Director Ian Pons Jewell captures the despair and the apathy heat can cause -- sometimes it's too hot to wear clothes. Sometimes it's so hot you literally melt into a roof. James Massiah gets it. This isn't a common recurring nightmare? Animation studio Hi-Sim created a world of computer-generated devices that perform repetitive, pointless tasks. It's hypnotic enough at the beginning, but once small errors are introduced into the functioning of the machines, everything starts to break down. The fragility of systems are always exposed by human error. In all likelihood, this video won't make more people self-aware of their fallibility, but it sure is fun to look at!
Director: Jason Travis Release date: May 15 Why it's great: Mattiel's gender-fluid video plays with stereotypes of masculinity, envisioning a world of a tank-top-wearing, beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking dude who lives to watch four women go about their daily lives wearing nothing but underwear. It plays like a perverse Gap ad, an aesthetic likely derived at least in part from Mattiel's background in corporate design: The symmetry and color palette play off the Instagram-curated lives many people envy, but this doesn't look very desirable for anyone.
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That's the premise of Lauren Ruth Ward's "Valhalla" video, which begins with a women-only poker game of increasingly high stakes. It's weird and irreverent in all the right places -- especially the final shot, which never strays from Ward's face. They're on a history-lesson rampage, which is exactly what you want from the legendary NDH rockers, who aren't into the kinds of revisionist history that plague most of the ideology of resurgent far right movements.
On Twitter there's recently been a proliferation of calls for anyone and everyone to "learn history," so maybe we all should get started by watching this video, since it's the 21st century and we might as well make Rammstein our history professors. Probably not at work, though, because of the partial nudity and all that.
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OK, this is one genre at which the French excel. Teaming up with a shiny-eyed Pharrell, Gesaffelstein invokes the dark spirit of Justice in "Blast Off," which features unique lighting design to enhance the futuristic vibe. It also turns bodysuits into a kind of optical illusion, which is always a good look. The outsider artist of the rap world takes every music video as an opportunity to push the limits of the bizarre, and in "Unemployed," that takes the form of anthropomorphized, ruthlessly butchered potatoes.
The giant, Jabba the Hutt tuber might be the most disturbing image, but the sound of french fries "drowning" as they cook in grease offers a glimpse of the dark humor Tierra Whack effortlessly embraces. Director: Zia Anger Release date: September 9 Why it's great: Norwegian artist, singer, and author Jenny Hval approaches all her work with self-awareness and a strong political sense of self that rails against traditional power structures.
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You can see those qualities on display in "Accident," which takes a supposed accident of birth and turns it into a meditation on life, motherhood, and making music videos. Sure, it takes a certain kind of person to go wild for Hval's work, but that certain kind of person is the one in charge of this list. It doesn't take an expert to decipher what lighting the Confederate flag on fire means, but this video actively engages with a social and political landscape littered with exaggeration, blunt rhetoric, and lack of subtlety.
Sometimes you just gotta burn the flag to make a point. Director: Ewen Wright and Raky Sastri Release date: June 25 Why it's great: A single-take shoot that's mirrored in the final version creates the bizarre TikTok-y visual aesthetic in "Woke Up Looking," which is fittingly a lament about how much goddamn time we spend on our phones. It's a tired refrain, yes, but the attention to detail and planning required to shoot such an arresting, yet simple, video without the use of computer effects or green screens earns Irving a spot on the list you're reading on your robots.
Black-ish 's Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a mostly incompetent host of a public access show who implores Tyler not to smoke. Don't smoke! Just don't do it! After some visuals with strong Swayze vibes , Tyler smokes, if you didn't already guess that. Director: Ninian Doff Release date: March 8 Why it's great: Thirty years into their career as big beat innovators, The Chemical Brothers continue to experiment, apparent in the first singles off their April album No Geography.
The accompanying videos have matched that ambition. While their other entry on this list takes advantage of the Gondry brothers' world-distorting camera trickery, "We've Got to Try" tells a simple narrative story: What happens when you train a dog to be an astronaut.
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It's a funny concept, but it contains a surprising amount of pathos and an ending that will have you on the edge of your seat. Director: Joe Weil Release date: February 15 Why it's great: Reframing the naked egotism of the Silicon Valley milieu in terms of a rap video gives Juicy J the chance to reinterpret all the greed and self-promotion of tech leaders in a humorous, albeit still critical, light. Juicy J is a Steve Jobs-like character who makes piles of money and touts his own genius before jealous collaborators become the competition, like Kevin Gates.
