FEATURE: Evolution Within the Resolution: 2018: A New Dawn of the Music Video?




Evolution Within the Resolution


IN THIS PHOTO: Childish Gambino (Donald Glover)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

2018: A New Dawn of the Music Video?


I cannot remember when we lost that love of the music video...


PHOTO CREDIT: @jmuniz/Unsplash 

and that medium became less relevant. Maybe it tied into the advent and bloom of sites like YouTube in the middle of the last decade. MTV stopped being a big platform for big artists by the start of the 2000s and its impact now is practically nil. I remember growing up looking at artists like Michael Jackson rule MTV and produce these lavish and hugely ambitious videos. Rather than, like today, artists making videos to accompany songs – lacking imagination and much drama -; the videos acted as a filmic accompaniment and you had these magnificent spectacles. There were some dodgy videos, for sure, but most of the very best of all time arrived before the turn of the century. We have had some great videos since 2000 but it seems like the music video as a whole is less important. This seems strange as platforms like YouTube are vital and the biggest artists can get millions of hits within hours of releasing their latest video. One wonders whether this sense of popularity is because of the visual quality and substance of the video or just what we do now: click without thinking and judging a video on the popularity of the star rather than the weight of the piece itself. The last few years has been a little unspectacular for videos but, in a lot of ways, there has been a revival in 2018. That is not to say this year has ranked alongside the very best in terms of videos: we have not seen a new dawn and revolution regarding the music video.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Mitski (left) on the set of her video, Nobody/PHOTO CREDIT: Mitski

There are fewer legendary and established video directors and, at a time when new artists have less money and are taking a D.I.Y. approach; so many videos are being shot inexpensively and, as such, the ambition and scope is not that large. I love artists who can film a video for very little money and make it work but, in terms of the mainstream artists, there is more money to play with. That can be a curse in itself because people often waste tonnes on flashy visuals and casts without thinking about imagination and potency. It is hard to ignore the very best videos from this year. 2018 has produced at least one genius video: This Is America from Childish Gambino. When it arrived earlier in the year, I was struck by its graphic content, its nuance and how you had to watch it again and again – it is seen as one of the best videos of the century and one that can rank alongside the very best. It is as much about modern-day America as anything; harsher and more brutal than any news report and a stunning visual feat! It is the finest video of this year and proof that directors of today can make something long-lasting and iconic without having to rely on technology, parody and spoofing. I am excited to see what sort of videos arrive in 2019 and whether we will get anything quite as stunning.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @landall/Unsplash

From big Pop artists like Ariana Grande to lesser-known acts; there have been some wonderful and arresting videos from 2018. I think there has been a revival and more artists/directors are adding deep stories, substance and something memorable to videos. Over the past few years, I have seen a break away (to an extent) from the visual masterpieces, the envelope-pushing promotional and videos that can stand proudly for many years. That is not to say artists didn’t care but it has been a while since I’ve been drawn to music videos. 2018 has brought some hope and variety to the table – even though it has not quite been a revival and sense of revolution. Maybe it is impossible to return to the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s and, given the fact videos can be filmed and produced by any artist; maybe it is harder to make those iconic videos and stand aside. What I have noticed about 2018’s best is the real sense of bravery, relevance and intelligence. We have still seen some aimless and pointless videos but much more quality has come through this year – a stronger year than 2017, for sure. Everyone will have their own favourite videos from this year but I have compiled a rundown of eighteen videos that strike the senses and stand in the mind. Maybe you will disagree with the selection but many critics have shared my view (I provide a snippet from various websites describing the videos). Have a look at the highlighted eighteen and dive into the best videos...


IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande captured by British Vogue/PHOTO CREDIT: Craig McDean 

2018 had to offer.


Childish Gambino - This Is America


Release Date: 5th May, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 451,572,983

Director: Hiro Murai


Look, Childish Gambino does a lot of insane dancing in what appears to be a one-shot onion of a video. As you peel back the layers, you get a beautifully dark portrait of the ultra violence and rage running through America, and, most importantly, residing in the minds of black Americans trying to survive this insanity. That Gambino can take these strands and weave them into a cohesive narrative over song, dance and video underscores that he is today’s foremost creative voice for our people” – COMPLEX

Janelle Monáe - Make Me Feel


Release Date: 22nd February, 2018  

YouTube Views (to date): 19,629,613

Director: Alan Ferguson


When this video hit in February, Janelle Monáe hadn’t formally come out as pansexual yet. But she was dropping big hints about her queerness with the colorful, campy-as-hell clip, in which she attends a party of David Bowie look-alikes while oozing the confidence of Prince. Then there’s the part where she literally runs back and forth between Tessa Thompson and a male actor, as if she can’t decide which one to dance with. It’s not a problem, though: She ends up partying with both – Michelle Kim- Pitchfork  

The Carters - APES**T


Release Date: 16th June, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 144,829,680

Director: Ricky Saiz


In the video for Beyoncé and Jay-Z‘s “Apeshit,” the first visual from the pair’s surprise joint album Everything Is Love, the two stars romp through the Louvre in Paris, seizing center stage in a high-culture palace that – like most Western art museums – historically made little room for non-white artists.

