“Bits of yellow paper, addressed from you to me…”
Here’s another example of when a performance-based video can score themselves a hall pass here at Y,WGAV! Perhaps you’re familiar with Michel Gondry; the legendary French director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and countless classic music videos for Bjork, Steriogram, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Kylie… just to name a few. It’s pretty safe to say that the guy is one of my heroes, whose work has shaped the blog’s motives for even existing.
When I found out that Love Letters would be his first music video in three years – following a Bjork clip from back in 2011 – I couldn’t have clicked fast enough. Although it quite literally centres around the band performing the song, I knew that there would be more to it. It’s Gondry, after all. He manages to find a way. After a few views, I was completely taken – it’s not what’s happening in the confines of the performance, it’s the scenery that surrounds it. As the camera spins, it takes us to a different, beautifully-painted backdrop. The concept is so simple, but it adds so much to the song. Dammit, Gondry, you’ve done it again!
It’s about that time! We’re back, people. That’s right, YWGAV is not dead – although we were on life support for awhile. It was pretty much a matter of life getting in the way; among all the various other dealios. I’ve got some great plans for 2014, though; and if you’re reading this, I’m really glad that you’ve either come back or just started reading.
So, here’s the deal. We’re going to take a look at the 30 best videos of the year for the fourth year in a row. You can find the starts of the previous lists here, here and here. Once you’re up to speed, we’ll get straight to it! Here, friends, are the top 30 videos of 2013.
WITH APOLOGIES TO: Every other Uncluded video (spoiler alert!), every other Lonely Island video, Beach House, Drake, Haim, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Tyler, the Creator, Lily Allen, Janelle Monae, Yo La Tengo, Violent Soho and Nick van Breda…
30. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
Directed by Nabil
After a boozy night out with the boys, Alex Turner decides to wander over to the house of a girl he fancies. What follows is a brilliantly OTT look at the tricks that play on one’s mind when they are under the influence – or, in Alex’s case, a metric shit-tonne of influences. The direction and cinematography is sharp, the editing is brilliantly shambolic and it’s the best video they’ve made in years. Let’s just ignore the grammatical mess that is the song title and focus in on the video itself.
Read my original post on Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? here.
29. Major Lazer feat. Peaches & Timberlee – Scare Me
Directed by Brandon Dermer
For all of his action move macho madness, it’s easy to forget sometimes that Terry Crews is the exact kind of crazy and hilarious you’d want out of someone who thrives in such a gravely serious market. For every Expendables, there’s a role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or teaming up with Tim & Eric on Old Spice ads. So it was a perfect choice to make Crews the live-action Major Lazer as the major is brought into a wild action-packed mission with cameos from The League‘s Nick Kroll, Workaholics‘ Blake Anderson and The Game‘s Lauren London. Kind of wish that this was a TV series – as if you wouldn’t follow the Major anywhere!
28. Darwin Deez – You Can’t Be My Girl
Directed by Keith Schofield
Genuine question: Did we all just completely forget that Darwin Deez existed? I could not tell you the last time I had heard his name before this clip came out. Whatever the case, he certainly made sure we didn’t forget about this brilliant little video. Inserting yourself into footage is nothing new – take the classic Gnarls Barkley video for Smiley Faces as the best possible example of how it’s done – but it’s safe to say that it’s never been done in quite the way that Deez and director Keith Schofield (Duck Sauce, Ladyhawke, Supergrass) took it on. Delving into a myriad of stock footage, it tells the story of a sociopathic onlooker venting his frustrations to anyone that will listen – or, in this case, completely ignore him. It’s about as strange and as remarkable as you’d expect.
27. The Lonely Island – Spring Break Anthem
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone
A Lonely Island comeback year always means one thing: Shit-loads of videos. Andy, Jorm and Kiv were no strangers to Y,WGAV! readers in 2013, from the nightclub insanity of Go Kindergarten to the strange bragging rights of Diaper Money. The pick of the lot, however, was easily the original version of Spring Break Anthem. Starting off with a smashing Between Two Ferns highlight reel between host Zach Galifianakis and his guest James Franco, the two somehow end up in the fantasy realm of a Cancun spring break party hosted by TLI. If you know what’s coming next, then… well, you know. For those that didn’t see this the first time around, however… you’re in for a hell of a time.
