Oh, the power of music videos.
It’s no secret, bad music videos can ruin a good song, but great music videos often give mediocre songs new life.
Unlike 2014, 2015 had plenty of great music moments, but this special group of artists and directors managed to conceptualize music videos that are better than the rest.
Big Sean kicked off the summer with a nostalgic tribute to the classic ’90s sitcom Martin for his Dark Sky Paradise single “Play No Games.” Meanwhile, The Weeknd waited until the end of the year to release a violent sex-filled video starring his model girlfriend Bella Hadid for Beauty Behind The Madness’ “In The Night.”
There were also a few music videos that raised awareness about various social issues, like police brutality and xenophobia. Kendrick Lamar and Run The Jewels created dope visuals addressing the issues of police brutality for their singles “Alright” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck),” while M.I.A. showed solidarity with Syrian refugees in her “Borders” video.
It wasn’t easy narrowing down this year’s music videos to a mere 15, but it had to be done. These are the 15 best of 2015.
Sex, drugs, money, violence, strippers, and death, sounds like the perfect recipe for an award-winning film, but it’s actually a description of The Weeknd’s new “In The Night” video. Teaming up with BRTHR, “In The Night” is basically a mashup between revenge of the strippers meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The seven-minute visual is shot with a filter reminiscent of an ’80s action movie, and for good reason, Bella Hadid kicks major ass. Money and violence seem to be reoccurring themes in this world – and in The Weeknd’s best music videos.
Director: Lawrence Lamont
Ain’t no rebellion like a slave rebellion. Being one of those rappers who “gets it,” J. Cole teamed up with Lawrence Lamont to pull off one of the year’s most intriguing music videos. Coinciding with his life as a leader in the hip-hop community, J. Cole’s “G.O.M.D” character finds himself the leader of a slave revolt. With a little strategy, meticulous planning, and the help of the slave master’s daughter, Cole and the rest of the slaves on the plantation take their master and his friends hostage and demand their freedom. Oddly sounds like what’s happening politically in 2015, doesn’t it?
Director: Austin Vesely, Ian Eastwood & Chance The Rapper
Don’t you love a live play? This video portrays a well-produced high school musical with lots of lights, camera, action, dancing, and singing. The video’s a little over three minutes, but in such a short time, you find yourself mesmerized by crazy Chicago footwork, “Tha 40s” dance sequences, and the Social Experiment’s charismatic stage presence.
With everything going on regarding Syrian refugees and the climate of our country’s social politics, M.I.A. reaffirms her solidarity with immigrants across the globe with her self-directed “Borders” music video. The visually stunning video features heart-wrenching scenes of grim refugee camps, patrolled borders, and dangerous ocean journeys, all of which migrants endure in hopes of having a better life.
11. Thundercat – “Them Changes”
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
This video is sort of like a modern-day, Asian-inspired Greek comedy. Confusing, but Thundercat gets it. The visual depicts a sword fight between two samurai in what appears to be a dusty garage. Eventually, Thundercat loses his arms in the fight and finds himself in his living room watching infomercials recruiting more samurai. Feeling sad and depressed, the samurai daughter puts her dad out of his misery by turning off the TV.
Director: Mike Carson
Big Sean and Mike Carson didn’t play no games with this music video. Inspired by the ’90s classic sitcom Martin, Big Sean perfectly reenacts the opening credits of Martin’s theme song. With Big Sean playing Martin, Chris Brown playing Cole, and Ty Dolla $ign playing himself, Sean recreates memorable scenes from the series. From kicking folks out his crib to smooching with “Gina,” Big Sean masterfully pulls off one of the best videos this year. Oh, not to mention, the video features the real “Bruh Man” and a funny message from Martin Lawrence at the end.
Director: Nicholas Walker
This is the friend clique you want to be in. Nicki Minaj and Beyonce made one of the most light-hearted music videos this year. Shot at Coachella Music Festival, the two female powerhouses sport cute matching outfits, swim in baby pools, shoot water guns, eat cheeseburgers, and drop it like it’s hot together. Basically, they rub their cute friendship in all of our faces and we accept we’re just not as cool as them. The video also features cameos by the song’s producer Hit-Boy, Roc Nation’s Vic Mensa, and the list gets longer.
