First off, you’ll notice that Childish Gambino’s video for “This Is America” is absent from this list. When it came out in May of 2018, people were not only interested in the video’s shock and stylings, but loved it. I, too, was interested, but did not love it. But lists are defined by their omissions as much as by their contents—the music videos that I found to be the “best” this decade did not take the form for granted, but also didn’t take it too seriously, playing with ideas about how songs can be visually expressed and the ideas in them expanded and subverted. Enjoy them at your leisure.
Beyoncé enlisted the help of filmmakers like Kahlil Joseph and Melina Matsoukas and poet Warsaw Shire to make moving art of the album Lemonade, her very own “Perfidia.”
2. “Cellophane,” FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs directed her video for “Cellophane,” working with VFX artist Andrew Huang to tell the story of a sad stripper who climbs the pole only to encounter herself as a sphinx. The video is as transfixing as it is strange, and not only the visuals but also the sound are impressively designed.
3. “Moonlight,” Jay-Z
This one is needs no introduction, but it does perhaps require a passing knowledge of the TV show Friends.
4. “Call Your Girlfriend,” Robyn
Lena Dunham made the song canon, but Robyn crystallized its magic in a one-take freestyle dance video of every ambivalent party girl’s dreams.
5. “Bad Girls,” M.I.A.
M.I.A. has still not revealed how they managed to pull off the car trick. We’re better off left in wonder.
6. “Cranes in the Sky,” Solange
Solange directed this video, which fuses both eccentric movement and moody stillness to create a chorus of black expression in a range of colors, from the muted, to the earthy, to the glittery. The result, which contains as much inspiration as it does influences, is impossible to forget.
7. “ELEMENT.,” Kendrick Lamar
This Gordon Parks-inspired video puts the work of a great photographer into action, contextualizing ideas about what an ordinary person is and can be beyond the white imaginary.
8. “Liquorice,” Azealia Banks
With her first LP, Banks did not hold back her mischievous, creative, and eclectic ideas of what makes a great video. “Liquorice” is my favorite because it lampoons the Americana that Lana Del Rey shot back into the mainstream, twisting its connotations and unveiling its insecurities.
9. “One of the Guys,” Jenny Lewis
Lewis convinced Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, and Brie Larson to dress up in drag and make fun of dudes with both irreverence and tenderness. Don’t let our toxic masculinity discourse of the day forget it.
10. “Time Will Tell,” Blood Orange
Here’s a video that takes performance back to the rehearsal room and delivers it to the psyche. Dev Hynes dances in front of a mirror, plays piano, and flirts his way through a variation on a theme: Only time has the answers.