Read my original post on Spring Break Anthem here.
26. Bloc Party – Ratchet
Directed by Cyriak
It seems like Bloc Party always wait until after they’ve released an album to drop a complete curveball on us. We got it with Flux and One More Chance for the last two albums, and then the hip-hop-flavoured Ratchet dropped in the wake of 2012’s Four album. With the band on break, it was time to dig into the archives – animator extraordinaire Cyriak took apart the videos for Octopus, Two More Years and Helicopter and literally created a monster out of them. Perhaps the single greatest re-use of a videography ever? I would wager so.
Read my original post on Ratchet here.
What do you think so far? Enjoying the videos? See you next week!
“In the old part of Valencia, on the coast of Spain…”
Here’s a lovely one I’ve been meaning to get around to. The inimitable Sir Elton John has just put out what I think may be his best solo album in years, a concept album of sorts entitled The Diving Board. It’s a stark, intimate and very honest album, one that I didn’t think I’d ever hear out of Sir Elton these days. I mean, the guy can basically live off royalties from his countless hits. He doesn’t have to work another day of his life. And yet he’s still got such a creative streak into his sixties, which is something that really has to be respected.
This is a video from August that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys for quite some time, and I figured now was as good a time as ever to share it given that Reginald played this song at the Emmys on Sunday in tribute to Liberace. As the song delves into a well-travelled character longing for what once was, a middle-aged man sits alone. The decision is made in his mind, and we follow him all the way back to the very beginning. This not only happens mentally, but physically as well. It will make sense once it all properly unfurls. The locations used are quite stunning, and the narrative is so involving and stirring – I think EJ knew exactly what to do with this song when it came to a video treatment. A perfect reflection of one of this album’s true standouts.
“I’ll take you all the way, stay another song…”
Y’know, there is one way to make me feel like I haven’t achieved anything, and that’s to show me the successes that others have had when they were my age. For instance, Sophie Ellis Bextor – the focus of today’s lesson – was 22 (indeed, the age I am now) when she had her first worldwide solo hit. A top-five hit in eighteen countries at 22! Jesus. Ms. EB is 34 now and has three kids, but there was a period where she was probably the hottest woman in pop music – I’m talking both figuratively and aesthetically here. Although her only major hit over here – excluding Groovejet by Spiller, on which she provided the vocals – she’s managed to keep up a fairly respectable profile in the UK, consistently releasing albums and accumulating a strong following among the pop geeks.
That’s all well and good, yes, but today we’re here to hone in on what was the most-played song on European radio throughout 2002. This inescapable early-2000s floor-filler had enough going for it without any form of visual accompaniment – there’s a hook every seven seconds (pop geeks will get this), the production is flawless and SEB’s vocals are chic and stylish. With that said: Holy hell, the video made a difference. If one was to ever properly answer how to improve on perfection, they’d surely point to a clip like this. It remains one of my absolute favourite clips of the 2000s, pop or otherwise. And why? Because it’s so delightfully bitchy.
I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by the representation of the ego within pop videos – the males going for boastful and brawny; while the females tend to be more snide and vindictive. It’s more or less about asserting status, and this is very much achieved in the Murder on the Dancefloor video. Yes, it’s clearly a bit of a send-up and a parody of the ego representation, but it plays it straight enough that it could fall either way – especially to a younger audience.
A dance competition is happening, and the heat is on for SEB and her partner. She shows full intent on winning the thing from the very beginning, and cuts some pretty severe corners in order to do so. The cast of characters surrounding SEB are hilarious enough on their own, but their reactions when she manages to cut them out of the comp make them even better. There clearly wasn’t much of a budget for the video – perhaps there wasn’t much faith in her as a solo artist? – but it doesn’t take a genius cinematographer to make SEB look resplendent; nor a genius choreographer to make her look fantastic in the throes of the dance.
