Friends, Romans, countrymen – lend me your eyes!
Twenty excellent videos over four weeks has brought us to this very moment, where we take a look at the ten absolute best videos of 2012. From dentist appointments across the pond to love in a Korean elevator and back, it’s been a remarkably varied and endlessly fascinating year for music videos. Here’s hoping 2013 can hold a candle! For now, though, here are THE TOP TEN VIDEOS OF 2012 ACCORDING TO YES, WE’VE GOT A VIDEO!
10. Milhouse – Cereal
Directed by Tim Harris
As you’ve probably seen on this blog over the past two and a half years, a great music video has no set format. A million dollar budget doesn’t guarantee excellence, neither does a shoe-string budget. Sometimes, however, all you need is a single camera and a crazy idea. Such is the case with Sydney band Milhouse. Earlier in the year, they had the chance to work with a team at NIDA on a video after winning a Triple J Unearthed competition. As fun as that clip was, however, what they followed it up with would far surpass any NIDA chin-stroking. The premise: See how much cereal bass player Dave Drayton could work his way through in the 2.5 minute run-time of his band’s imaginatively-titled Cereal. Is it stupid? Magnificently stupid. Stupid like a fox. That’s more or less the entire point. It’s a fantastically endearing attempt to take a joke and run with it.
Read my original post on Cereal here.
9. Tellison – Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart
Directed by Tim Peck
This came out of nowhere – I genuinely can’t remember exactly how it ended up on my screen. Nevertheless, I’m so very glad that it did – Freud Links the Teeth… ended up becoming one of my most-watched and most-beloved videos of the year. Here, the band take what would normally be a boring and dreary place – in this case, the dentist’s office – and turn it into a place where anything could happen. Flourishes of romance and flirting, a horrific twist in the dentist’s chair and even a bit of a sing-along with the four patients in the waiting room, who have all conveniently brought along their instruments of choice. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s a little bit mental. Really, it’s one hell of a way to make a lasting impression.
Read my original post on Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart here.
8. Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean – As Long as You Love Me
Directed by Anthony Mandler
If you saw the brilliant Ask a Network Executive parody last year, sketch comic Brian Firenzi played Michael Destiny, the Head of Programming at MTV. As much as I laughed at this sharply-acted sketch, I wanted to argue the point made that popular videos are more worthless now than ever before. You could indeed argue in the affirmative of that statement, using everyone from Flo Rida to Reece Mastin as examples. That said, I’m disagreeing – and I’m using this video as my leading most recent example. Has the Biebs been guilty of shitty, product-placement-driven videos in the past? As sin. But Christ, he was FIFTEEN. I’d have done anything Usher told me to do at fifteen – fuck, I probably still would. Regardless, this video was a game-changer. With director Anthony Mandler and Reservoir Dogs‘ own Michael Madsen in tow, Bieber delivered a Michael Jackson-esque high-concept pop clip. It’s confronting, impeccably choreographed and just a bit edgier and darker than anything Biebs had done prior. Really, the only reason you haven’t given it a chance yet is because your friends think Bieber is “lame” or “gay” or whatever the equivalent is with your age group. Fuck them.
Read my original post on As Long as You Love Me here.
7. M.I.A. – Bad Girls
Directed by Romain Gavras
2005: A young, fresh and stunningly beautiful face drops (seemingly literally) from the sky and welcomes us to the jungle with the dazzling, bold video for Sunshowaz. 2007: The aforementioned face has become M.I.A., international breakthrough artist who appears on Letterman and gets the Beastie Boys to cameo in her New York-shot video for smash hit Paper Planes. 2010: M.I.A. releases her clip for Born Free, a nine-minute clip depicting genocide and war that has gone on to become one of the most talked-about music videos of the past 15 years. It’s no stretch to say that M.I.A. has built a legacy on her clips – so, in 2012, with all but a single to her name, she knew she had to make her only video of the year count. Reinlisting Born Free director Romain Gravas, known for aggressive and intense clips, was the wise first step. The next was taking Bad Girls to Morocco – specifically, the city of Ourarzazate. The rest essentially played itself out – jaw-dropping car stunts, a knowing mockery of big-budget Western hip-hop clips and a message of endearment, empowerment and liberation. “Bad girls do it well?” Too right.
