“Nobody Speak” by DJ Snake (feat. Run The Jewels) – Let’s face it, today’s political climate is nothing short of a figurative war zone. A number of musical artists have inserted their foot in the door of political controversy by calling out specific politicians and policies that starkly oppose each band member’s morals. DJ Snake and Run The Jewels had strong opinions of their own, but they decided to express themselves in a much more unbiased manner. Rather than point fingers at any specific person or party, DJ Snake and Run The Jewels exploit the absurdity of the entire bureaucratic situation with a staged political argument that layers a traditional rap battle with a modern political scuffle. The whole scenario is comically enticing despite its frightening inevitability in regards to the communication of this nation’s political elite.
“The Moment” by OK Go – The collegiate marketing lectures of tomorrow will undoubtedly be taught on OK Go’s ability to repetitively create a piece of collateral most marketing departments classify as fabled. That’s right friends, we’re talking about the ominous “viral video” (queue Twilight Zone music). OK Go first capitalized on the emergence of YouTube with one of the first recognized viral music videos within the 21st century’s evolving streaming space. Last year they then followed up with a similar reenactment of that first video, but this time they decided to choreograph their entire routine within a coordinated zero-gravity chamber. Everyone was waiting on the edge of their seats for the anticipated trifecta, and OK Go hit the nail on the head with the four second glimpse that “The One Moment” provides into the powers of modern media. Audiences sit entranced within a constant reactive response that can be summed up by the unfinished phrase “How the…?!”
“Monument” by Mutemath – There are very few things in life that are as cute as an old couple madly in love. Charles “LaLa” Evans and his late wife Louise Evans are the epitome of that elderly cuteness. Even after Louise‘s passing, LaLa remained immensely positive by continuing to devote his life to her just as he’d done for half a century. LaLa’s happiness is one of the most infectious emotions displayed in any music video or from any particular person that I’ve come across this year. Best of all, the joy doesn’t stop with this video. You can also catch LaLa’s reaction to watching the music video in the follow-up video titled “Mutemath – Monument (LaLa’s Reaction)”
“River” by Leon Bridges – As one of the top-ranking candidates in last year’s “Top 100 Songs” playlist, River made a strong comeback with its late blooming visual debut. The brutal backstory of Bridges’ upbringing and the lives of those people that his life was built upon is thrust straight into the listeners throats as if Bridges can do nothing about the sorrowful aspiration carried woefully in his tale. A palpable message lingers throughout every verse, as Bridges and his companions do their best to hang onto any glimpse of faith throughout life’s toughest challenges. After all, following life’s passions and surrounding yourself with those who care for you simply because of their intrinsic love of your true self is an arguably significant chunk in what keeps most people both literally and figuratively alive.
“Because I’m Me” by The Avalanches – After initially listening to the audio file for “Because I’m Me”, audiences could only hope for this exact music video that brought the imagined theatrical and strong-willed little soul artist to life. Perseverance in the everlasting pursuit of love is always admirable, but the significant age gap between the protagonist and his love interest keeps the audience smiling the whole way through. The brass players provide excitable support, while Camp Lo brings crowd-pleasing rap and underplayed narration of the persistent boy’s valiant efforts. The inflated heart at the end is just a showy cherry on top, but the young hero’s efforts will not go unnoticed. Those skills will pay off one day, kid.
“Dear To Me” by Electric Guest – Hipster dance party anyone? Electric Guest invited all of their recognizably famous friends on set for the shooting of “Dear To Me”, and I can honestly say I’ve never wanted to be in a black and white room of iconoclast friends more in my life. The all-female alternative group HAIM joins Asa Taccone as loving and supportive friends within the industry, while Andy Samberg makes a surprise appearance as he expectedly acts and dances like a goof in the half-light. The friend group multiplies just as they would at any party, and soon enough a sizable crew of west coast youngsters crowd the dance floor, shimmy-shaking their way to a collective day of pure joy.
“Sleep On The Floor” by The Lumineers – A top track off of my favorite album of the year nicely emphasizes the desired rebelliousness of today’s 20-something year olds in following the tracks set out for them by their expectant superiors. The protagonist lives out an entire life happily tied at the hip to the love of her life in an adventurous tale that promotes following your gut. The whole concept seems so freeing until the audience disappointingly finds out that the entire charade was nothing but a daydream. The conclusion is a harsh reality check that, despite hope for change, most cases end with a lifelong trip down the beaten path.
“Magnolia” by Gang of Youths – The loud and proud Australian alternative rock crew struck gold with this nationally (within Australia, that is) beloved song about literally and figuratively stumbling through life’s lowest points. The ballad specifically describes lead singer David Le’aupepe’s bout with a near suicidal binge drinking bender that sent him walking down the middle of the interstate in the dead of night. Le’aupepe has since gone to rehab, recovered from substance abuse, and openly admitted his low points so that the rest of the world can learn from his downward spiral. Even with his darkest days in his past, Le’aupepe does an excellent job of reliving and visually materializing the stupor that sent him down the middle of the freeway that fateful night. Minor physical nuances add believability to his previous mental issues, while the inclusion of the collective band members in the video’s finale hints at their meaningfulness in Le’aupepe’s recovery.
“Studio 6″ by Matt Maltese – Sensuality is the immediate descriptive noun that comes to mind when watching the video for “Studio 6”. This video is arguably the most uninhibited and graphic pick of this year’s ranked lot, but it also succeeds in a way that no other video does by flawlessly capturing the essence of loss, regret, and inability to vacate romantic memories. A physical presence has left the woman in question’s life and the gaping hole has scattered behind a trail of memories that conglomerate into mental scar blatantly apparent to the audience. She wanders through an entire day lost within bygones of inescapable attachment that are as sad as they are relatable. The most interesting subtlety is her frequent smirk, personifying Gotye’s famous words “You could be addicted to a certain kind of sadness.”
“Burn The Witch” by Radiohead – Radiohead achieved significant success in hyping their critically acclaimed 2016 album “A Moon Shaped Pool” when they released the cinematic prefacing single “Burn the Witch” a week prior to the subsequent complete album’s release. The single’s associated video brings an anxious appeal along with the crowd-drawing disturbia that is Thom Yorke’s timelessly bizarre voice. The perturbing video puts a modern claymation-based spin on the classic 1973 thriller/mystery film “The Wicker Man”. Both the original film and Radiohead’s recreation surround a police officer’s investigation of a mysterious murder within a secluded Scottish town. The cartoony animation does very little to lighten the song’s nervous tone, as the town’s unusual residents seem more and more mentally unstable until they finally conclude the short film with an abrupt and troublesome end to the officer’s investigation.