Some of their mission involves the strategic highlighting of non-white images already in the Louvre. Beyoncé and Jay-Z rap in front of an Egyptian sphinx, and in galleries filled mostly with neo-classical French paintings – white artists, white subjects – the camera singles out black faces. (The video is directed by Ricky Saiz, who also helmed the “Yonce” video from Beyoncé’s eponymous 2013 album.) Viewers catch brief glimpses of a pair of black figures in Paolo Veronese’s painting “The Wedding at Cana,” where Jesus turned water into wine, as well as a quick look at Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s “Portrait d’une Négresse,” a depiction of a black woman staring guilelessly back at the viewer” – Rolling Stone

Ariana Grande - thank u, next


Release Date: 30th November, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 207,759,269

Director: Hannah Lux Davis


It's rare that a music video — or any piece of art, for that matter — can live up to the hype that Grande's "Thank U, Next" video inspired. But it didn't disappoint.

Grande had teased the video with photos on social media, allowing her fans to know in advance that she would be paying tribute to four iconic female-focused movies: "Mean Girls," "Legally Blonde, "13 Going on 30," and "Bring It On” – INSIDER


Release Date: 29th August, 2018  

YouTube Views (to date): 12,672,880

Directors: Adam Powell and Matty Healy


More often than not, music videos featuring fans come off as pop propaganda, with the diehards’ awkward glee tapped as a cutesy marketing ploy to sell an artist as approachable. But the 1975’s clip for “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” avoids any inklings of opportunistic performativity. Though frontman Matty Healy flits in and out of the frame, flossing and fooling around, the video focuses on a diverse array of fans who boogie in front of brightly colored backdrops, like a Neil Winokur portrait. While most smile eagerly and pantomime the lyrics, others mug solemnly. Together, the motley crew bob their heads in unison, announcing themselves as the future – Quinn Moreland- Pitchfork 

Dua Lipa - IDGAF


Release Date: 12th January, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 443,860,998

Director: Henry Scholfield


This video is about your stronger and weaker side fighting with each other only to realize that self love is what will help you overcome any negativity that comes your way," Lipa said, as reported by NME.

"We wanted to embody the sense of empowerment in the track, whilst going beyond the literal breakup context," director Henry Scholfield added. "We had in mind a visual of the internal struggle, showing the two sides of Dua's emotive state, like an argument with someone you love. The strong Dua at first berating then eventually persuading her weaker alter ego that they both don't give a f---” – INSIDER

Mitski - Nobody

Release Date: 26th June, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 2,509,097

Director: Christopher Good


It was actually hard to get this one little shot where the magnifying glass goes directly in front of my eye, because in one swift motion I had to raise the magnifying glass at exactly the right angle where the camera catches my blurry eye right behind it. We did a lot of the shots in this video over and over, it had to be precise. And I loved every minute of it- The Cut

Christine and the Queens - Doesn't Matter


Release Date: 5th July, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 873,381

Director: Colin Solal Cardo


"Doesn't Matter" is a truly beautiful example of Christine and the Queens' talents and allure. The minimalistic clip sees the multi-hyphenate artist writhe, bounce, embrace androgyny, explore the gender binary, and showcase her effortless stage presence in a parking lot- INSIDER  

Superorganism - Everybody Wants to Be Famous


Release Date: 3rd January, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 12,722

Director: Robert Strange


Yes, a second Superorganism video. They're that good. First off: Very serious trigger warning for people with photosensitive epilepsy. The flashing visuals are obviously not what makes this video great, though if early trends are any indication, it seems like music videos in 2018 probably should have more photosensitive epilepsy trigger warnings. Superorganism's video for "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" treats viewers to a harrowing visual cacophony on the way to a total sellout, with ads for a seafruit-flavored soda taking over a streaming site that disconcertingly looks a lot like YouTube, which is where most people will watch the video. Kids, take note: the brands will come for your personal brand if you get famous- Thrillist

Drake - Nice for What


Release Date: 6th April, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 283,657,765

Director: Karena Evans


In perhaps his wisest move of the year, Drake entrusted several of his music videos to 22-year-old director Karena Evans. With “Nice for What,” Evans turns the camera’s gaze onto a bevy of powerful women celebrating their worth, including ballerina Misty Copeland en pointe in a nightclub and The Florida Project’s Bria Vinaite zipping around in a bumper car. Her shots of these women simply doing their thing add a degree of sincerity to Drake’s female empowerment bop – Quinn Moreland- Pitchfork