Read my original post on Bad Girls here.
6. St. Vincent – Cheerleader
Directed by Hiro Murai
Last year, I made great note of the contrast between the opening and closing shots of my number 2 video of the year, Children Collide‘s Loveless. I can draw a similar parallel here, in which Cheerleader begins with Annie Clark – aka St. Vincent – laying on the floor, oblivious to what surrounds are. It ends with Clark yet again on the floor – this time, however, in literal ruins; and all too aware of where she is. Cheerleader is a video that astounded and baffled me on my first few viewings – hell, I pretty much openly admitted to having no idea exactly what the whole thing was about. On reflection, I’ve come to terms with what I see in Cheerleader – this is a video that takes an idea about feminine perception and artistic ideals and makes it gargantuan, ugly and disastrous. It’s a mirror-turn on pretension and objectification. This is what so many women go through each and every day – at least from a metaphorical or internal perspective. Really, Cheerleader says so much without really saying anything at all.
Read my original post on Cheerleader here.
5. The Shins – Simple Song
Directed by DANIELS
From fancy ice-skating to origami cows, The Shins have always delivered videos that delve into the fantastical and the strangely delightful. It was fitting, then, that they delivered what is quite possibly their best video ever at what was quite possibly the most crucial time to have one – at a stage of re-introduction. This video came five years after the band’s last album, Wincing the Night Away. In that time, the band had relocated and changed practically its entire line-up save for bandleader James Mercer. Essentially, this would serve as an introduction to a new generation – yes, you’d be damn surprised how much can change in five years – as well as a reminder for fans who may have forgotten about them. In both regards, this video delivered in spectacular fashion – the new band members play estranged siblings, brought back to their old family house by their deceased dad, played by Mercer. Imagine The Royal Tenenbaums with its cast halved and sped up to 3.5 minutes, adding in some slapstick for extra measure, and you’re halfway to capturing the bittersweet magic of this clip. From the switching between VHS footage and present day to the wrecking crew finale, there is just so much to take in, adore and enjoy here. If anything, it’s a great reminder that the family that fights together, stays together.
Read my original post on Simple Song here.
4. Grimes – Oblivion
Directed by Emily Kai Bock
Just to give you some sort of idea on the power of this video – the director, Emily Kai Bock, actually pulled out of studying a degree in film in order to keep up with the demand of work she got in the wake of this clip’s release. Millions of views and countless accolades later, it’s easy to note Oblivion as one of the defining moments of music videos, pop music, indie crossover… whatever timeline you’re looking down, Oblivion is there. This collaboration between Bock and lispy Canadian darling Clare Boucher was born out of a mere exercise in visual contrast. What happens when you take Boucher – petite, fairy-like, wide-eyed, innocent, sweetly dancing and miming to her own song playing on a portable CD player of all things – and place it in the fiercely masculine world of live sports? The reactions run from pure confusion of some gridiron players to an overly enthusiastic bro dancing away and making up his own words to lip-sync along to. There’s a later scene where a dozen shirtless dudes start slam-dancing behind her, while she’s dressed like a character out of The Crucible and, just like clear influence Robyn, dancing on her own. Is it meant to highlight just what dropkicks men can be when surrounded by beer and sport? Is it meant to show that these type of events aren’t just for beer-soaked cock-rockers anymore? Sure, Oblivion raises more questions than answers them – but the fact that they’re even being raised in the first place is proof alone that this was must-watch music television. Hell, it still is, regardless of your play count.
Read my original post on Oblivion here.
