A generation ago, MTV ruled the roost in the music video game, but today YouTube hosts nearly every music video ever produced on an infinite loop. (Noted exceptions? Where's Jay Z's video masterpiece 99 Problems? Where's the songs from the Beatles' Help! movie, which played out like a long form video album?)
Over the past decade, rappers have saturated new media with innovation as other genres were left in the dust. Remember back in 2016 when Video Trailblazer Trent Reznor released a five minute music video containing nothing but static?
Burning Bright (Field on Fire) was a great song with a (literally) unwatchable video. I suppose his angle was to forget about the visual and focus on the audio. Well, you can do that by simply not releasing a video.
This list honors a decades worth of great songs accompanied by a great visual palette.
Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
Timeless music that channels the spirit of Motown. With over 3 billion views, you feel like they had as much fun making the video as you had fun watching it.
Make Some Noise by the Beastie Boys
In the year 2011, the Beastie Boys released the album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. The album was delayed by Adam Yauch's cancer diagnosis. Too physically ill to promote the video singles on Hot Sauce, the Beastie Boys enlisted the help of some A-list friends, including a hilarious Danny McBride as MCA. The cameo filled video was essentially a going away party, Yauch would fall to cancer in 2012, ending the Beastie Boys.
Separation Anxiety by Faith No More
Faith No More's 2015 album Sol Invictus picked up right where Faith No More left off in the Nineties. Sol Invictus was one of the best rock albums of the 10's and their video for Separation Anxiety was an exercise in dark foreboding. Using stock footage from the B Movie "Daughter of Horror," the concept was intriguing. Regretfully, there was a dearth of great rock videos over the past decade.
The Top 10:
10. Into the Night by Death By Unga Bunga
No rock band nailed it like Moss, Norway's Death by Unga Bunga. A great song accompanied by a great, buzzworthy video. If the year was 1995, they'd be the biggest band in Europe.
This decade in rock videos was uninspiring, with 90% of rock video themes being: Put a rock band in a box, on a building, or in a club. Into the Night is fun and original Rock when there's not a lot fun or originality in Rock.
9. 6 Foot 7 Foot by Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne created a visual smorgasbord with Inception level hijinks. What separated Lil Wayne from his contemporaries in order to crack the Top 10? Rewatchability. I swear I've watched this video over 100 times and still love it.
8. This is America by Childish Gambino
Arguably the most powerful concept video of the new millenium.
There is nothing more that I can say that hasn't been said already. The song and the video piled up awards and citations like they created 'em.
As the music fades at the end of the video, a terror filled Donald Glover runs through the dark. That scene is symbolism in its purest form.
7. Cocaine by FIDLAR
In a PC world, what punk band made the most abrasive, obnoxious video of the decade?
Ah, the caveat. The most abrasively obnoxious video... with a hook.
6. Acid Fuzz by Toxic Holocaust
This video was one of the most amped-up, over-the-top, evil, visceral immersions ever created.
The very definition of great metal.
5. In Hell I'll Be in Good Company by the Dead South
Year: 2014 (2016 for the video.)
The Best Country Music Video, maybe, ever. Definitely the best since the Devil Went Down to Georgia) in 1983. You want to argue with me the difference between country and bluegrass? You, sir or madam, are reading the WRONG BLOG.
Simple, clever, and catchy.
4. Bad Girls by M.I.A.
Genre: Rap / World
Year: 2010 (2012 for the album release.)
On top of the world in 2010, M.I.A. went to Morocco and filmed one of the most technically dangerous videos I have ever seen, all the while mesmerizing the viewer with spectacular desert sights over a hypnotic Middle-Eastern beat.
What's M.I.A. up to today? Promoting her documentary MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.
3. Sicko Mode by Travis Scott
Like it or not, Rap owned the 10's, but when you say great videos by Kanye, I think of 2005. When you say great videos by Jay Z, I think of 1998 or 2009. Sicko Mode played like an experimental short film, one that deserved an Oscar. Travis Scott and Drake starred in a visual experience that was a cacophony of colors over smooth, smooth rhymes.
2. Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow featuring Run the Jewels
No video of any genre captured the angst of the American Political Climate in the 10's better than DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels. Like a blunt object to the head, Nobody Speak pounds the listener with Sharp Lyrics and Nasty Truths.
Or is the other way around?
1. Upside Down and Inside Out by Ok Go
Year: 2014 (2016 for the video.)
If it was the 90's Ok Go would have owned MTV and been one of the biggest pop acts in the channel's history. In the mid-10's? They had to have corporate co-sponsors to help make their cutting edge videos.
When it comes to technical difficulty, Upside Down and Inside Out had to be one of the hardest videos ever made. What was their creative process? "Let's do a choreographed video, in zero gravity, in Russia, using physics and the laws of Parabolic Flight."
Personally, my favorite videos of the Decade?
At the beginning of the decade, it was probably Ok Go's This Too Shall Pass
Simple concept: An oversized Rube Goldberg Machine. I watched the video a hundred times with my kids.
At the end of the decade, probably Black Hole by Puppy
When I watched the video the first couple of times, I thought the band conjured a (hypothetically) real demon. Then I realized that the daemon was Depression.
I know I've shared this somewhere else on the Blog, but I can't seem to find it. In 2014, Weird Al Yankovic covered George Harrison's What is Life.
What music should be all about.