2017 was one of the best years for music in recent history, with most Grammy nominations served towards artists of color. We wanted to share all of our favorites with you, in no particular order, because they’re all just so good. Comment any that we forgot, and be sure to tune into the 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on January 28, 2018.
Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.
Album: DAMN. (2017)
Director: Dave Meyers
Kendrick shocked the world when he dropped DAMN. earlier this year and each video he puts out is a testament to his lyrical and artistic genius. HUMBLE., the radio’s favorite and most quotable song, put out its video in late March. The cinematography is impeccable, the most notable being the Biblical and religious imagery, creating a black revisionist history that will also crop up in Jay-Z’s Moonlight.
Jay-Z – The Story of O.J.
Album: 4:44 (2017)
Director: Mark Romanek; Created by the animation team at The Mill
Jay-Z absolutely blew everyone away with this one. Told in a stereotypically racist cartoon fashion, Jay-Z highlights the dichotomies of internalized racism in the African-American population. In the Tidal documentary ‘Footnotes for “The Story of O.J.”‘, Jay-Z said, “We tend to as black people – because we’ve never had anything which is understandable – we get to a place where we think we separate ourself from the culture. Like where O.J. will get to a space where he’s like, ‘I”m not black, I’m O.J.'”
Tyler the Creator feat. A$AP Rocky – Who Dat Boy
Album: Flower Boy (2017)
Director: Tyler the Creator
Tyler took a lot of inspiration for the video from Jordan Peele’s 2017 blockbuster Get Out. Action Bronson’s face is gruesomely sewed onto Tyler’s in the video by the featured A$AP Rocky. Flower Boy is Tyler’s first release since 2015.
Young Thug – Wyclef Jean
Album: Jeffery (2016)
Director: Ryan Staake
Young Thug’s video for Wyclef Jean, from last year’s Jeffery, garnered more than a million views in its first 24 hours online. The driving force behind the video’s success is, oddly, its failures. Director Ryan Staake, in interviews he has given since the video’s release, claims that Young Thug did not even show up. Staake decided, on the spot, to recreate the story of Young Thug’s mental processes, and did his best to depict what he thought Young Thug would want his video to be. Nevertheless, the video is a party.
Kendrick Lamar – DNA.
Album: DAMN. (2017)
Director: Nabil Elderkin
The song’s lyrics become a dialogue between Kendrick and actor Don Cheadle. Kendrick is hooked up to a lie detector while Cheadle interrogates him. DNA. features Geraldo Rivera’s racially insensitive quote from Fox News’ “The Five.” Cheadle and Kendrick’s chemistry works well together in another visually pleasing music video from the star.
Migos – T-Shirt
Album: Culture (2017)
Director: DAPS and Quavo
The trio shot this video in frigid Lake Tahoe, decked in furs and being as extra as we know Migos to be. Migos flew to the top of the Billboard 100 this year with their album Culture, and are up for a few Grammys. The Migos were inspired by the film The Revenant.
Jay-Z – Moonlight
Album: 4:44 (2017)
Director: Alan Yang
HOV’s take on Friends, with an all-black cast, is just the surface of his video for “Moonlight.” The set is the same, the clothes are the same, and the shots are the same. Jerrod Carmichael, Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel, and Tessa Thompson parody the Friends cast. Master of None’s Alan Yang took on the directorship for the video, which sheds light (or shade?) on the mis-announcement of La La Land as Best Picture when Moonlight really won: “Even when we win, we gon’ lose.”
Logic – 1-800-273-8255
Album: Everybody (2017)
Director: Andy Hines
Nominated for Song of the Year and for Best Music Video, Logic’s song, whose title is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) phone number, was one of the most influential and moving songs from this young artist, who some might know from “Flexicution.” The video is centered around a young kid struggling with his own sexuality.
Gorillaz – Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)
Album: Humanz (2017)
Created by Passion Animation Studios
Gorillaz shared this song with Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan. Oddly, two videos exist for this song: one that uses YouTube’s 360 video feature, and one that doesn’t. Above is the animated version of the video, where the band arrives at a house where they have just moved, and splits up. The subsequent events are more like a fever dream than anything, and are odd and strangely deep in meaning.
This is the band’s 360 video. Try it out for yourself.
Francis and the Lights feat. Chance the Rapper – May I Have this Dance (Remix)
Album: Farewell, Starlite! (2016)
Director: Jake Schreier
This video was filmed in a single shot, according to director Jake Schreier. Francis touches on his vulnerability through Chance. In an interview with Genius, he said, “One of the things that you cannot change about yourself is who your parents are. I feel that there are things that I’ve inherited from my parents that I would like to change. But if I’m gonna try to change those things, I have to first recognize that those are inside me, and they are real. They’re not gonna just go away.”