3. Lambchop – Gone Tomorrow
Directed by Zack Spiger
Let’s get this one out of the way. Is Gone Tomorrow so high because of my love of pro wrestling? In a way, yes. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Gone Tomorrow is a celebration of the everyman that isn’t like every man. For every guy that works just as hard at what they do than their friends and neighbours and gets a quarter of the credit. Obviously you don’t have to be a pro wrestler to have an occupation that’s somewhat out of the ordinary – but it certainly makes for great aesthetics in this clip. We’re not talking WWE levels of pro wrestling, either – this is bingo hall stuff, the overlooked and under-appreciated indie circuit. From the moment Kurt Wagner picks up a giant wrestler in his car to the second their match ends, you know that there’s going to be no moment of glory. There’s no Mickey Rourke tale of overcoming adversity. To these guys, it’s just another day on the job. Wagner is just an observer here, intrigued by his surrounds. It’s played out with no judgement – and, in a way, that’s what makes Gone Tomorrow so stirringly beautiful.
Read my original post on Gone Tomorrow here.
2. PSY – Gangnam Style
Directed by Lee Bo Young
Few things have gone so remarkably quickly from “OMG, have you SEEN this?” to “OMG, why won’t this go away?” than Gangnam Style. We went from making the guy a cult hero to public enemy number one within the course of roughly half a year. Pop culture? POP CULTURE? Gangnam Style fucking WAS pop culture in 2012 – and, yes, we know how edgy you are for thinking that this video is – quote – “gay” – unquote. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to discuss the remarkably odd and strangely inspiring tale of PSY, the mid-30s Korean pop star who became 2012’s least likely pop sensation roughly half-a-dozen albums into his career. Despite notable success in his homeland, it never crossed over with a western audience. This can be said for most of the K-pop world, save for a few YouTube hits that have bedazzled and befuddled countless English speakers for their brightly-coloured sugar rushes and plotless oddities. Perhaps what worked for Gangnam Style was the fact that it was in on the joke. Many of the K-pop videos of the past few years have felt like you’re laughing at them – with Gangnam Style, we were quite clearly laughing with the guy as he poked fun at the rich lifestyle in Seoul. Audiences of all ages found themselves with a different favourite part – whether it was the arse screaming, the elevator dance or the world-famous invisible horse. To this day, I’m fascinated by the series of events that lead to this becoming literally the most viewed video in the history of the internet – take that, Evolution of Dance! You don’t need to click above and watch it again, but take a moment to think about the weight of this statement: Gangnam Style has changed the way we think about pop videos, hit singles, technology and the power of “viral” internet trends. Not bad for a song with literally three words of English in it.
1. Spiritualized – Hey Jane
Directed by AG Rojas
There’s a very, very distinct difference that needs to be made here. Hey Jane is, far and away, the single best music video of 2012. It is, however, by no means my most-watched video of the year. Hell, I’ve probably watched it less than some of the videos that didn’t even make the cut for my top 30. Even with some of those views, I haven’t been able to make it through the entire thing. So, how does a video like this end up at the top of the list? It’s very, very simple: Hey Jane is the single most powerful piece of film I saw in all of last year. It’s gritty, it’s uncomfortable, it’s raw, it’s a complete punch in the guts at times. This isn’t a smile-along, happy-ending video. This is a portrayal of a rough-trot life that is all too familiar and, for many, will hit achingly close to home. It’s as much about parenthood and protection as it is GLBT rights. It deals with the joy of family – however much it deviates from the nuclear format – as much as it sheds life on the truly dark and seedy underbelly of strip club lifestyles. It takes on violence, influencing youth, city living, escaping hardship and finding out what means the most to you in this life. It’s a truly unforgiving audio-visual experience, but one that will leave your reaping its rewards for a damn long time yet.
Read my original post on Hey Jane here.
There you go, guys! Sorry about the delays but I really hope you enjoy these videos as much as I enjoyed writing about them!
The other 20 videos can be found here, here, here and, of course, here!
We’re back to all-new videos next week, so I’ll see you then!