MTV was the home of music videos, the station you could get lost in watching the visual representation of songs you loved. The name itself articulates its purpose. That time is over, the purpose has been shifted, an era buried in a coffin and sealed six feet under.
Surprisingly, despite no longer being the hub for music videos, MTV still airs their annual Video Music Awards show every year. When the nominations surfaced, I didn’t rush to check the list. Instead, I went to YouTube in search of who I believed had the best music videos of 2016. These are the artists I wish to see have a chance at the moon man because they delivered visually.
Kaytranada's had an incredible 2016. He appeared on the cover of The Fader, released his highly acclaimed album 99.9%, and released two of the best music videos this year. “Glowed Up,” his first single and video release is rather stunning to the eyes. The opening scene with Kaytranada laid across an unmade mattress surrounded by lamps, paper, and windows covered by newspaper is outrageous yet fascinating. Everything is rather supernatural - people walking out of his refrigerator, getting his haircut in what appears to be a miniature jungle, and all the purple and blue hues adds a layer of fantasy to his world of strange. Think House Party meets Steven Spielberg. I love how the video is extremely high quality, widescreen resolution, but Anderson's scenes are all in a lo-fi, 4:3 aspect ratio, 35 mm film style. A subtle change, but a great detail. The fantasy world takes a breathtaking turn during the second half, the world goes full Narnia. A gorgeous end to a video keeps your eyes engulfed in details until the very last second.
Kaytranada must have an affinity for fantasy, his “Lite Spots” could be something out of the Jetsons. It begins with the creation of a robot, a tiny metabot that isn’t built for war, but to dance, and he dances the entire video. Kaytranada and the robot travel across L.A. meeting people, dancing with them, bringing back a level of choreography that goes beyond dabbing. Even though Goodie Mob said we don’t dance no mo in 1998, it feels like dance choreography is a very rare treat in 2016. Also the fact that his partner-in-dance is an adorable robot makes the video seem like a glimpse into the future instead of being centered in the present. Especially when seeing the world from the robot's viewpoint, another small detail that makes the video something to see. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple isn’t plotting on something similar, imagine Siri the robot with the purchase of your iPhone 20s. Kaytranada has made a name for himself for the sound of his production, but don’t sleep on his visuals.
Domo Genesis isn’t the most well known member of Odd Future, in popularity there’s no rivaling Tyler, Frank, and now The Internet, but this year he has started to makes waves. His Genesis album is an overlooked summer jewel that’s perfect for the warm weather season and “Dapper,” the Anderson. Paak featured single, has a laidback groove that’s perfectly captured in the music video. Domo takes it to the skating rink - a place where you can glide and groove all summer long. It’s a rather simple visual, but that’s part of its appeal. One of the most fun songs of the summer has one of the most fun videos. It's what you watch when you simply want to be in a good mood. Sometimes all you desire is to see an artist enjoying themselves, not every video has to be a short film, not when you have Odd Future and Anderson. Their infectious charisma could make for a nice cast for Roll Bounce 2.
Collegrove was a surprise. I never imagined that we would actually receive a Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz joint album. One of the strongest songs to come from their collaboration is “Bounce” and the video is even better. I love the theme that Wayne and Chainz are in a heated rap battle. Rap battles are intense, shots are being fired in every direction, but “Bounce” takes rap battles in a lighthearted direction. Just seeing how Wayne and Chainz react to each other - the yawns, the pushups, even the chuckles and jumping is the perfect gestures to pull you in. Even better is the crowd - they add an element of humor and reality to an actual rap battle circle. The best part actually comes at the end, an outtake that has nothing to do with the song. It starts with Wayne rapping “A Milli” and the crowd behind him jumps in adding to his jubilant rendition. 2 Chainz counters with “Watch Out,” he begins rapping the verse and all the people behind him jump in, with the video ending right as the energy starts to heat up. It’s like the battle after the battle, two rappers with hits going back and forth. Something about that moment is so pure that you will rewatch it over and over just to see Wayne and his background rappers say, “Like a menstrual bleed.”
