December 23, 2016
YEAR-IN-REVIEW

The 8 Best Music Videos of 2016

These music videos make us wonder which came first: the music or the filmmaking?

Music videos have always been a fantastic point of entry for aspiring film directors. Spike JonzeMichel Gondry, and, most recently DANIELS, all got their start in the music video genre.

2016, which could be called the year of the visual album, has provided us with a slew of new directors ready to assume their mantle. As tastes shift away from the good old days of pop and MTV, we have been treated to a revolutionary blurring of the lines between music and film.

Here are the best music videos of the year.

8. Hinds — Warts 

Director: Pedro Martín-Calero Medrano

We've highlighted a few of today's most visionary directors in our Auteurs of Music Video retrospectives this year, and here's a little secret: we want Pedro Martín-Calero next. The Spanish artist, a frequent collaborator with the garage rock band Hinds, is one of the best in the business at blending color with geometrical shapes. 

It's as if we've entered a living surrealist painting.

Warts is a prime example of his expertise. Like much of his other work, it's as if we've entered a living surrealist painting. This is what a music video looks like when every detail of production design is carefully plotted and mapped out. Unfortunately, the video has been painfully under-appreciated by many music blogs, but it finds a perfect home here among our filmmaker favorites.

7. Ty Segall  Emotional Mugger 

Director: Matt Yoka

Matt Yoka's epic 15-minute music video for Ty Segall's Emotional Mugger takes the concept of a visual album and explodes it into some David Cronenberg-inspired monstrosity. While the visual album really grew to prominence this year—see every other end-of-the-year music video list that ends with Beyonce's Lemonade—Yoka and Segall did something a little different.

As Yoka explained in a retrospective conducted back in May, instead of making visuals to fit the finished songs, "it was more collaborative than we had done in the past. [Segall] remixed some of the music that then informed the specific scenes. Then, after we shot it, we remixed more music to fill it out. It really was a back and forth process. For me, that's really exciting because it's a deeper collaboration with the musician."

What we got was a disturbing, condensed nightmare of modern Los Angeles, entirely unique in this year's music video landscape.

6. Jamie XX — Gosh 

Director: Roman Gavras

Can someone just give Roman Gavras a damn feature-length action movie already? This guy has been pumping out beautiful, spine-tingling music videos since his pulsating debut, Justice's Stress, back in 2008. His resume has grown to include similarly chaotic shorts for M.I.A.'s Born Free and Bad Girlsand Watch The Throne's No Church in the Wild.

Jamie XX's Gosh came out last year, but for some reason, the video didn't drop until three months ago. It's albinos versus everyone in this surprise release from the gritty urban visionary. Busby Berkeley choreography mixed with insanely skilled drone cinematography go a long way to render this a clear standout.

5. The Avalanches  Because I'm Me

Director Greg Brunkalla

We've all been there, kid. We just might not be as good at dancing as you are.

In a year where there may not have been too much to feel good about, this is definitely the feel-good music video of the year. From a filmmaker's perspective, it's about as simple as you can get: a choreography-based, one-location shoot whose biggest expense must've been the blow-up human heart costume. 

4. David Bowie  Lazarus

Director Johan Renck

This is an extremely hard video to watch. Released to the public just two days before his death on January 10, it was later revealed that David Bowie intended it to be a parting gift to his fans. It is perhaps a perfect representation of the pain and confusion the legendary rock and roll singer was enduring in his final days: throughout most of the video, Bowie lies in a hospital bed, blind to his surroundings, before ultimately retreating into a dark closet.

A perfect representation of the pain and confusion the legendary rock and roll singer was enduring in his final days.

Bowie had been living with cancer for 18 months prior to his passing. Producer Tony Visconti probably summed up the importance of this video best when he wrote, "His death was no different from his life: a work of art. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry."

3. Radiohead Daydreaming

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson and Radiohead: what self-respecting cinephile could possibly ask for more? The band and the much-beloved director already had a history together prior to the release of this video; Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood scored three of Anderson's films— The MasterThere Will Be Bloodand, most recently Inherent Vice. In return, Anderson directed a film documenting Greenwood's latest album, Jununwhich the guitarist recorded with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur in India.

In light of the recent death of Yorke's ex-partner of 23 years, however, the video for Daydreaming should be considered their most personal collaboration yet.  The band's latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, released earlier this year, was directly inspired by the split between Yorke and Rachel Owen. A closer examination of the video indeed reveals a connection between its subject material and the mother of Yorke's two children: 23 doors for the 23 years they were together. In the video, Yorke is always entering new doors, but is never able to return to the previous moment.

2. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard  Gamma Knife and People Vultures 

Directors: Jason Galea & Danny Cohen

When you have created a music video that inspires Alejandro Jodorowsky to tweet "¡Que Divertido!", it's safe to say you've done something right. Such was the case for Jason Galea and the ridiculously-named Melbourne-based septet, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, whose music videos Gamma Knife and People Vultures are clearly influenced by the master surrealist Jodorowsky himself.

You won't find a video that better summarizes this year better than Sam Pilling's Nobody Speak.

These videos are part of a nine-piece "music video film" that is rumored to be released sometime prior to the five albums the prolific band plans to release next year. Visual artist and director Galea is so tightly woven into the mythos of the music that even the band considers him to be their eighth member. He's responsible for the of cover art, animation, posters, and direction behind nearly every music video the band has put out. It's fantastic to see music and visuals meld such that you're not sure which piece of media is inspiring the other—and, with Gamma and Vultures, that's just what we get.

1. DJ Shadow ft. Run The Jewels  Nobody Speak

Director: Sam Pilling

You won't find a video that better summarizes this year better than Sam Pilling's Nobody Speak. That why it deserves its place at number one. We've seen a ton of beautiful, artsy, and surreal videos this year, and many of them hold spots on this list, but what's most effective about the video above is how accurately it reflects reality itself. Don't believe us? Just type "parliament fight" into your YouTube search window and slide down a dark hole of political turmoil.

2016 was a trying year for both sides of the American political landscape, and while government officials on U.S. soil tend to be less "physically" aggressive, Nobody Speak doesn't make too much of a leap in its premise of congressional rumble. This is political satire at its finest. What Pilling, El-P, Killer Mike, and DJ Shadow show us is a mirror to the world as it is today: tense, dramatic, and horrifying enough that sometimes we have to stop and let out a resentful laugh. Boy, how ludicrous things have become.


See all of our 2016 Year-in-Review coverage.

Your Comment

15 Comments

Are you kidding? These are the best 8 music videos of 2016? Sad Day ...this stuff is crap.

December 23, 2016 at 7:16PM, Edited December 23, 7:16PM

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Chemical Brothers - Wide Open? Massive Attack - Voodoo Blood?

December 23, 2016 at 8:42PM, Edited December 23, 8:42PM

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You should stop with your superlative (and somehow arrogant) title such as "The 8 best Music videos of 2016", as you are ONLY able to present your "8 favorite Music videos of 2016".
To truly select the best ones, you should have to watch everything produced in the world in 2016. Are you doing that before to write such article ?
And BTW, "Hinds — Warts" is vocally horrendous...

December 24, 2016 at 5:03AM, Edited December 24, 5:02AM

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Franc Sanka
Director of Photography / Film and Photography Teacher
132

Didn't you know - Shit vocals = "Garage / Punk"

January 1, 2017 at 1:22PM

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Is it April 1 already? These have to be the worst videos I have ever wasted time watching.

December 24, 2016 at 7:23AM, Edited December 24, 7:23AM

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KB
8

I liked Coldplay's Up&Up quite a bit :)

December 24, 2016 at 6:31PM, Edited December 24, 6:31PM

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What up NFS?

Your 'best' lists... not too good.

Worth watching: Lazarus (maybe) and Nobody Speak.

December 25, 2016 at 10:35AM, Edited December 25, 10:35AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1004

None of them come close to this one
which was shot in 4 seconds

OK Go – The One Momen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvW61K2s0tA

December 26, 2016 at 3:37AM, Edited December 26, 3:37AM

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love the josh XX - Gosh
well quite good list but not so awesome.
http://macxify.com/

December 26, 2016 at 2:16PM, Edited December 26, 2:16PM

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Hiro Murai did incredible work this year.
Sorry you missed it.

December 27, 2016 at 8:23PM, Edited December 27, 8:23PM

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Thanks for the list NFS. A few of these I hadn't checked out. Yet again this comment board fills up with negative posts. I really don't understand. Did every person coming here expect NFS to choose their own personal top music video list? This is their top list. Watch and enjoy. Make your own blog and list if you so desire. Way too much useless negativity.

December 29, 2016 at 11:08AM, Edited December 29, 11:08AM

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Seth Evans
Editor
317

coldplay up ?

December 31, 2016 at 3:52AM, Edited December 31, 3:52AM

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"Boy, how ludicrous things have become. "
This - is funny. For pretty much an entire slate of Garbage.
Maybe if these vids had sub-titles it would have added some artificial depth to the pretentiousness of them. You know - the foreign film deep deep depth versus doing the same thing in the U.S. and it's called crap ?

January 1, 2017 at 1:26PM, Edited January 1, 1:30PM

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January 13, 2017 at 9:41PM, Edited January 13, 9:41PM

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These music videos are really cool. I just float for it. You can all these music videos for free on http://musicdownloaders.org

April 3, 2017 at 12:45AM, Edited April 3, 12:45AM

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