Published on August 10th, 2020 | by Noah Dimitrie0
The Best Music Videos of 2020 (So Far)
In a strange year for the music industry, we’ve still seen our fair share of striking, inventive, and downright strange music videos hit the web.
2020 has been a weird, unfortunate chapter in music history. Though the industry has taken a huge hit, artists have still found ways to make releases justifiable. In fact, it’s been a rather strong year for music videos. It’s interesting to see the not-so-subtle shift from pre-pandemic to pandemic videos, whether they were shot in quarantine or were in the can before everything went to shit. Often times limitations can be a blessing in disguise; a handful of music videos on this list found creative ways to work around the obvious problems of shooting. This year in videos was destined to stand out from others for a long time.
A couple other interesting notes: there appear to be two major styles in vogue with the videos in this list. One is animation. More and more artists seem to be thinking outside the lines of the subject matter music videos normally consist of. The animated selections in this list are trippy, dense, and extremely imaginative, providing an ambitious visual support to pair with the music. The other trend is videos stylized to look like their from a different era, mainly the 70s or 80s. It seems to be a trend in both style and substance, with everything from costuming to camera movement and aspect ratio serving as a nifty blast from the past. You’ll see that a lot in the video for Tennis’ new single “Need Your Love.”
So with all that out of the way, here are our picks for the best music videos of the year.
Phoebe Bridgers – The End is Near
The epic, crescendo-based anthem that closes out Phoebe’s latest album Punisher is personal songwriting that also soars ever so smoothly to new heights for her. The video captures the darkness of the song’s themes with its cinematography while offering that autobiographical, heart-on-her-sleeve candidness that Bridgers has come to be famous for. Her stare pierces through the lens as she sings her song directly to you.
Gojira – Another World
The first of multiple animations on the list, the long-standing heavy metal stalwarts find a suitably cosmic little fable to go with their big resounding lead single. Note the subtle whiffs of satire peppered in there as well, show a little of that cheekiness that band loves to play around with.
Glass Animals – Dreamland
I’m usually rather ambivalent towards pandemic-themed anything. Just kinda sick of it in general. But this little meta-film is a funny nod to the absurdity of the situation. It works because it’s general inferiority to most music videos is precisely the point.
Perfume Genius – Describe
I’ve raved at great lengths about Mike Hadrias, the brains behind indie pop juggernaut Perfume Genius. In the video for “Describe,” Mike embraces the grungy and angst-ridden soul behind the lead single from Set My Heart On Fire Immediately. In a grease-stained tank top, he stumbles through what feels like a David Lynch-ian Western.
The Strokes – At The Door
Another band that I reviewed earlier this year. Their album The New Abnormal is more than return to form. It’s a much-needed reminder of The Strokes’ consistently poignant vision for rock music. The video for “At The Door,” conceived of by Mike Burakoff, is a suitably spaced-out sci-fi acid trip, complete with homages to Watership Down and He-Man. It’s simultaneously old-school and modern, much like the band itself.
Tennis – Need Your Love
Another retro video, except this one doesn’t have much interest in even dipping its toes into any modern ideas. Tennis has always been a band that consciously sells themselves as a throwback act, bordering on rather hollow nostalgia. But its hard to argue against this video, which is just so well-executed in its fidelity to that grainy, quick zoom aesthetic, it’s impossible not to crack a smile while watching.
The 1975 – Me and You Together Song
British pop phenoms The 1975 probably come the j to a modern day U2, an alternative flavor that has smashed their way into the mainstream arena-rock echelons. It’s easy to accuse them of being pretty boy sell-outs. They just give off that vibe. That being said, once in a while they hit a sweet spot of Gen X moodiness that feels legitimately inspired, a pastiche of eras in alternative music coming together. This video boasts that pastiche, featuring a kind of PG-13 90s teen orgy. Yeah, I think they know their audience.
Arca – Nonbinary
This video is fucking gorgeous. Just immaculate production design, featuring a series of visually piercing portraits. Choppy and in-your-face, the video meshes with this weird little experimental rap song. With only a few striking images, the video illustrates the complexity of sexual identity.
Caroline Rose – Feel The Way I Want To
Caroline Rose misread an email. The video for the infectious lead single off her new album Superstar starts with her walking down Hollywood Blvd., confused as to where to go to shoot her music video. Then she gets a call; apparently it was supposed to be in Hollywood, Florida. So she does what any normal pop star would do: she dances her way across the U.S., gyrating around idiosyncratically in a video that’s right on brand. It’s as quirky but liberated as the song itself.
Tame Impala – Lost In Yesterday
This uber-catchy cut off Kevin Parker’s latest LP The Slow Rush is all about nostalgia, seeing the past with rose tinted glasses. The video’s cyclical nature drives home that point quite effectively as each time the camera circles the wedding at which the band is playing, it gets progressively happier, innocent, and also dated. But it’s not all so forlorn; like the lyric says, “If it calls you, embrace it.”
King Krule – Cellular
This animated video from British iconoclast King Krule perfectly serves his droopy, stoner aesthetic. Feeling almost like a Ralph Bakshi production, the animated figures sort of ebb and flow through this non-space like a nasty trip into the K-hole. Very entertaining and very on-brand.