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan hit me really hard. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. 93Punx created an official cover (whatever that means) celebrating the original vision of The Cranberries’ hit song “Zombie” while carrying the message forward into the new millennium by looking at the parallels it has with modern racist violence against Blacks. It’s a perfectly done tribute I think O'Riordan would have loved.
43. Lou Canon, “Next To You”
Kudos for Lou Canon and director Yael Staav for redefining the lyric video. By transferring the words to a series of flashes on skin as a couple frolics in bed, it actually enhances the message of the song while giving the viewer something to hang a narrative on. It’s quirky and lovable.
42. Alice Bag, “Spark”
Alice Bag is a goddamn punk legend, and we are going to sit and watch her rule for the entirety of this music video. Start with a makeup tutorial, end with the unapologetic domination of queer culture over the mainstream. I call that progress.
41. G Herbo, “Intro”
Take a standard tale of street gang violence among Black youth and put it in the hands of masters of storytelling and it will transcend the tropes of the genre to break new ground. That’s what happens with “Intro” thanks to G Herbo’s raw retelling of his own life and some incredible acting from the people involved. It’s not new, but it’s so well done that doesn’t matter.
That's it for Part 1. Stay tuned for more of the best music videos of 2020.