Confidence Man - Don’t You Know I’m in a Band


Release Date: 10th April, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 208,610

Directors: Schall & Schnabel/Julian Lucas


Dance music should be fun, and Aussie group Confidence Man knows that better than anyone, channeling the spirit of the B-52s into 21st-century personal brand culture. It's an upbeat ride through magazine culture and megalomaniacal entitlement fame produces, and above all, Confidence Man goes full throttle into their music while avoiding the trap of self-seriousness- Thrillist

Halsey - Without Me


Release Date: 29th October, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 52,877,072

Director: Colin Tilley


Without Me" is essentially a near-direct response to the tabloid coverage of Halsey's split from rapper G-Eazy. By the time the song had been released, the couple had reunited, but the video was released after their second (and presumably final) breakup.

Many fans immediately jumped on the similarities between G-Eazy and the male love interest in the video, but the narrative runs much deeper. "Without Me" is a masterful illustration of an addictive, toxic love, and it sees Halsey come out on top- INSIDER

Kali Uchis (ft. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins) - After the Storm


Release Date: 25th January, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 37,265,538

Director: Nadia Lee Cohen


Directed by surrealist, Americana-inspired photographer Nadia Lee Cohen, this video gives us an outlandish take on 1950s conformity. Though it finds Kali Uchis casually going about her routine as a dutiful homemaker, the details of her domesticity quickly morph from idyllic to kooky: the animated, Bootsy Collins-themed processed foods, her blow dryer-lined vanity mirror, the Tyler, the Creator plant that pops out of her perfectly manicured lawn. It’s the picket-fence dream, with a psychedelic bent –Braudie Blais-Billie- Pitchfork  

Tierra Whack - Whack World

Release Date: 30th May, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 2,485,174

Directors: Thibaut Duverneix/Mathieu Leger


Tierra Whack's weirdo aesthetic landed her a highly coveted spot on Thrillist's "Best Music Videos of 2017" list, which hopefully gave her the encouragement she needed to continue her music career instead of taking a soul-sucking gig dictated entirely by opaque algorithmic demands, or, like, a stockroom worker. Instead, she's making videos that involve incredibly elaborate nail art and a hoodie mask that will make you question the nature of your reality. Just enjoy the Whackness- Thrillist

Taylor Swift - Delicate

Release Date: 29th October, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 314,262,461

Director: Joseph Kahn


Taylor Swift has come to be known for making videos that are as detailed and intricate as her lauded lyricism, and "Delicate" is no different.

The video is delightful simply by virtue of watching Swift shed her typically poised exterior in favor of bizarre dance moves and unselfconscious facial expressions — although it has received backlash for similarities to a 2016 Kenzo ad- INSIDER

John Mayer - New Light


Release Date: 24th May, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 27,281,242

Director: Fatal Farm


Unexpectedly quirky, this Mayer bop may just be the meme-worthiest music video of 2018. Rumor has it that Mayer had this made by a local Los Angeles videographer who specializes in bat mitzvah videos. Who can help but watch in rapt wonder as three Mayers gaze pensively into the distance, high above fluffy clouds at sunset? Whether superimposed into a convertible,  dancing with zebras or standing in front of the Eiffel tower, this cheeky vid is a feat of green-screen engineering” – Variety

St. Vincent - Fast Slow Disco

Release Date: 20th June, 2018 

YouTube Views (to date): 943,681

Director: Zev Deans


So many of Annie Clark’s recent music videos saw her occupying the frame by herself, suggesting solitude. It happened in “Los Ageless”; it happened in “New York.” By contrast, the clip that accompanies the clubby rework of her Masseduction track “Slow Disco” is nothing but bodies. Clark is drenched in sweat, beaming on a dancefloor that's stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder with bearded hunks—a scene that the singer called a “gay disco dream.” The elated mass of sweat, hair, leather, and flesh ultimately underscores Clark’s final words: “Don’t it beat a slow dance to death?” And yeah, this looks like more fun than that – Evan Minsker”- Pitchfork

Belle Game - Low


Release Date: 30th January, 2018

YouTube Views (to date): 12,722

Director: Kevan Funk


You haven't lived until you've seen a factory worker slice excess silicone off a freshly made dildo. According to the artist, "'Low' is about the empty feeling I had when continually fucking people," and it's not easy to watch this video all the way through and feel better about the future, considering the increasing importance industrialized cultures place on the primacy of sensual experience and the substitution of human contact with digital interfaces. Let's just say they're making some pretty lifelike mannequins these days, and we're all going to have to get used to the emptiness of being treated like machines- Thrillist