The Best Music Videos of 2016 (So Far!)
PopCrush is taking a midyear breather to take a look back and appreciate all of the goods we’ve been given this year so far, from January to June. Missed our Best Albums (So Far!) and Best Songs (So Far!) lists? Go check it out now!
We're back with some more looking back — and it's time to dive into the visual side of things.
From construction zones to orgies to some casual stalking in one's bra and panties (so what, who cares, who hasn't?!), 2016's served up some truly bountiful feasts for the eyeballs. Check out our picks for the year's finest music videos (so far!) — from Fifth Harmony to Years & Years — down below.
Didn’t see a song you loved on our list? Let us know in the comments!
Equal parts Mad Max, Akira and Tank Girl, the video for Grimes' "Kill V. Maim" is a cyberpunk vision of post-apocalyptic fantasies, all neon-soaked and frenzied. In the manic clip, the alt-pop artist dances in a deserted subway station, goes on a deranged joyride through a neo-Tokyo landscape and raves in an underground vampire nightclub. The whole thing ends in a blood-bath... literally. - Erica Russell
To be fair, the entire Lemonade video series could (and should!) be our Best Videos of 2016 (So Far!) list in its entirety. But Bey mercifully blessed us with "Sorry" on VEVO for mass consumption beyond TIDAL — a move no doubt appreciated by many in the BeyHive. The "Sorry" clip is especially rich in African cultural references (which are fascinating to explore in-depth) — and, of course, tennis superstar Serena Williams bopping right alongside Queen Bey is an incredible moment in joint icon celebration.
After flexing his interpretive choreography skills in "King," out-and-proud Years & Years dream boy Olly Alexander opted to go the sexually fluid route for the troupe's fantastic single "Desire," given an assist by Queen of the Clouds, Tove Lo. The video is essentially one big ol' #unapologetic orgy of people of all shapes, shades and sexualities — a veritable rainbow of love. "I choose this because I do not want to hide or limit my sexuality, I want to make videos and songs and art that celebrate all different kinds of sexuality and queer identities," Olly wrote upon the release of the video. — Bradley Stern
Carly Rae Jepsen's brand of infectious '80s pop-by-way-of-21st century production continues its unrelenting stronghold over the dance-floor in the video for "Boy Problems," the fifth single off the Canadian export's sensational EMOTION. Featuring a cameo by Tavi Gevinson and directed by feminist photographer Peta Collins, the candy-coated clip is a glitter cannon explosion of tinsel streamers, tiaras and girl power at its most subversive. And why can't feminism look like a trapper keeper filled with Lisa Frank stickers anyway? — Erica Russell
Make no mistake: The video for A Moon Shaped Pool’s first single is a horror movie expertly disguised as a Saturday morning stop-motion cartoon. But hey, when you produce string progressions that are menacing enough to score The Shining, the visual’s gotta follow suit. “Burn The Witch” slowly and excruciatingly chronicles a stranger’s visit to a provincial settlement, where the public welcomes him with open arms before fashioning each into a collective noose. It’s The Wicker Man-meets-Rudolph’s annual Christmas special, and guaranteed to leave you a little wary of who might be hiding out just a few houses down the street. - Matthew Donnelly
2016’s music videos have largely underwhelmed me, Lemonade and Grimes aside. Rihanna is one of earth’s most gorgeous living creatures, but that doesn’t make a video of her standing around with a gun/being a human projection screen/dancing in a pink room a masterpiece. And hey Justin Bieber’s “Company” video, I can tell when someone’s merely rePurpose-ing BTS and tour footage. The visual for Fifth Harmony’s earworm “Work From Home” single is an oasis in this creative drought, mostly for its unabashed goofiness: How can a construction worker possibly work from home? Nevermind — I’m just grateful for Camila, Ally, Normani, Lauren and Dinah’s campy imitations of manual labor using tool-belted living Ken dolls as props. Here’s to the rare 2016 music video that actually had fun with it. – Samantha Vincenty
Departing from the typical neon signage and performance clips of their past few visuals, The 1975’s “A Change of Heart” is their most plot-driven music video to date. Two clowns go on a weirdly charming carnival date, before small annoyances pile upon each other, leaving Healy dejected and alone by the video’s end. Not all relationships end in a dramatic flareup, after all — sometimes it’s those slight but undeniable misunderstandings that contribute to the dissolution of what once felt like a perfect pairing, and oftentimes it hurts more. — Ali Szubiak
Selena Gomez plays crazy a little too convincingly in her fake-out music video for “Hands to Myself,” a standout cut from her 2015 release Revival. In it, she plays the role of an obsessed fan who breaks into the home of a celebrity, convinced the two belong together. Barring its weirdly meta (and ultra disappointing) end, the video does a fair job of showcasing Gomez’s acting chops. If only it ended early instead. — Ali Szubiak
Gwen Stefani’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like, a reflection on the devastation of divorce, has ushered in sounds that have fallen flat to some longtime fans. The visual for third single “Misery,” on the other hand, successfully delivers on the singer’s signature sense of style, and offers scenes stunning enough to inspire a high-fashion house’s next video editorial. Between poses straight from the school of Dita Von Teese and the sight of flowy chiffon billowing through smoke, Stefani effortlessly validates her enduring status as a fashion icon. Plus, flower crowns and knee-high leather boots aside, who can resist the image of a grown woman innocently riding a bicycle around an abandoned parking garage’s upper deck? - Matthew Donnelly
The “Formation” video’s surprise debut dropped a lot of jaws, for a host of different reasons: fans of Bey (and of New Orleans bounce star Big Freedia, who’s voice makes a cameo) flooded the internet with ecstatic awe, hot-takers wrote too many think pieces and Bill O’Reilly types buried their discomfort in righteous anger at the sight of Beyonce sinking a police car intercut with graffiti that read “Stop shooting us.” That’s power — or as Bey puts it on the track, “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation." Director Melina Matsoukas’ clip is packed with stunning fashion looks, documentary footage and socio-politically coded moments, all of them visually thrilling. But watching Beyonce fully assert her strength and all its sources (her talent, her economic heft, her black womanhood, her southern heritage and her daughter Blue Ivy proudly dancing with a big grin, to name a few) evoked the biggest rush of all.
– Samantha Vincenty