Director: Sia and Daniel Askill
Can’t lie; when we first watched this video, we were very uncomfortable. Sia, who’s too shy to star in her own music videos, enlisted the talents of 12-year-old Dance Moms reality star Maddie Ziegler and polarizing Hollywood hottie Shia LaBeouf to star as the muses for her “Elastic Heart” video. Dressed in flesh-colored outfits, Shia and Maddie face off in a cage and perform an emotional dance. As Shia attempts to keep Maddie locked inside, she gracefully pirouettes to her freedom. The video, which is quite cathartic, ends with Shia looking bereaved and grief-stricken.
Director: Joseph Kahn
Give a round of applause to Taylor Swift for getting everybody and their mamas to be in her action-packed “Bad Blood” video. The star-studded mini film features everyone from Selena Gomez, Ellie Goulding, Empire’s Serayah McNeill, and Gigi Hadid, to her newfound homie Kendrick Lamar, Lena Dunham, Karlie Kloss, Jessica Alba, and the list goes on and on. Inspired by a mix of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Frank Miller’s Sin City, Tay and her famous BFFs kick major ass.
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
Need an up close and personal tour through Long Beach hoods? No? Well, too bad, because Vince Staples and Ian Pons Jewell offer a once in a lifetime journey through the mean streets of southern California. Once you’re engrossed in the hellish scene of a tatted cult leader, shady police, and prostitutes, the sinister voice of Future changes to pleasant elevator music and the camera pans out to a nice White family watching chaos ensue behind the protection of a glass barrier.
Director: Rihanna and MegaForce
When a bitch needs her money, you better give it to her in straight cash. This video is simple: Rihanna’s owed money, she kidnaps the unlucky guy’s wife, tortures and turns her out bad gal style, and after countless demands, she savagely murders her deadbeat defaulter. By the end of the video, you realize murder never looked so good. Thank you, Rihanna.
4. Run The Jewels – “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck)”
Director: A.G. Rojas
This shit is deep. With countless cases of police brutality making headlines this year, Run The Jewels teams up with A.G. Rojas to deliver a visual that’s right on time. The black and white video depicts a police officer and Black man involved in an intense struggle. The scuffle begins in the middle of the street and after minutes of rumbling and tumbling through the hood, the two find themselves in a house. By the end of the video, both the cop and the man realize their brawl is pointless and stop fighting. The video ends with both men on opposite sides of the bed thinking about what just happened.
Director: Director X
And the video troll of the year award goes to…Mr. Aubrey Graham. Just when you thought Drake’s music videos couldn’t get any worse, the Canadian rapper manages to troll the world with a captivatingly goofy video for his summer anthem “Hotline Bling.” Drake’s silly dance moves, big booty video models, and obnoxious clothing choices inspired hundreds of memes and gifs on the internet. We thought the joke was on Drake, but the joke was really on us. Summary for this video: thank God for Drake’s sense of humor.
Director: FKA Twigs
Last year, FKA Twigs topped our “2014 Best Music Videos” list with her Nabil-directed “Two Weeks” video. This year, the UK singer/songwriter returns with yet another dope self-directed visual. Don’t know what frequency FKA Twigs operates on, but whatever universe it is, we need to get on a space shuttle there ASAP. Imagine yourself in a dark forest, then imagine yourself watching a pregnant FKA Twigs pull a rainbow-colored scarf from her vag. Just when you think Twigs’ “Glass & Patron” video can’t get any weirder, she pulls more tricks out of her freaky hat. By the time the five-minute video ends, you’ll wonder, “WTF did I just watch?”
Director: Colin Tilley
There are so many great things to say about Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video. It’s powerful, creative, thought-provoking, and serves as the visual for the soundtrack to every #BlackLivesMatter protest across the nation. The Colin Tilley-directed video kicks off with the Black Hippy Crew riding ’round and gettin’ it while freestyling and drinking 40 ounces. As the camera slowly pans out, you realize four White cops are carrying the car on their backs. Now, is the joke on the cops, or the young Black men they’re carrying away? That’s for you to decide. The video also features imagery of Kendrick flying through the streets of Los Angeles, inspiring young Black youth to be their best selves. This is probably K.Dot’s heaviest video, but also the most necessary.