Top Five Music Videos of 2014 (so far)
Music videos are an art and in some cases, better than the song.
For example, Pharrell’s video to “Happy” instilled the song’s upbeat message even more. When an artist takes advantage of the medium, a great visual product can emerge. Even with lyric videos, many musicians are stepping up their game and putting in the effort to produce a video that’s not viewed as an afterthought. With music videos no longer being aired as much on basic cable channels like MTV, the internet has stepped in as the platform for artists to premiere their work. Artists like Lady Gaga and Vampire Weekend have helped set the precedent for others to provide music videos with intensely creative productions. When a music video is truly remarkable it does more than generate views, it generates conversation; one of the greatest modern pop culture controversies occurred due to Kanye West claiming that Beyoncé had one of the greatest videos of all time.
Since generating views and conversation are both beneficial to the music industry because it raises the artist’s profile, more musicians should make the effort to push the boundaries on what a music video is. There’s the risk of alienating fans if an artist expands past music video tropes where rappers are framed by women dancing on money, country artists sing on porches, pop stars are substituted with fan videos, and alternative musicians use surreal images. However there are also gains in stepping outside of these tropes, and that’s why the following five artists have the most fun music videos of 2014 so far.
Reminder: these artists were chosen based on the quality of their video, not their song. The videos were judged based on their creativity regarding theme, style, and execution as well as originality and overall enjoyment.
5. Lolawolf – “Jimmy Franco”
Lolawolf is the project of Zoe Kravitz along with Jimmy Giannopoulous and James Levy from Reputante. The trio’s video features Zoe Kravitz and rapper A$AP Rocky dancing in a room full of televisions. It is entertaining because of its simplicity. It does not rely on multiple wardrobe changes, fancy camera angles, or even an outstanding location. Instead the video looks like Kravitz turned on a camera and some strobe lights in an art studio that she and A$AP have been holed up in for days.
The video is cheeky with the pair obviously enjoying the other’s company as they steal each other’s cigarettes and sunglasses. The entire portrayal of the relationship is different from other music videos as Kravitz and A$AP play with sexual tension rather than provide explicit sexual images like in Justin Timberlake’s “TKO.” The entire video has an air of spontaneity juxtaposed with clearly placed neon lights making for a playful twist on the electronic pop music video. Where the usual trope of electronic videos is to show large crowds dancing, Lolawolf boils down this concept to create an intimate portrait of a couple dancing together.
4. The Front Bottoms – “Backflip”
What makes the video to “Backflip” great is its humor. The video plays out like a student’s bad art film where friends are deliberately killed off. One is impaled with a pole to the stomach while another dies when the band members intentionally serve him peanuts and then proceed to play hot potato with his EpiPen as his allergies swell up. The perpetrators/remaining members react to these deaths with laughter and dumbfounded faces that are superbly overacted: lead singer Brian Sella’s face looks like he’s silently channeling Steve Urkel’s “Did I do that?” The stunts where members are flying through the air or being set on fire are replaced by blowup dummies that look like the band members. The falseness of these stunts are explicitly highlighted and the music video relishes in its amateurish quality.
The overall tone of the video is silly with the band participating in childlike activities like jumping on a trampoline, eating pizza, and spraying silly string. These are things adolescents would do with their friends, but The Front Bottoms take it a step further by mixing in fatalities. Yet even the deaths of the friends are portrayed in undeniably amusing ways as the video takes the dark theme of murder and makes it downright fun. Initially it may seem that the video does not relate to the song at all, but it does. The video to “Backflip” is upbeat with a darker undercurrent just as the song is fast paced and sounds light but the lyrics too have darker elements. The Front Bottoms succeed in making a video that both correlates and differentiates from the title song.
3. Jennifer Lopez – “I Luh Ya Papi”
Jennifer Lopez certainly isn’t the first female artist to sexualize men in her videos. Nicki Minaj did it in “Super Bass” and Keri Hilson did it in “Turnin Me On,” but Jennifer Lopez directly confronts the topic more so than the others. The video opens with Lopez deciding on storylines for what her music video should be about. The suggestions range from filming at a carnival to a zoo, all of which are unsatisfactory to Lopez and her friends as they state if Lopez “was a guy we wouldn’t be having this conversation…if she was a dude they would seriously have her up in a mansion…or even on a yacht.” The video then cuts to Lopez in a mansion and on a yacht as she’s surrounded by hunky men.
