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CRACK

The Best Music Videos of the Year

From NSFW choreography to surrealist setups and coming-of-age hedonism, here’s an unranked list of our top 10 videos of the year

Beabadoobee

Last Day on Earth

Dir. Arnaud Bresson

Last Day on Earth is about all the things I would have done had I known we were going into a lockdown.” That’s how Beabadoobee set the scene for the lead single from her 2021 EP, Our Extended Play. To tell the full story in all its vomit-stained glory, Bea tapped French director Arnaud Bresson and a coach-load of twenty-nothings to party in the wintery countryside on the outskirts of Paris. Skins meets Y2K cosplaying in this gorgeously-shot portrait of coming-of-age hedonism.

Lil Nas x ft Jack Harlow

Industry Baby

Dir. Christian Breslauer

In a year where pop heavyweights like Billie Eilish, Lorde and Kacey Musgraves found their inner introverts, Lil Nas X brought enough bottomless-budget, blockbuster energy for the lot of them. Christian Breslauer’s prison-break epic took us to Montero State Prison where Jack Harlow slips Lil Nas X a pickaxe to facilitate their escape. NSFW choreo, hilarious character work and a purposeful sense of comedy from 2021’s truest superstar.

Little Simz

Introvert

Dir. Salomon Lighthelm

With her 2021 album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz broke new ground and showed a wider audience what a lot of us already knew – that we’re dealing with one of the country’s most ingenious and ambitious rappers. This new chapter was opened by the video for Introvert where the many strands of Simz’ London intersected – revered cultural spaces, high-rises, sunlit living rooms and moonlit streets. Under the direction of self-taught NYC filmmaker Salomon Ligthelm and with stunning choreography from Kloe Dean, Simz delivered a statement which felt honest, purposeful and quietly historic.    

Vince Staples

Law of Averages

Dir. Kid. Studio

Vince Staples’ knack for unearthing the absurd and the off-kilter in gritty narratives is on full display in this hypnotising video for Law of Averages. Directed by Toronto-via-LA studio Kid, we’re transported via a soaring drone shot to a dreamlike hood where common music video setups – cars, groups of friends, performance – are executed with meticulous composition and cinematography.

Big Zuu ft JME & Novelist

Offline

Dir. Edem Wornoo & William Child

Big Zuu and JME – two of the country’s best punchline MCs – join forces with Novelist for a retribution-arc epic celebrating the power or IRL over URL. Three Minutes winner Edem Wornoo worked with claymation animator William Child to tell the story of the three MCs getting their own back on keyboard warriors. It’s this unique creative collaboration which makes the video so thrilling. Wornoo’s script and live action moments are complemented by Child’s wonky, stop-motion craft – a perfect fit for all three artists’ sharp, biting style.

Ibeyi ft. Pa Salieu

Made of Gold

Dir. Daniel Sannwald

In a November 2021 interview, sisterly duo Ibeyi, a.k.a Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, described their Made of Gold video as a “shift of energy” for the project, one that reflected their “personal and musical growth”. The track is the first to be taken from Ibeyi’s forthcoming third LP, and features incendiary rap talent Pa Salieu. It’s an exquisite pairing, with the Diaz twins and Salieu coming together to celebrate ancestral connection, heritage and ancient knowledge in the most spell-binding of ways. Dan Sannwald’s film captures this seismic energy shift too, largely through a combination of epic set designs, vibrant lightning and regal attire. Dare you to watch this one just the once.

Tirzah

Sink In

Dir. Leah Walker

Leah Walker’s presence can be felt across much of Tirzah’s Colourgrade LP. Tirzah – ever the collaborator – enlisted Walker for several of the record’s visual elements, including its cover art and accompanying visuals. Walker’s video for Sink In takes on a familiar music video storyline – two figures dancing, oblivious to the world around them – and shakes things up. Shot in near-darkness in a rather ambiguous setting (are we outside? Are we inside? Does it matter?), the visual watches on as the pair unite and separate in a constant ebb-and-flow motion, while Tirzah croons lyrics like “Come a little closer to me now” softly into the ether.

black midi

John L

Dir. Nina McNeely

“I usually don’t like sequels, but this Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie looks amazing,” reads a comment on the black midi YouTube page. The “movie” in question – the band’s video for single John L, lifted from their second album Cavalcade – does share similarities with the cult classic film. Among them, well, cults. According to black midi, the song itself is a “jet black comedy about what happens to cult leaders when their followers turn on them” with these themes explored by director and choreographer Nina McNeely (of Gasper Noé’s Climax fame) in the video. We’d liken this one to a Teletubbies-on-acid-like experience or a surreal trip through a nightmarish chocolate factory.

BADBADNOTGOOD

Beside April

Dir. Camille Summers-Valli

On their fifth album, 2021’s Talk Memory, Canadian ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD veered into cinematic territory. In the absence of guest vocalists, the now-trio’s instrumentals took on lives of their own, expanding and mutating into widescreen, score-like compositions that soared through jazz and other Sunday-primed sounds. Camille Summers-Valli’s video for the track Beside April follows a similar creative approach. Motion, largely in time with the track itself, is the focus here – be it a white horse galloping through the picturesque Georgian countryside, children racing or a suited man falling to the ground. A free-spirited offering for the equestrian lovers out there.

Eli Brown, Talk Show

Trouble

Dir. Brock Neal-Roberts

What does 2021 have in common with dance music producer Eli Brown’s music video for his Talk Show collaboration, Trouble? There’s roaming, unseen entities, for one, but also lots of walking and an ominous feel. London-based filmmaker Brock Neal-Roberts’ visual amps up the track’s intensity to hair-raising levels. Rather than going down the straight-up horror route, Neal-Roberts takes inspiration from revered British filmmakers such as Alan Clarke, and offers a visual experience more akin to a psychological thriller.