Director Joe Weil and Juicy J prove that the smartly executed parody remains an effective music video format. It plays almost like a video game, like a side-scrolling Mario entered a desolate 21st century town and had to make his way out. Unfortunately, this game isn't real, because even this vision of reality is less haunting than actual reality! And he did! He resigned! This video and song came out the day after, which also definitively proves that the promise of a new track can effect governmental change.
That's a lot of proving for one video.
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Director: Specter Berlin Release date: March 28 Why it's great: Rammstein, the only German metal band that penetrated the mainstream American high school student fan market thanks to 's "Du Hast," are back with an epic song and video that covers, oh, the entire history of Germany. Starting with the Germanic tribes' battles with the Romans -- including the notorious Battle of the Teutoburg Forest -- the narrative tracks the personified character "Germania" up to modern history. And yes, that includes, you know, that really bad time between and Otherwise known as the Nazi era and the Holocaust.
Not every video on this list will put you in a good mood, and no one ever said they all would. Honestly, that's all you really need, it doesn't take 80 years to understand what life has to offer. A highlight, though, is human contact, and the images that come together to form a slowed-down kiss or outstretched hand against a frenetic background actually achieve a measure of profundity. And that's not easy to do on YouTube!
The early s internet aesthetic, which repurposed images from another era and combined them with "bad" design, still paints a pretty accurate picture of our current world. There's so much content! Too much to process! Director: Logan Fields Release date: February 21 Why it's great: The raunchy, give-no-fucks style on which CupcakKe has built her career does not take any time off in this SpongeBob SquarePants riff on, well, male genitalia.
The video echoes the song's absurd disregard for family-friendly television, featuring CupcakKe in a mermaid suit and comedian John Early fishing with a dildo as bait. It may fall into the "not for everyone" category, but you have to admire the audacity and humor CupcakKe brings to her music. Unfortunately, we're still trapped in the dark age of written words on the internet, which means I have to do the difficult but important work of informing you that Cautious Clay, in tandem with Haoyan of America who also made an appearance on last year's list thanks to Crumb's "Locket" , have given us a glimpse of a beautiful future filled with emoji instead of cumbersome words.
Director: Cole Kush Release date: May 10 Why it's great: Weird Canadian Mac DeMarco makes a weird music video for a weird song, none of which have much to do with cowboys except for the fact that the lyrics consist entirely of DeMarco repeating, "Here comes the cowboy" over and over. The cowboy is coming, and now he's gone out to sea, trapped in a kind of dentist chair that will carry him to unknown climes. Fresh off the release of their truly bizarre series of branded videos for Park MGM, all of which clock in at 30 seconds including credits, the surrealist brothers turned back to music videos Michel made his mark on the genre with The White Stripes' iconic " The Hardest Button to Button " , and the effect is a subtly creepy vision of a dance party, minus the advertising.
A restrained use of special effects makes what appears to be a straightforward scene of dancers filling a dark room seem slightly off… until everything devolves into globular clusters. It's the perfect visual hook needed for The Chemical Brothers' catchy beat. Director: Spike Lee Release date: January 14 Why it's great: Well, here we are in and The Killers and Spike Lee have joined forces; so, yeah, it would take a thousand clumsy papers in an intro-level expressive culture class to trace the origins and implications of this collaboration.
The Killers write good pop songs, and Spike Lee is one of the most talented directors alive, so they can have at it. Lee, who's been chronicling America's racist legacy for more than three decades now, depicts the current American condition at its unvarnished worst by focusing on the humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. As with his film BlacKkKlansman , Lee mixes cinematic flair with video captured via phone to give a dignified touch and a visceral immediacy to the conditions immigrants face. It all culminates in the chaotic, violent effort to prevent thousands of people from looking for a better life in America.
Director: PUP and Jeremy and also Amanda Release date: February 27 Why it's great: DIY cover songs and DIY instructional videos dominate the YouTube landscape, offering any random person the hope that perhaps they'll be "discovered," or that their beauty tips will turn them into a star.
PUP enlists the help of fans to combine the two formats into one mega-video, with some creatively bad editing trickery thrown in for good measure.