2014 was a solid year for the world of music videos. We had the sexually pervasive, yet good-humored “Turn Down for What,” by DJ Snake featuring Lil Jon. There was the young girl with the short white hair in a skintight leotard dancing her heart out on Sia’s “Chandelier.” And there was Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Although maybe not the classiest or most tasteful video, it still received over 350 million views on YouTube, sparked endless parodies, and had the entire music world talking and scratching their heads. This year proved that music videos are not a thing of the past, but are continuously evolving and will forever be around as an outlet for musical artists who want to show another visual side of their craft.
Here is a list of five of the most visually appealing music videos of 2014. These videos may not have the biggest names, highest production costs, or the resources that larger mainstream acts have, but they show true passion, talent, and an artistic eye that elevated the musical artists they represented.
Angel Olsen: “Windows” (Directed by Rick Alverson) “Windows” is an incredibly powerful, depressing song off Angel Olsen’s latest album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. What’s so beautiful about this video is it’s stillness, and it’s attempt at visually showing Olsen’s disengagement without trying to outshine or overcompensate. The song is devastating and the visuals only add to that. It’s tender, soft, gorgeously photographed, and unlike any modern music videos. The video isn’t edited to grab attention nor is it made to wow anyone with visual effects. It’s a simple, yet perfectly executed piece that evokes heavy emotions that will linger with you for a while.
Dum Dum Girls: “Are You Okay” (Directed by Brewer) Written by Bret Easton Ellis and calling itself a short film, the eleven minute video for “Are You Okay” is one of the most ambitious music videos of the year. It opens up with a woman sitting on a couch and talking with her psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, “Close your eyes. I want you to picture another version of yourself. In this room, right now.” As the woman does so, she gets scared. She shakes, winces, and screams out as she pictures herself as someone else. The rest of the video is as dark and mysterious. She meets a man near the end, who holds a switchblade to her back. The video is a psychoanalytical look into the depths of this woman’s pain and her wellbeing. She’s timid, easily frightened, and on edge. But, why? Is she recently out of a tumultuous relationship? What did he do to her? Is the switchblade a metaphor? The video is very open-ended and makes you think deeply about who this woman is. The mysteriousness and darkness is highlighted by gorgeously motivated cinematography that would make any Hollywood thriller jealous.
Lucius: “Turn It Around” (Directed by Mimi Cave) Mimi Cave has a knack for crafting ridiculously fun and visually appealing videos. Her work with tUnE-yArDs, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, and Givers prove that she understands her audience and knows how to make them watch her videos on repeat. “Turn It Around” is a visual puzzle, a trick on the mind, and a fresh take on moving visual illusions. It’s a video that plays around with in camera tricks as well as digital tricks. Cave found a way to work with a tight budget in order to craft a video that keeps you wondering how it’s made. She even messes around with mirror reflections, kaleidoscope imagery, and stripes to create one of the most fun music videos of the year.
OK Go: “The Writing’s on the Wall” (Directed by Aaron Duffy, Damian Kulash, Jr. & Bob Partington) At this point, OK Go is probably more well known for their music videos than their music. They are always outdoing themselves and crafting fresh new visual mind games. They keep their audiences guessing at how everything is done at such a rapid speed that at some point you just laugh and throw your hands in their air, because you’ll never be able to tell what you just saw or how it happened. “The Writing’s on the Wall” is most similar to their Rube Goldberg Machine-inspired music video for “This Too Shall Pass,” except they added another layer of WTF moments. They toy with spatial reasoning and depth in the camera. Everything is planned perfectly, the video is mindboggling, and it’s even hard to keep up with.
Tycho: “See” (Official Performance Cut) (Directed by Bradley G Munkowitz) Most music videos that garner any sort of attention in the 21st century are very reliant on digital effects. Yes, digital effects can be incredible, new, and eye opening. However, with such rapid growth in the industry, some videos that looked amazing four or five years ago can already look dated today. Director Bradely G Munkowitz not only recognized this, but also took the music video platform to a live realm. Recording a live video doesn’t sound appealing to most viewers, but Tycho’s performances are half visual and they compliment the music gorgeously. The lighting effects, the crisp video quality, and the projected images are captured so perfectly it borderlines on romantic. It avoids all the clichés of live video capture and feels rather timeless, so in ten years from now, it’ll look as appealing as it does today.