As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.
Jay and Bey’s late night at the Louvre. Kali Uchis’ pop-art playhouse. Janelle Monáe’s peony-hued paean to all things vaginal. 2018 was full of some instantly iconic visuals, all of which (unsurprisingly, given the state of the world) had a fairly heavy escapist outlook.
But it wasn’t always about the grandiose – one of the year’s very best videos consists of little more than some besties wearing wigs in a car (more on that in a moment). And when it comes to clips with a message, this year proved that an intimate take on what your exes taught you can resonate as deeply as overarching treatises on the state of the world.
These are the 10 Best Music Videos of 2018:
10. Vince Staples – “FUN!”
You never can tell what that Vince will get up to next. Striking Google Earth hijinks in his hometown of Long Beach? Why not. That these playful images are contrasted with some seriously dark reminiscing serves to underscore the weighty dichotomy of his vision.
9. Aminé – “Campfire”
Proof that, unlike most of the videos on this list, you don’t need a budget to craft excellence. In fact, all you need is a car, some neon wigs, a few besties, and you’re good to go. Aminé effortlessly proves that less is more with this ridiculous caper.
8. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar & Future – “King’s Dead”
Which Kendrick Lamar are you? Tie tied around your head freaking a hundred thou at the office Kendrick or sitting at the top of a palm tree eating corn on the cob Kendrick? Future dancing solo on top of a parking garage is also an acceptable vibe, because if you couldn’t tell, anything goes in this flawlessly executed visual.
7. Anderson .Paak – “Bubblin”
Coming off as Lewis Carroll’s take on the heavy flex rap video, Anderson .Paak’s visual for “Bubblin” more than lives up to the glorified boasts of its chorus. That Paak’s adorable toddler son doesn’t steal the whole show says something to the extent of the absurdity on display, a pool full of money and spider-arm appendages being but the tip of the iceberg.
6. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”
Just when you think the children couldn’t love Ariana Grande any more, she goes and sends up every beloved ’90s and early 2000s rom-com for a bullseye shot to our brain’s nostalgia center. Come for the easy attention grabs like Kris Jenner’s cameo, stay for the impeccable details like Ari’s poolside reading of immigration case law.
5. Janelle Monáe – “PYNK”
Vulvic pantaloons never looked so good. Janelle Monáe delivered a cornucopia of all things vaginal for this decadent visual of one of Dirty Computer‘s standout tracks. Count Tessa Thompson emerging from a floral clitoris ruff among 2018’s unexpected blessings.
4. Kali Uchis – “After the Storm”
What we wouldn’t give to hang out with Tyler, the Creator in Kali Uchis’ pop-art Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Crafting a visual every bit as funky as a track featuring the godfather of funk himself (that is, Bootsy muthafukin Collins) is a tall order, but Kali wholly nails it. Surreal details like the floating birds and Kali’s lush, orchid-riddled blowout are icing on a very sweet cake.
3. Tierra Whack – “Whack World”
It takes an imaginative artist to come up with a truly great tableau for a music video. Considering Tierra Whack came up with 15 right out of the gate for her debut visual, you’ll have to come up with your own adjective that equates to ‘imaginative’ raised to the 15th power. Calls that she is the spiritual successor to Missy Elliott are not entirely unfounded.
2. The Carters – “APESHIT”
Few images were as indelible in pop culture this year as a sea of black bodies vivaciously posing in the storied halls of the Louvre. Sure, this visual is a massive flex for Bey and Jay to prove they’re wealthy enough to rent out the most famous art museum in the world for a night. But that reading fails to stress the significance of what this video represents. After decades of commodification and marginalization, hip-hop now is mainstream culture, and what better way to signify this than the genre’s royal couple holding court from within the apex of Western art itself? “I can’t believe we made it,” Bey sings breathlessly throughout the track; “APESHIT” is the proud, glorious realization that yes, they did make it. And damn well earned it, too.
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
There is little left to be said about the startling piece of art that is Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” Reams of critical pieces emerged when it arrived without warning in May, dissecting each frame for its myriad of topical references. While each of those references remains just as urgent, what stirs the mind months after its release is the stark clarity with which Gambino brusquely depicts the sudden, shocking violence when everyday citizens are murdered at the hands of a gun. We are over thoughts and prayers. We are beyond candlelight vigils and ceremonies. What this America needs to reckon with daily is the immediate trauma of explosive death that reaches every strata of society without warning. No other artist has come close to presenting a work with this sort of immediacy; “This Is America” will remain timely as long as our culture continues to reflect it.
Stay tuned for more year-end content! In the meantime, revisit our breakdown of all the classical art in “APESHIT” right here.