Really, we’re all winners at the end of this one. What a glorious bit of fun this one is. I wish I could have enjoyed it more at the time – at 11/12, I was too busy trying to convince people I was a heterosexual to have time for this. Only later did I appreciate the true beauty of Murder. With that came the silent envy over her young achievements, but it’s a double-edged sword I’m willing to wield.
“I promise I can grow tall, while making love is free…”
In the near-fortnight since its release, FKA twigs‘ new video has been one of the most talked about and most shared videos on my feed. I wasn’t familiar with the name – not even by her prior stage name of Twigs – so it quickly dropped to the bottom of the pile. Much like the David Bridie scenario, I fucked up big time leaving it this long. Sure, less than two weeks isn’t that great a deal of time, but I still need to be quicker to the chase. And if any video is going to wake you from that sort of slumber, it’s Water Me. Holy shit.
You’ve seen the head-on, one-take video before. Plenty of times. From classics like Nothing Compares 2 U and No Surprises to Janelle Monae‘s Cold War, which took its rightful spot as one of the best videos of 2010. With that said, you’ve probably never seen the concept tackled quite like this. One more or less can’t take their eyes off her – at one stage, that becomes quite literal, but you’ll know that when it comes to it. It’s a relatively bare-bones presentation of the woman and her music at first, before it delves into the surreal and the jarring. Never breaking eye contact. Always focused. Always engaged. This is definitely a must-see clip. If you haven’t seen it a million times already thanks to your feed, that is. Maybe it’s just me. All I can say is that this is one worth talking about.
“I think it’s time you realised, you’re only wasting your time…”
Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ. I turned my back on Jessie J for one second and then this shit happens. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. For those of you playing at home, Jessie J was a thing in Australia for a good 10 minutes or so a couple of years ago. I tolerated her breakout hit Price Tag for its duration, and then found myself vomiting profusely at whatever else she released, including the execrable Do It Like a Dude and Domino. Inexplicably, she also ended up becoming a judge on the UK version of The Voice, where in one moment of truly terrifying irony, she rejected Sean Conlon – a man who was on her walls as a child while he was in the boy band 5ive.
So, where do we find ourselves now? Well, she’s shaved all her hair off and died the regrowth blonde, now looking like an albino Emeli Sande or P!nk around the time of her second album. She’s also released this insufferable piece of shit, and an equally annoying video that would even have P!nk herself suggesting it get toned down a little. Firstly, not to be petty, but what in all of fuck is she wearing in that first scene? I have no issue with short dresses, but this honestly looks like she’s wearing a shirt and forgot to put on tights, stockings or pants underneath. She also decides to burst into three completely different parties, uninvited, and just start fucking with whomever she sees. Wackiness, thy name truly is Jessie. Extreme close-ups and poor choreography truly do make this a nasty experience, a soulless pop video that exudes none of the fun it supposedly portrays. I didn’t think I’d see a pop video this year more joyless and soul-destroying than We Can’t Stop. Here we are.
“When I get fucked up, when I get half cut…”
2012 saw the glorious return of the Bloc Party boys, with what ended up being one of my favourite albums of the year in Four and one of my favourite songs of the year in Octopus. Earlier this year, my brother and I got to see them live in Sydney as well; which was a killer set. So, what does the rest of the year hold for these guys? Well, a non-album single has just been dropped; and with it comes a ripping new video from the band. Like, it’s really good. It’s one of the best Bloc Party videos ever. And the four of them didn’t even have to lift a finger… well, kind of, anyway.
They’ve already done the hard yards in making videos for songs like Helicopter, Hunting for Witches and the aforementioned Octopus. They’ve simply left them in the hands of that brilliant UK mind Cyriak, who was last seen around here working with Flying Lotus on the Putty Boy Strut video. Cyriak has taken these Bloc Party clips and created a monster – no, seriously! Things get so distorted and terrifying at times you won’t know where Kele Okereke ends and where he begins! I love this clever reinvention of what were mostly fairly straightforward performance videos. I’ll never look at them the same way again!