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Deadly Valentine
Album: Rest (2017)
Director: Charlotte Gainsbourg
“Deadly Valentine” reads as a narrative of young love turned old. The indie-style cinematography is nostalgic and absolutely lovely. The pair of lovers run towards the church for the majority of the video, and when they finally have arrived, they are old, and recount the passage of their love. The video itself is absolutely heartwarming. The young Charlotte wears a veil as a child, and throughout the film, to symbolize the destiny of their love since their youth. Dev Hynes is cast to play Charlotte’s love/husband.
Lorde – Green Light
Album: Melodrama (2017)
Director: Grant Singer
Of all the long-awaited and perfectly satisfying Melodrama songs we received this summer, Green Light was our first visual taste of the new Lorde collection. Shot in 16mm instead of the usual 35mm, Green Light follows Lorde dancing through a public bathroom, a club, a sidewalk, and a taxi. The video is so classic Lorde that it is impossible to tear away from the close-up shots of her face and the longer shots of her dancing. Though simple, it is a perfect embodiment of what her music, and who she, is.
St. Vincent – New York
Album: Masseduction (2017)
Director: Alex Da Corte
“New York” is a story of loss and heartbreak. St. Vincent’s video is stunningly colored in an unfitting way. Director Alex Da Corte utilized loud fashion, dizzying backdrops, and clashing palettes to further illuminate the stress and the heartbreak of New York in the most vivid way.
Torres – Skim
Album: Three Futures (2017)
Director: Ashley Connor
This video is one of those ones that keep you up at night, in a good way. The generic setting of a suburban home is unsettlingly familiar, giving the video, even more, eeriness coupled with the bodies reaching out to her. This is Torres’s first single since her 2015 album Sprinter.
Porches – Find Me
Album: The House (2018)
Directors: Nicholas Harwood and Aaron Maine
This video is sullen, heartbreaking, and oddly nostalgic. The song is centered around the crippling nature of anxiety but is placed against a hard-hitting baseline of a party sound system. The video is just breathtaking. The House comes out January 19.
Lana Del Rey – Love
Album: Lust for Life (2017)
Director: Rich Lee
This video had reportedly been in production since June 2016, and was released in February 2017. It begins in a very Lana-esque black and white, alternating with her vintage washed-out style, and is intercut with clips of other couples. It is dreamy, vibrant, romantic, and everything we love Lana to be.
Miya Folick – Give It To Me
Album: Give it to Me EP (2017)
Director: Eva Michon
Miya Folick is just electrifying. This video is filmed on a roller coaster, which the artist said was “fucking delightful.” We agree.
Sonder – Too Fast
Album: Into (2017)
Director: Noah Lee
The cinematography is engaging, and the colors are magic. It is also incredibly poignant to note that Sonder expertly fills the gaps in classic science fiction with people of color. The symbolism here is much more like a film’s than of a music video. The cyclical nature of birth, life, death, and rebirth is captured in every visual.
Chappell Roan – Good Hurt
Album: School Nights (2017)
Director: Griffin Stoddard
At only 19, Chappell Roan has captured our attention with this video, reminiscent of American Horror Story’s Coven but meant to be about love, proving its toxicity and fear. The video is dark and harrowing, but emotionally vulnerable. Be sure to read our interview with Chappell from her Atlantic Records showcase here.
ALTERNATIVE ROCK/SOFT ROCK
Radiohead – Lift
Album: OK Computer OK NOT OK 1997 2017 (2017)
Director: Oscar Hudson
Lift was originally recorded for Radiohead’s third album, OK Computer, but was unreleased until this year. Ok Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017 became the 2017 reissue of the twenty-year-old OK Computer, where Lift is featured. The song has been played for two decades now, so needless to say, the video was well-received. The music video features lead singer Thom Yorke taking a ride in an elevator. The song embodies the hallmark of Radiohead’s ballad-Britpop mastery.
Jonathan Bree – You’re So Cool
Director: Benjamin Zambo
Reminiscent of ’60s-era Beach Boys and Lesley Gore live television performances, “You’re So Cool” parody the ridiculousness of mimed music and pre-recorded tracks. Jonathan sings in a full face mask to mock the lack of expression he felt common in music broadcasts.
HAIM – Want You Back
Album: Something to Tell You (2017)
Director: Jake Schreier
Called the “Best New Track” by Pitchfork, “Want You Back” shows the three band members, in one shot, walking down Ventura Boulevard at sunrise. Simple as it might be, the song is an upbeat ballad about going through the motions of love. Keep an eye out for HAIM in 2018.
Harry Styles – Sign of the Times
Album: Harry Styles (2017)
This video puts the soft in Harry Styles’ new soft rock-genre, showing him singing in a meadow, and eventually, flying through the skies. He actually did fly during the shoot, about 1,550 feet high. There were no green screens or CGI effects used either, which makes the video just that much cooler.
