The year was challenging, but the music it spawned was both divisive and definitive. And just like the albums they accompanied, music videos went above and beyond to tell stories with unprecedented creativity to make for some truly attention-grabbing visuals. Here, the REVOLT staff picks their favorite clips.
There are literally YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands of views that simply feature people reacting to this video. Is this bish sitting on a police car? A sinking one? Is this bish wearing braids down to her beautiful ass? And are they just NBD skimming the ground as her friend does donuts? In a vintage hatchback? More importantly, IS THAT BLUE? It was all too much: the post-abolition to present-day New Orleans nods; the styles that ranged from the "Sunday's Best" Victorian era to a modern twist on the matchy-matchy looks of militancy; the pro-Black, self-loving imagery and lyrics. We all just sat there...barely catching our breath from one slay...before she suffocated us with another. — Danielle Cheesman
Kanye West, "Fade"
"Fade" is my favorite 2016 video because honestly Teyana Taylor slaaayyyeeeeddd. Best believe she made people re-think your gym membership after this. Also, it was good to see her get her shine. Her last project was dope and didn't get the attention that I thought personally she deserved. So, it was good to see this video rekindle the flame for her. But, it didn't matter who you are. Man, Woman, Dog, Butterfly, we all can agree that she killed it. — Erin Simon
ANOHNI, "Drone Bomb Me"
Unlikely characters lip-syncing became a common trend in the gamut of 2016’s video rundown (see: DJ Shadow & Run the Jewels’ Don’t Speak or Clean Bandit & Sean Paul’s Rockabye Baby), but no one did it better than Naomi Campbell, as cast in ANOHNI’s Drone Bomb Me. Center focused with all eyes and ears paying attention to what the catwalking goddess was, errr… mouthing, Naomi dominates yet another artistic form, beautiful crocodile tears and all. — Hannah Rad
ASAP Mob, "Yamborghini High"
Since they descended on the rap scene with the quirky yet mystifying visual for "Purple Swag," the A$AP Mob have been almost synonymous with the Best Music Videos category. As a matter of fact, looking back at visuals for "Let It Go" by A$AP Ferg, "L$D" by A$AP Rocky, "Trillmatic" by A$AP Nast, and the list goes on, the Harlem faction strike nothing less than homers in the visual department - so much so that some of the members have even been recruited for music video direction for other artists. So like Daniel with the damn white Vans, the Mob was back at it again when "Yamborghini High," arrived over the summer, delivering a hallucinating clip that is makes you, the viewer, feel like you're tripping on acid while watching an episode of "MTV Cribs." What a high. — Ralph Bristout
David Bowie, "Lazarus"
Released 3 days before his death in January, this video is terrifyingly prescient, given Bowie's quick demise and his propensity for personal storytelling through characters. The video is surreal, a gaunt Bowie lifts eerily above his hospital bed and is tortured by unseen demons, and the accompanying song is a tense and cerebral tune, complete with spastic and unnerving saxophone solos. — Ken Glauber
Rihanna, "Needed Me"
“Needed Me” is a cut throat crime-story starring Rihanna as a badass assassin. The visual compliments the brutally honest track showing the Bad Gal as she unleashes her inner savage on an old lover? A friend-turned-foe? WE DON’T KNOW! The scenes progresses to a climactic ending, which will leave you wishing that you could hit rewind and watch the backstory. — Courtney Neal
Caleborate, "Game Over"
California rapper Calebrate released the visual for “Game Over” early November. The video-game style adaptation brings us along Caleborate’s journey as he tries to level up while trying to overcome life’s setbacks. As he runs through the street, Caleborate comes face-to-face with bill collectors, police, Aunt TT, and even get’s a “1 Up” from his friends. I enjoyed this visual because it’s a fun, creative, and not-so-serious way to deliver the overall message of moving forward, overcoming life’s challenges and surrounding yourself with a support system/friends/family. — Sabina Palmieri
Jamie XX, "Gosh"
Directed by Romain Gavras, the clip opens on a zoned-out, couch potato of a man, dressed in all white. But soon he reveals himself to be the leader of a huge army that treks the Chinese town of Tianducheng—on foot, through the streets, and via a series of captivating synchronized moves—and storms its 354-foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower. We don't know what it any of it means, but when you realize that the video features more than 400 extras and no use of CGI or other camera trickery, it makes it all the more impressive. — Danielle Cheesman
2016 was a rough one for our collective consciousness, and maybe that’s why this year's bright lights were particularly necessary, and nice. Consider Radiohead’s 2016 LP A Moon Shaped Pool — another unreasonably masterful addition to a canon full of them — and its cinematic meditation "Daydreaming," which received the transcendent video treatment it deserved thanks to the extraordinary filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. By this point PT has already been Radiohead fam, having commissioned the band’s sonic wizard Jonny Greenwood to compose unforgettable scores to There Will Be Blood, The Master, and Junun. This time, though, Anderson is focused solely on Thom Yorke, pairing these legendary men-of-a-certain-age with head-and-heart chakras in complete and radical alignment to predictably epic result. Factor in the fact that Thom is freshly divorced, and that his nights spinning at Low End Theory leave him with a newfound predilection for bomber jackets, and you have yourself an indelible bit of cathartic and arresting contemporary video magic.
From cut to cut, Thom's outfit remains the same (that jacket tho), but the scenery changes with nearly every frame as he walks, forward, incessently, through door after door. Barely enough time to glance back. He’s older than we’ve seen him before (ain’t that the way), giving his knowing smiles and deadpan winces a wise and weary way. On and on and on and ever onward, Yorke marches through immaculately lit parking structures and other possible references to the band’s music video past, as Greenwood’s keyboard squiggles and its attendant orchestration pirouette upward and the scene gets snowy, culminating in a surreal crescendo of heartbreak and celluloid on an iced-out mountain. It all closes with Thom laying fetal by a fire, mouthing the track’s closing lament in a voice pitched down and ran backward for extra obscure measure, but of course deciphered by an internet hungry to know: "Half of my life." Man. There's a lot to decipher, but one life tip is apparent: If midlife crises are in fact inevitable, best to wring some exquisitely poetic art out of it. Thanks, Thom and Paul Thomas. —Amrit Singh