Kendrick Lamar is the TDE member that had the world gushing over his every video for To Pimp A Butterfly. He completely stepped up his vision in comparison to the visuals that were featured on GKMC. And ScHoolboy Q followed in those very footsteps with Blank Face. The videos for his major label sophomore album are outstanding, from “Groovy Tony” to the mini-short film/music videos, but none hold a candle to “JoHn Muir.” The entire video was shot from the perspective of the back passenger in an unknown car. The angle never changes, we see the entire world from this one point of view. It’s incredible, feels like you’re in some version of GTA. ScHoolboy only makes a brief cameo in his own video. No, the leads in the video are two unknown men who commit robberies, run from the police, go to the gas station, hang with the homies, and in the end are murdered. It’s like having O-Dog as your tour guide and being caught up in all his shenanigans. Excellent storytelling without having to verbalize the narrative.
Darnell Williams "South Central"
The Darnell Williams self-directed “South Central” is very impressive. He knows how to make a video compelling and does it all under two minutes. If the song is meant to walk you through living in South Central, then the video brings that to life. It’s simple, but the edits take the minimum visual to the next level. The color correction makes the colors pop - from the blue sky to his yellow jersey, your eyes are in for a treat. All the other visual effects are also top notch editing that makes for an appealing watch. I love how the moment he gets shot the video goes into a series of clips that makes the viewer feel as if his entire life is flashing before his eyes. The final zoom out is the perfect way to close out. Considering Darnell directed and edited the video himself, it really makes you appreciate the vision of an artist that takes his visuals into his own hands. MTV needs to know about this kid.
Holy shit, the only words that came to mind when I first saw Jazz Cartier’s music video for “Red Alert/100 Roses.” Truly a one-of-a-kind music video experience. 360 Virtual Reality videos are a chance of becoming something of a norm on the internet, before it can truly become a phenomenon, just decided to be more of a trendsetter than bandwagon rider. It’s what happens when a great idea meets great execution, you get something special that people will be watching for years to come. I’ll likely be saying holy shit when I watch the video in my 40’s and 50’s as I reminisce on the days before every rapper had incorporated some form of virtual reality into their treatments. That is the future we’re headed in, a future Jazz made his present, and if he continues to think with such an innovative mind then he’ll need a trophy case to hold all the moon men to come.
A$AP Rocky and his Mob of merry men have always been a team that cared a cetain look and aesthetic, it’s one of the major reasons why they were able to have such a strong presence on the internet - they knew how to market an image. The video for “Yamborghini High” is completely different than anything they’ve done before. From the psychedelic colors to Unkleluc’s data-moshing you have never seen the A$AP Mob in such a creatively strange space. Especially since the song pays homage to Yam the fact they went different and daring is the highest respect they could pay.
Without question, Beyonce is better than everyone when it comes to creating a visual experience to coexist with her music. “Formation” stopped the world for a reason, how she effortlessly was able to be creative, political, powerful, self-loving, and inspiring is why her work will be relevant decades from now. Every video that was delivered touches an emotion, evokes a feeling, and is layered with context that requires you to dive deep. The only artist who could possibly rival her for video of 2016 is the late great David Bowie. Chills, your body reacts while watching “Lazarus.” You feel it in your bones that you’re watching a man on his deathbed and he turns even such a dreary moment into art. Bowie was an artist, a true artist to his last breath. From recording an album to shooting videos, he didn’t see his looming last days as a reason to do nothing, they encouraged him to do more. To leave one last imprint on the world. He did.
It’s impossible to name all the great videos to come out this year, honorable mentions exist for this very reason. 2 Chainz “Watch Out” is hilarious, Anderson’s “The Season/ Carry Me” is dazzling, The Internet’s “Girl” is a gift to eyes how Syd’s voice is a gift to ears, and Kevin Abstract’s “Echo” takes me back to the early mornings of getting ready for school and seeing those minimum but alluring punk-rock videos on MTV. Vince Staples’ “Lift Me Up” continues his strong streak of visuals, Freddie Gibbs’ “Freddie Gordy” is one of his best ever, and we should all watch Rihanna's “Work” every few weeks to remember why we love her so.
Even if MTV doesn't prioritize music videos on their network, we should keep watching and celebrating them, because the art isn’t dead.
By Yoh, aka Yohnonomous, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credits: YouTube