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For many artists, the full vision for their music is not actualized until there’s a video to accompany it. Music videos can better explain the meaning or origination of a song, deepen and underline a message, or simply offer another sensory experience to increase a song’s recognition. The 10 videos selected by the NEST HQ staff this year embody all aspects of what makes a music video great, from firm statements on topical issues to impeccable cinematography to sheer, eye-opening entertainment.

Watch all 10 videos below, and come back the rest of this week for our superlatives in Albums, Producers, and Who To Watch.

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NEST HQ’s Best of 2016: Videos
*10 videos listed in alphabetical order by artist

Boys Noize – Overthrow [BNR]

Boys Noize broke the music video mold for “Overthrow” by depicting a stark, black and white world where dominance is established by whoever has the most badass aesthetic and is willing to engage in unmitigated violence to maintain control. He contrasts this in the final minute of the video where an escalating argument between two intimidating groups of dudes results in them working it out on the dancefloor of a what appears to be a gay club. This refreshing storyline succeeds in overthrowing conventional music video formats and we hope it inspires more musicians to tear down socio-political norms in their work. — MH

DJ Shadow – Nobody Speak ft. Run The Jewels [Mass Appeal]

We sit and watch as the global political climate completely deteriorates into sheer madness and chaos and civil discourse reverts back to the savage vitriol many of us thought the world had evolved past. DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels couldn’t have visualized the utter madness any better, offering a video for their Record Store Day single “Nobody Speak” back in August. I doubt the world will literally mimic the behavior in the video, but we’re already metaphorically there. It’s a sad state of affairs and that’s putting it lightly. When will adults get their shit together? Perhaps when they realize how closely the world is actually watching, represented by the woman at the end of this video. — NB

Getter – Forget It ft. Oliver Tree [OWSLA]

Director Liam Underwood has been unstoppable this year. From Jack Ü’s “Mind” to josh pan’s “Platinum” to Sliink’s double feature “Higher/Run Ricky Run”, the Australian-born, Los Angeles-based visionary has amassed a staggering volume of views for his thoughtful treatments in 2016. But Underwood’s relationship with OWSLA signee Getter has been the most interesting to observe as a fan, as the two have now connected on three groundbreaking music videos in “Headsplitter”, “Rip N Dip”, and “Forget It” – the latter of which explored some of Underwood’s deepest themes and highlighted his cinematic brilliance. – JB

Jamie xx – Gosh [Young Turks]

Released in October 2016 for a song that dropped back in May of 2015, the video for Jamie XX’s “Gosh” is one of the biggest productions he’s done to date, commissioning acclaimed music video director Romain Gavras. They traveled to the Chinese city of Tianducheng and paired amazing choreography with some of 2016’s most breathtaking cinematography. Though “Gosh” received an ‘official’ music video back in 2015, this version blows it completely out of the water and has deservedly been nominated for a 2017 Grammy for Best Music Video. The second and final scenes are two of the best I’ve seen in a LONG time. — NB

Kaytranada – Lite Spots [XL]

Kaytranada’s “Lite Spots” shows us a perfect example of a music video done right, telling a story in tune with the tone of the music without overtaking its message. In it, Kaytranada builds an imaginatively cute robot that learns and mimics his and his friends’ dance moves, and the endearing story that follows sees them bonding through joyous times and tough tribulations alike. Funded by Canada’s MuchFACT music video grant, Martin C. Pariseau’s video keeps it light, but it’s still an emotional roller coaster. At times sad, at times hilarious, this robot’s story feels real, and the impressive post-production only heightens the effect: shooting this with an invisible CGI character must have been fun. In Kaytranada’s world, robots can get down too. – NR

Mick Jenkins ft. BADBADNOTGOOD – Drowning [Free Nation]

While some of the videos on this list were recognized for their explicit grandeur or unique direction, Mick Jenkins & BADBADNOTGOOD’s “Drowning” is here for its significant message and the way director Nathan R. Smith conveys that message. “Drowning” is a harsh visualization of prejudice – directly echoing Jenkins’ lyrics nodding to the 2014 murder of Eric Garner and his final words to police, “I can’t breathe” – yet, as depicted in the video’s closing, it also represents an optimistic sense of compassion. – JB

Mija & Vindata – Better [OWSLA]

From MIA to LAX, the music video for Mija and Vindata’s “Better” is the quintessence of what it means to have fun, in its purest form. Marking the directorial debut of Ryan Farber, the video forgoes a conceptualized direction and instead pieces together arbitrary moments shot while on tour and back at home into one giant, cohesive adventure. Flashback to the OWSLA BBQ and those warm, sunny poolside days during Miami Music Week, you never know what’s going to happen; but, this video reminds us as long as you’re surrounded by good people, it doesn’t really matter. The result is overflowing with love, and filled with smiling familiar faces. It’s an inspiration that life always keeps on getting better. — CS

Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter [popcultr]

In a premium blend of classic anime design and modern day quality animation, the colors, movement, and photography in this film work to narrate an emotional experience of both profound desolation and mesmerizing hope. The film is an abstruse work of art; the idea that a father would create a space where his daughter could exist in infinite peace, safety, and wonder, triggers a wave of introspection about my own family, relationships, and ultimately about existence itself. Yet, Porter and Madeon have managed to tint the project with the undeniable resilience of youth. The result is something that can make you cry and make you want to spend the day outside at the same exact time. – DN 

With You. ft. Vince Staples – Ghost [Big Beat]

LA power group, With You., linked up with Vince Staples for their breakout record, “Ghost”, in 2015, which received a narcotized video treatment from creative production house, Tig.ht, in April of this year. Directed by Tig.ht’s Vince McKelvie, “Ghost” takes on a Los Angeles house party in POV fashion, blending real footage with animation and dizzying effects as the protagonist continues to level up his blood toxicity. — JB

Wiwek & Skrillex – Still In The Cage [OWSLA]

Wiwek and Skrillex’s “Still In The Cage” is more of a short film than a music video, but there’s no way were going to leave it off this list. Written and directed by Jonathan Desbiens aka Jodeb, the film went into production in Thailand just three days after the concept was approved. The story follows a group of heroines on a mission to escape the chaos of Bangkok, as the trio head to a remote village where a mysterious tribe is living off-grid. Still In The Cage is the perfect marriage of creative expression between music and film, resulting in a final product that viscerally illustrates the frantic anxiety of not being able to escape modern life while highlighting the moments where we lose ourselves in music, our friendships, or a piece of art and do succeed at temporarily escaping. — MH

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Words by Molly HankinsjonahberryNathan BeerCassie SheetsNeal Rahman, and Dani Noguera
Artwork by DISCHETTO

Come back tomorrow for the 10 Best Albums of 2016.

NEST HQ’s Best Originals of 2016

NEST HQ’s Best Remixes of 2016

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