“Not quite dying, my body left to rot in a hollow tree…”
Oh yeah, fuck, that’s what I was forgetting to tell you guys. David Bowie isn’t dead. He’s alive. He has a new album. Perhaps you’re familiar with the product? It’s called The Next Day and it’s been one of the best albums of the year so far. There’s been a couple of – shall we say – interesting videos released in promotion of the LP. There was the slightly creepy Where Are We Now, in which the Thin White Duke’s face is plastered over toys; as well as The Stars (Are Out Tonight), in which Tilda Swinton – shock and surprise – does something weird and does her best Bowie. So, what have we got on our hands for the album’s title track? Actually… it’s a completely new matter entirely.
Friends, this is the best Bowie video since his Trent Reznor collaboration, I’m Afraid of Americans, back in the late 90s. It’s at once horrifying, engrossing and arresting; a series of outright disturbing events that fly by so quickly that the song itself isn’t even played in full. There is sacrilege, blasphemy, idol worship and a fuck-tonne of blood. Needless to say, it’s an intense experience. No surprise it was pulled off YouTube for a bit there. I guess that they thought at the age of 66, Bowie wouldn’t be up for anything all that shocking to the system. HA! Wrong answer, dudes. What an absolute treat – especially the Gary Oldman appearance, in which he loses his freakin’ MIND. Classic Oldman. Oh yeah, by the way, if you’re easily offended… first of all, what on earth are you doing reading this blog? Secondly, don’t watch this. The last thing Bowie needs is your pointless anger. Hail hail!
“I jumped the gun, so sure you’d hit and run…”
To start off the week, I thought I’d discuss how – once again – the medium of the music video has made me a fan of an artist I wasn’t so much of previously. For context, I’ve heard the name MS MR (say it “Miss Mister”) thrown around a bit late last year, particularly when it came to their breakthrough single Hurricane. Despite repeated radio airplay and my friends in Sietta covering the track, I just never got too excited about the band. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I just felt like something was missing when I listened to their music.
Upon watching this music video, I made the realisation that this was it. The missing piece. The thing that would make me stand up and pay attention to MS MR and what they had to offer. Through an utterly fascinating and strikingly powerful video, I am now immersed in the song, its melodies, its overtones, the works. How did this happen? Buddy, have you looked at this thing? It’s a thing of utter splendour. Using a myriad of boldly contrasting colours, we are lead into a world of deviancy, unruliness and perceived sin. When these thing take place, the colours run. They bleed. They consume people entirely. True colours, if you will. This clip more or less left me completely stunned. I’m still wrapping my head around it. Well done, MS MR. You got my vote.
“Tonight I sang a song, a prayer if you will…”
Hullo! Sorry about the lack of posting. Life just gets in the way, y’know? Also, band/artists: Wanna calm it down with the videos for a bit? Had to wade through a tonne. Loving it, of course, but this is a one-man operation we got going on! I’m not Supervideoman! Well, not yet, at least. Anyway, handing in my late pass to gush about one Natasha Khan, whom you’ll know – and hopefully love as much as I do – as Bat for Lashes.
Amazingly enough, we’ve never featured one of her clips on here before, which is quite odd given that What’s a Girl to Do is probably one of my absolute favourite clips of the 2000s. I mean, have you seen that thing lately? Shit is well magical. On the topic of magical, Nat’s clip for Lillies, the opener from her lovely LP from last year, The Haunted Man, sees her team up with director Peter Sluszka and a handful of weird and wonderful creatures. They remind me a lot of Where the Wild Things Are, and the mystic wonder that came with that particular story. Khan’s interactions with the creatures are nothing short of adorable. I also love the animation and the production work, which manages to truly encapsulate the dynamics and the shifts within the song itself. I dunno, I just think it’s a little lovely. Don’t you?