The video acknowledges the unfair treatment of women in videos as they’re overtly sexualized by the music industry. She makes a statement by rejecting the objectification of women like in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and makes the men do ridiculous things like wash a car with their butt. While it looks abnormal for a man to be doing this, it serves to highlight how women washing cars in a sexual fashion is common. Lopez reverses the role of older men objectifying women by being an older woman who objectifies young men. Not only does Lopez address this controversial issue, she pokes fun at flipping the gender roles. She puts on gold chains like a rapper would, she wears an outfit that pays homage to her famous Grammy dress in 2000, and the men are half-naked throughout the video while having their butts smacked by the women. All of this makes Lopez’s video entertaining because it succeeds at being both serious and lighthearted.
2. Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX – “Fancy”
With an almost scene-for-scene imitation of the film Clueless, it’s impossible not to acknowledge Iggy Azalea’s music video for “Fancy.” If nothing else, the dedication to accurately recreating Clueless is worth admiring. Living in an age of nostalgia, particularly for the 1990s, the concept of “Fancy” came out at the right time. The video recognizes its target audience and taps into the viewer’s fondness for reminiscing on one of pop culture’s favorite. Iggy’s video is enticing because she pays homage to something classic while also putting her own new, fresh twist on it. Iggy pays homage by wearing an exact replica of Cher’s infamous yellow, plaid outfit yet adds more hip-hop to the mix with choreographed dance numbers on the tennis court.
In one scene, Iggy reenacts Cher Horowitz’s classroom debate scene. Cher confidently argues a mundane point in class, and it suits Iggy to recreate this scene in her video because rappers too depict this confident image. Iggy’s song personifies characteristics of Cher, just spoken in a different vernacular, and so it makes sense for her to embody Cher and the Clueless setting. The entire video is a look back and worshipping of Clueless, while also providing a new output. “Fancy” sets the bar for female hip-hop videos with it’s fresh twist while also showing how to succeed at remakes.
1. John Wizards – “Muizenberg”
The video to “Muizenberg” flashes Sebastian Borckenhagen’s colorful, animated drawings at rapid speed. One can feel the flickers lighting up their eyes as the images bounce with the tempo of the song. Circles and zigzags jump along like a pulse as a physical representation of the beat; it looks like it could be the opening title sequence for an episode of Broad City. The concept is simple yet it doesn’t take long to feel like a psychedelic trip is taking place.
With the lyrics, a face appears but quickly changes shape as eyebrows float around and form a smile. The video ties in the idea of music and people being one as the stick figures and faces transform into the animation that makes up the video. The drawings are minimalist but the actions are recognizable. In a world where realistic CGI rules, it’s refreshing to see an animation in it’s most basic form. The stick figures are just the bare bones as three lines are all that is needed to make the figures swim or walk. It’s not until the beat picks up that the animation becomes more complicated. The drawings remain simple, but the placement and pace become complex: one cannot immediately identify all the visual combinations as they pass by rapidly like a slideshow.
At one point, the images appear in black and white before switching to a day in the life of one of these figures as it shows the person eating with their family, consuming the media, going to work, and swimming at the beach. Themes of swimming, dancing, and sunshine are clearly prominent in this video to go along with the happy beat of the song. Yet what makes the video fun is that it could be interpreted many different ways by viewers. Does the video have a purpose, or is it just a serious of images? The answer is up to the viewer as they’re forced to become interactive with the art.
These five videos made the list because they were each creative, original and amusing. These artists put creativity at the forefront to produce videos that didn’t adhere to the norms of other videos in their genre. Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea aren’t props in their videos, and John Wizards aren’t even featured in their video. Most importantly, the music videos weren’t picked because they were serious but because they were pure fun. “Jimmy Franco” showed the happiness of being in a couple, “Backflip” showed friends playing like kids, “I Luh Ya Papi” reversed gender roles,”Fancy” time-traveled to the 1990s, and “Muizenberg” played with art. The success of these five music videos are that they provide a visually pleasing, artistic accompaniment to the artist’s song. One is likely to watch these music videos multiple times or share them with their friends.
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