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 Producers and Who To Watch.
NEST HQ’s Best of 2017: Videos
*10 videos listed in alphabetical order by artist
Bjork – The Gate [One Little Indian]
Bjork’s known for pushing the grounds of visual music on both thematic and technical grounds, and her astounding video for “The Gate,” directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, continues this trend. As it opens on an alien world, Bjork glistens under the sun, playing the flute before a gate of light appears. Polychromatic shapes contort into a metaphorical heart as Bjork and her foreign counterpart meld in and out of light. The camera dances along with them, revolving around the shared experiences as the energy erupting between them becomes more chaotic and rapid, never cutting away, as its transitions reveal the liquidity between human form and kaleidoscopic psychedelia. In the wake of the discord, Bjork is left renewed and open to a new love.
Beyond its cinematic appeal, though, it’s the intertwining of that visual stupor with the song’s writing and production that elevates it to new heights. The detailed and evolving outfits, masterful effect work, carefully-choreographed movement, and multimodal storytelling all come together to mark a new height for Bjork. — NR
Bonobo ft. Nick Murphy – No Reason [Ninja Tune]
When it comes to music in nature and nature in music, Bonobo is one of the brightest shining stars in the sky. One of my personal favorites off his 2017 album Migration is “No Reason” and not just because it’s a phenomenal, club-ready hit: it also received one of the most well-thought-out and magnificent music videos of the year.
Directed by Oscar Hudson (Radiohead, Darwin Deez) with art direction from Luke Moran-Morris, the video for “No Reason” tells the story of a young hikikomori (In Japan, a young adolescent suffering from acute social withdrawal resulting in extreme isolation and confinement). The camera stays on axis, zooming forward as time goes by and his world seems to physically grow smaller as his mental state deteriorates. The items in the room and on the wall appear to change as well. As the camera drives back, we see the lonely figure grasping at the time he’s lost. It’s a dismal, yet absolutely mesmerizing scene. — NB
josh pan and X&G – nowhere [OWSLA]
Resident OWSLA music video director Liam Underwood put together the most iconic, haunting, and elegantly simple video of the year for josh pan and X&G’s slow-burning, electronic/indie crossover creeper “nowhere.” Set in the church from Tarantino’s Kill Bill, josh pan finds himself at a piano: it’s unclear whether he’s the prisoner or whether those watching him perform are his prisoners, but mind control is definitely at play. Every scene of this video is unsettling and enthralling at the same time while being intentionally understated stylistically; let OWSLA take you “nowhere” above. — MH
Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE. [Top Dawg Entertainment]
Only a director with the rap sheet of Dave Myers (iPod ‘silhouettes’ campaign, Outkast, Janet Jackson) would be fit to visualize the Billboard #1 “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar. With the reenactment of The Last Supper, the tiny planet effect, the glitch shot, the Grey Poupon commercial reference, and Kendrick’s head on fire, what does this video not have? The satiating aesthetic combined with the cultural symbolism makes each shot more captivating than the next. This video is a modern-day classic, no more, no less. — MP
King Krule – Czech One [True Panther]
King Krule’s “Czech One” is a ferment of emotion, and the music video is everything that it needed to be to explain that, plus nothing more. It focuses only on visually submerging us his narrative, and it does so by employing three deceptively simple techniques: transition, disorientation, and texture. The use of transition within the video is not entirely novel, but incredibly clever. Archy will look up at the sky, and as the sky fades back in we realize he’s now looking through an airplane window. He gets up from his seat and walks into the airplane bathroom, only to kick down the mirror and amble out into a crowded street.
Meanwhile, time and place are completely forgone. Time is overlooked as we bleed between starry night and leaden day, and the use of nonspecific city streets holds us unsure of where we are in the world. These disorienting cuts move us through his aimless narrative, a vehicle not for travel but instead for highlighting the sweepingness of his depression. A burden like weighted chains that lie over him, keeping him company across all time and all place.
