Gone are the days when you’d rush home from school and pop MTV on the telly to watch music videos in between episodes of Cribs and Super Sweet 16. These days, we’re streaming more music than we’re buying and most of our music video consumption happens online.
But still, music videos continue to be a way for artists to express themselves and push the boundaries of creativity. This year was no exception, and with exciting releases from artists big and small, there have been some cracking music videos that have dropped in 2019. So sit back and check out ten of our faves.
Powder – New Tribe
Created by Japanese studio AC-bu, this kitsch animated music video for Japanese DJ Powder’s house track New Tribe is a hypnotic watch. The video’s meaning is open to interpretation, but essentially it traces Powder’s personal evolution from a 9-to-5 Tokyo office worker to a bona fide DJ travelling the world, embodied in the video as a little cheeky peach.
AC-bu’s animation style is purposely crude and continually switches angles so the flat layers of the image are on display. This combined with the glitchy, repetitive nature of the cast of characters suits the music perfectly.
Director and animator: AC-bu
Mitski – A Pearl
Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski’s video for the track A Pearl was released way back in January this year, but it still remains one of the most beautiful music videos we laid our eyes on in 2019. Commissioned by Spotify, the video was put together by New York creative studio Art Camp and director and animator Saad Moosajee, with the added expertise of designer and animator Danae Gosset.
The animation features 1,480 unique frames hand-illustrated and painted, which were put together using different types of 3D software. We follow a figure who we assume is Mitski running through MC Escher-like landscapes as a maze of houses turns into a pastel-coloured limbo and then morphs into a vast ocean. The chaos is both disorientating and beguiling, and Mitski’s melancholic tones make the whole thing even more captivating.
Directors: Art Camp, Saad Moosajee and Danae Gosset
The Chemical Brothers – We’ve Got To Try
With a back catalogue of great music videos under their belt, this is just one in a handful of more great videos The Chemical Brothers have released this year, with their last one dropping just last month.
Directed by London-based Ninian Doff, the video for We’ve Got To Try is less dance party and more narrative driven by telling the story of a dog who becomes the property of a science lab and is trained to become a space pilot – yes, that’s right. Woven throughout the action-packed video are quieter, more tender moments between the dog and his trainer and the wonderful twist makes it worth watching until the end.
Director: Ninian Doff, Production: Pulse Films
Tierra Whack – Unemployed
Unemployed was one of five singles Philadelphia-born rapper Tierra Whack released this year and the video to accompany the track is brilliantly disturbing. The video follows in the same surrealist style as her 2018 visual album Whack World, which consisted of minute-long songs and visuals.
Unemployed is directed by Cat Solen, who co-directed the Adult Swim series The Shivering Truth, and sees Whack take on the role of a chef creating an inordinate amount of potato dishes as a pile of anthropomorphised potatoes look on in horror. The video builds in unnerving monotony as Whack chops, mashes and purees potatoes all for a potato-based feast taking place in the next room. The highlight is the end when you can hear the screams of a batch of fries gurgling in hot oil.
Director: Cat Solen, Production: Artery Industries
Salvatore Ganacci – Horse
Not all heroes wear capes, but perhaps they should all travel in a giant shoe as Bonsian-born producer Salvatore Ganacci does in this video for his dance track Horse. In the video released in April, a collective of animal abusers get their comeuppance, as Ganacci punishes each one in the same way they’d been captured hurting said animals.
From crushing heads in car boots to repeatedly smashing them in door frames, it’s the deadpan faces of everyone involved that keeps this video on the funny side of weird. Directed by fellow Bosnian Vedran Rupic, the pair regularly collaborate together in Sweden, where they both now reside.
Director: Vedran Rupic
FKA twigs – Cellophane
“When I wrote Cellophane over a year ago, a visual narrative came to me immediately, I knew I had to learn how to pole dance to bring it to life, and so that’s what I did,” wrote FKA twigs in an Instagram post about this video when it came out in April.
Teaming up with director Andrew Thomas Huang, known for his work with Björk, this video is visually arresting and full of beautifully surreal images. From a melancholic pole dance to twigs’ face appearing on a digitally generated dragon, it’s unexpected to say the least.
Director: Andrew Thomas Huang, Production: Object & Animal
Tyler the Creator – Earfquake
As the second song from Tyler the Creator’s fifth studio album, Igor, the music video to accompany the track opens with a cameo from actor Tracee Ellis Ross as a talk show host called Pearl Edwards, who introduces Tyler as the musical guest.
The artist then proceeds to take the stage in a powder blue suit, silver loafers and platinum blonde wig, and begins to croon until his cigarette catches the studio on fire and he passes out from the flames and fumes. Luckily a firefighter, also Tyler, comes to the rescue and puts the fire out. Directed by Tyler’s alter ego Wolf Haley who has ‘directed’ all of the musician’s videos, the help of cinematographer Luis “Panch” Perez was also enlisted to give the video that cheesy talk show haze.
Director: Tyler the Creator
Sigrid – Mine Right Now
We wrote about this music video in June, and it’s a lesson in what to do when nothing goes to plan, which is to simply improvise. When Norwegian singer songwriter Sigrid was unable to make the video shoot for her single Mine Right Now, Namibian-German director Max Siedentopf decided to step up and take her place.
The result is a charming and funny video that sees Siedentopf playing the popstar role with awkward panache. There’s also lots of behind the scenes footage from the shoot, giving an insight into what a logistical nightmare making music videos can really be.
Director: Max Siedentopf
Ashnikko – Hi, It’s Me
This offering from Argentinian director Lucrecia Taormina and American rapper and songwriter Ashnikko won Best Pop Video in the Newcomer category at this year’s UK Music Video Awards (MVAs) – the only solo female director to win an award this year.
An anthem for anyone tempted to fall back into the clutches of a disrespectful ex, this video uses terrifying masks and fun choreography to great effect. The video has been slightly eclipsed by Ashnikko’s follow up video for the single Stupid, also directed by Taorimina, which gained viral fame on Tik Tok in October. Still, Hi, It’s Me has a little more nuance and subtle edge for us.
Director: Lucrecia Taormina
Beardyman ft. Joe Rogan – 6am (Ready to Write)
Released in September, this video for Beardyman’s EDM track 6am (Ready to Write) takes us on a drug-filled jaunt full of excess and desperation. To accompany the action, director Ian Pons Jewell has comedian Joe Rogan recite the daily routine of gonzo journalist and writer Hunter S Thompson which adds a weird kind of monotony.
The video really picks up around the 1:40 mark, when the protagonist’s ‘hungry’ nose takes on Pinocchio proportions in search of the good stuff. Thanks to VFX created by Electric Theatre Collective, this trip goes from surreal to downright bizarre in the best way possible. As such, it won Best UK Dance Video at this year’s MVAs.
Director: Ian Pons Jewell, Production: Academy Films
Take a look back at CR’s favourite music videos of 2018 and 2017