The National – Dark Side of the Gym
Album: Sleep Well Beast (2017)
Director: Justin Peck
Nominated for two Grammy awards, The National delivered the “Dark Side of the Gym”‘ video this November. Featured among the beautiful imagery is the New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer Justin Peck and dancer Patricia Delgado. Sleep Well Beast is the band’s seventh album.
Grimes ft. Janelle Monáe – Venus Fly
Album: Art Angels (2015)
For anyone who has ever listened to Grimes, this music video, sponsored by Tidal, is as perfect a depiction of her inner mind as one could get. The video is intricate and heavily-laden with slow motion shots and colorist intensity. Monáe and Grimes embody warrior-superheroes, brought to battle in the most dreamlike and artistically satisfying of visuals. Keep an eye out for Beauty and the Beast-esque rose parallels.
Charli XCX – Boys
Directors: Charli XCX and Sarah McColgan
Other than some familiar faces in Charli XCX’s video, Boys embodies the impossibility of confining a gender into a genre. Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Joe Jonas, G-Eazy, Diplo, Brendon Urie, Aminé, Frank Carter, Oli Sykes, Mark Ronson, Ezra Koenig, Caspar Lee, Mic Lowry, Will.i.am, and Charlie Puth are among the sixty faces featured in the video. Charli XCX makes the case for flipping the script on the boys as girls – especially in videos – have commonly been the object of the male gaze.
Dua Lipa – New Rules
Album: Dua Lipa (2017)
Director: Henry Scholfield
What some have been calling the ‘New Testament’ to Marina and the Diamond’s 2012 hit “How to be a Heartbreaker” delivers one of our favorite badass-woman videos of 2017. The video is driven by the camaraderie of women looking after each other, and the strength that comes from the bond of uplifting one another. The choreography is the highlight of the video, the best of which featuring a ring of dancers around a pool.
Björk – The Gate
Album: Utopia (2017)
Directors: Andrew Thomas Huang and Alessandro Michele
The Gate continues Björk’s Vulnicura story, depicting a fantastical and prismatic land of lovers and romance. The video is intricate and every detail meticulous. It is filled to the brim visually, and is, from start to finish, a ride. Björk is luminous, and her song is hauntingly perfect.
M.I.A. – P.O.W.A.
This video is the most colorful of fantasies, and was directed by M.I.A. herself. She walks through a number of different barren landscapes in different saris, capturing the vulnerable side that her songs don’t always show.
Bicep – Glue
Album: Glue EP (2017)
Director: Joe Wilson
Bicep, a duo hailing from London, features old rave sites in this video as a tribute to the music that came before them. The landscape shots are sad and solemn, meant to stir up the old nostalgia in EDM fans. The Glue EP also features “Metro” and “DLR.”
Washed Out – Get Lost
Album: Mister Mellow (2017)
Director: Harvey Benschoter
This video, directed by Henry Benschoter, is a complete collage. It is entirely unique and captures well the unique nature of Washed Out’s music. The video is fun and creative, and just enjoyable to watch.
Avalon Emerson – One More Fluorescent Rush
Album: Whities 013 (2017)
Director: Hayden Martin
This song is the prime example of the shoeless dancing in your living room song. Avalon Emerson returned to Whities for this killer, intricate, beautifully designed banger. The video is directed by Hayden Martin.
Kelela – LMK
Album: Take Me Apart (2017)
Director: Andrew Thomas Huang
Kelela relives all of our favorite ’90s sounds, delivering Take Me Apart this year with all the vocals and soul that the music scene needs. The video is very surrealist, which is typical of its director, Andrew Huang, who has collaborated with Björk in the past. In the video, Kelela wears different wigs, symbolizing her multiplicitous selves, struggling between who she is, who she was, and who she wants to be. The tones of empowerment are strong throughout.
SZA – Drew Barrymore
Album: Ctrl (2017)
Director: Dave Meyers
We loved watching SZA rise to prominence this year with Ctrl. “Drew Barrymore” touches on her insecurities and issues with self-worth. The darker sides of the Barrymore family, and of Hollywood’s dashing effects on young stars, is a conversation brought into light with SZA’s video, which illuminates perfectly the nostalgia for younger days and the struggle to be loved and to love oneself. Drew Barrymore herself makes a cameo in the video.
Moses Sumney – Lonely World
Album: Aromanticism (2017)
Director: Allie Avital
“Lonely World” tells the story of a man struggling to save a mermaid who ended up on shore. As romantic as it sounds, we are forced to consider the title of his album and are captured by the terrible and violent nature of this forbidden love.
Kamasi Washington – Truth
Album: Harmony of Difference (2017)
Director: AG Rojas
Kamasi Washington’s 15-minute-long video is absolutely worth it. The cinematography is as impeccable as the story. In the true Washington fashion, he has no hesitation in striking the chords of racial tensions in America. Truth is powerful in six movements, combining different trends of music into one single element that feels more like a catharsis exercise than a song. This is a film and is art at its absolute finest.