Lastly, the use of color and texture seal us into this nightmarish and never-ending memory. The color is the melody, and the blues, browns, and blacks carry the weight of his chords; the textures are the analog artifacts of his instruments, and the grain structures and shot distortions from the film imbue the same grit and noise as his mixdown. This video is comforting in the same way that rain through tempest might help you sleep better at night. — DN
Liars – Cred Woes [Mute]
Anxiety-inducing, facetious, and wonderfully shot, the music video for Liars’ “Cred Woes” is a delight to behold. Initially, the video presents us with congruent images, basketballs swooshing into nets pair with Alka-Seltzers splashing into water, and a spinning plate about to topple pairs with the fragility of the routines of the main character’s life. Rote is the theme here as we follow a loser of man through his mechanical and cringed life, and through the use of timing and juxtaposition, we feel the visceral tingle of every fuck up. As the video progresses, the juxtaposition of these images becomes more callous, and soon we have broken imagery that shows us exactly the kind of luck and failure this man’s life contains. Thankfully, the unease is atoned for by the photography – you could pause the video at any moment to reveal attractive imagery, composed and complex. All in all, this one’s a ride. — DN
Moses Sumney – Lonely World [Jagjaguwar]
The cinematography in this music video is absolutely stunning. Protracted moments of flush eye candy stretch and turn with elephantine gait, and we’re left with enough time to indulge in the remarkable breadth of color achieved in this two-toned treatment: a grading that spans through all of the shades imaginable between black and white. As the video moves from a jog to a sprint, trying to keep up with the music, the editing ramps up in frequency but is staked down to it’s drawn out foundation by the slowing of the protagonist’s course. In a strange and maybe deformed manner, the line between violence and passion is blurred encouragingly, an experience that seems to frighten and inebriate the two lovers in equal parts. Through these furious moments, we feel what it means to drown in someone, and we understand the loneliness of this shallow love. — DN
Snails & Botnek – Waffle House [OWSLA]
Snails and Botnek embrace all things wonderfully weird in the music video for their collaboration “Waffle House.” This video is like watching a doomsday-esque film on acid — we mean this in the best way, really. Slimy animation coats the entire video while the distinctive sounds of Snails and Botnek take you on an unusually delightful ride. This music video shows us that we don’t always need to take music so seriously and it’s a wonderful thing to have fun and get weird. — JM
Vladimir Cauchemar – Aulos [Ed Banger]
From the very beginning, the 90s-VHS quality and fast-paced stitching had us hooked, and that’s before the recorder-playing gentleman appeared. Something about this dude is so infectious, and his dancing is next-level. Then, the video goes full Tim and Eric as Turtleneck Flute Man finds yoga nirvana in his funky movements. Also, someone told us he’s playing the recorder wrong, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t touched one since like the fourth grade. Overall, clever composition and editing makes for a compelling, one-of-a-kind video, and presumably on a low budget at that. Also, the lead guy is so god damn relatable: no surprise that even though this video didn’t come out until this month, it was such an easy pick for one of the best this year, undisputed among our squad. — NR
Young Thug – Wyclef Jean [300 Entertainment]
This is the most original and organic music video idea of the year. When Young Thug didn’t show up for the “Wyclef Jean” music video shoot for a concept Thug himself came up with involving tons of models driving kiddie luxury vehicles, co-director Ryan Staake salvaged the shoot by trolling Thug’s no-show with his own narrative of the day’s events. This video went on to win the MTV Video Award for Best Editing, an award Thug didn’t even know he was nominated for until after the win – incredible. — MH
Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid – 1-800-273-8255 [Def Jam]
While a number of the videos on this list were recognized for their aesthetic integrity or whimsical nature, Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid is of great significance – titled with the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). The video directed by Andy Hines tells the story of a high school student struggling with his sexuality, and the harsh repercussions among his family and peers. It’s absolutely heartbreaking – but transforms into a story of acceptance, and the choice to love yourself. In the weeks following the release of the single, calls increased by 27% to the NSPL with an additional 100,000 hits to their website. I haven’t once been able to make it through the final scene without crying, but it acts as a beacon of hope and reminds us all – it gets better. — CS
Come back tomorrow for NEST HQ’s 10 Best Producers of 2017 and Who To Watch in 2018..