Our selection of the best music videos of 2017 includes dances of colour, classic movie tropes, enchanting spectacles and myriad notes of didacticism. Join us on our countdown of the five most bewitching, engrossing and powerful visual articulations of music to emerge this year.
5. Andromeda, Gorillaz
This may seem a peculiar contender for best music video of the year: ‘Andromeda’ focuses solely on one planet as it spins at an unrealistically fast, albeit gentle, pace. But its simplicity and somewhat minimalist content is what absorbs my full attention whenever I watch it and sways me into a ceaseless cycle of repeated viewings – I adore it.
The majesty of space, of a distant planet and the allusion to potential life elsewhere, remind spectators of the relation between the universe and art: both are infinite, and both create endless worlds of beauty.
4. John Wayne, Lady Gaga
Like a neon cartoon strip come to life! This video uses the idea of John Wayne, the classic Hollywood image of a country western, to formulate a contemporary pop love story. In mixing pop, rock and country, Gaga maintains sound simultaneously fresh and emblematic of popular dance music; rendering her music accessible to avid mainstream chart worshippers. She also demonstrates that she is a dab hand at music video design, too.
3. 3WW, alt – J
Opening dialogue between inhabitants of a remote Spanish village – accompanied by English subtitles – exposes the elegiac plot of a music video examining communal and individual loss. With its black-and-white format, focus on the individuals within each frame is prioritised over the dramatic mountainous landscape of the film.
Human suffering is explored even more vividly – and variously – by the use of freeze-frame shots: whilst an earlier frozen image of a community encircling a young woman’s open casket portrays grief as a collective experience, the latter stilled shot of a man collapsing in the mountains highlights that death affects each individual in a panoply of different ways. An absorbing depiction of loss in its various forms, it showcases an unexpected talent for didactic story telling.
2. 4:44, Jay-Z
A social and personal tapestry, stitched by none other than Jay-Z, highlighting where society is positioned now regarding equality, love, family and loyalty, ‘4.44’ is a masterpiece. Clocking in at just over eight minutes, the rapper provides an open window into his private life; a mini documentary that requires more than a few re-watches from its viewers to be properly appreciated.
1. The gate, Björk
In her futuristic middle-earth utopia, Björk wails lyrics of love and tries to solve the mysteries of the universe with her hypnotic, luminous sphere of light. It is certainly anti-pop, Taking over 3 minutes to establish a beat – a duration of time that would have any bubble-gum pop video done and dusted – it very clearly conveys an anti-pop message. And it is certainly much, much more interesting than the poorly-handled electro and false sentiments currently dominating the charts.