The Very Best Music Videos of 2012

| January 25, 2013
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MTV might have ditched music videos for sloppy tan people long ago, but that doesn’t mean the medium is dead! Far from it actually. 2012 was a great year for music and that carried over to its visual counterpart. Take a break from bickering with your family to hitch a ride on the side of a BMW with M.I.A. in Morocco, convert a locker room into a rave with Grimes, and attend Drake’s bar-mitzvah.

GRIMES: OBLIVION (dir. Emily Kai Bock)

Motorcycle rallies. Football games. Frat parties. All things I have no interest in. Yet insert my favorite lightly-lisping baby-voiced Canadian into each setting and I am so there. To shoot the video for the first single from Visions, Claire Boucher (a.k.a. Grimes) enlisted her friend Emily Kai Bock and cinematographer Evan Profofsky and they hit some testosterone-heavy spaces with rented 35mm cameras. The result is a spontaneous free-for-all that documents how easy it is for Grimes to turn random shirtless sports fans (and anyone, for that matter) into her #1 fans.

M.I.A.: BAD GIRLS (dir. Romain Gavras)

Sure, M.I.A. can be insufferable and bratty at times (see: middle finger at the Super Bowl or Truffle Fry-Gate 2010). But you know what? So are you. We all have our moments. What counts in the end is whether we’re adding more good things to the world than bad. And I think anyone with working eyeballs can agree that M.I.A. has given the world something truly great with the music video for “Bad Girls.” Shot in Morocco, Maya kicks back (and files her nails!) on the side of a BMW ghost riding through the desert. Beyond the bad ass peacocking, scenes of women in hijab drag racing when they can’t even legally drive in places like Saudi Arabia make this music video not only fun to watch, but important too.

LE1F: WUT (dir. Sam Jones)

Last New Year’s Eve, I unintentionally left my beautiful bike unlocked outside of a house party. I ran out three hours later panicked and there was Blondie safe and sound (yep, I named her after watching True Grit). The flood of serotonin was instant and it’s the same kind of feeling I got when I saw Le1f’s video for “Wut” for the first time. The rap scene isn’t exactly known for its tolerance of gays, which is why it’s so refreshing to see someone as skilled and as flamboyant as Le1f doing his thing so unapologetically. Get light in your loafers and finally order that Pikachu mask you’ve been eyeing.

TAME IMPALA: FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS
(dir. Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling)

Are acid flashbacks a real thing? Who knows? But Tame Impala’s music video for “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” sure feels like one. British directing team Becky & Joe takes us on a mind trip through the universe and in and out of K holes, using 1000 hand-made plasticine collages. And you can get your hands on one of the collages for 10 euros! It’s a beautiful life, isn’t it?

SOLANGE: LOSING YOU (dir. Melina Matsoukas)

Being Beyonce’s sister can’t be easy. Her shadow looms large (just ask those other girls from Destiny’s Child — not you, Kelly Rowland). Despite the challenge of making a name for herself, Solange has recently been getting her own attention and it has nothing to do with nepotism. With the help of Devonte Hynes of Blood Orange, her new music is fresh and all her own. And the video, shot in Cape Town by Melinda Matsoukas, is just as fly, a mix of the runway and village life. And, most interesting is the presence of Les Sapeurs (Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), a subculture of the Congo in which men rock French dandyism while living in the slums. “Losing You” might be about absence, but what the video really proves is the presence of beauty even in the unlikeliest of places.

DANNY BROWN: GROWN UP (dir. Greg Brunkalla)

Danny Brown’s music is perfectly fine, but holy moley is this video a knockout! Taking the place of the Detroit rapper is 9 year old Dante Hoagland, who mimicks Brown’s look, from the bangs to the missing teeth. Clad in a tiger-striped hoodie, young Dante rocks training wheels around the hood, trashes a library, and even makes riding a toy horse look gangsta. It’s all so adorable, you’ll be wondering about the moral implications of cloning yourself in miniature.

FATHER JOHN MISTY: HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY SINGS (dir. Noel Paul)

“Back into the gaping maw of obscurity I go,” said J. Tillman about no longer drumming for Fleet Foxes. Turns out he was being a little dramatic as he’s already back with a musical project. For his first solo music video, he recruited everyone’s favorite side-eye connoisseur Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation to play a freakshow of a protagonist. No manners, just tantrums! Makes you want to knock someone’s cocktail over and step on some toes a.k.a. what cats do every day.

DRAKE: HYFR (dir. Director X)

I still can’t believe that the boy in the wheelchair from the Canadian soap Degrassi: Next Generation is now on top of the hip-hop game. It’s kind of like looking at people you went to middle school with on Facebook and saying “Really?!” only way less depressing. In his video for “HYFR,” Drake celebrates his Jewish heritage with a revival of his bar-mitzvah ’cause famous people get to do whatever they want. I wonder if I could channel the .003% fame I got when KTVU recently asked me a question on air and revive that time period when I just sat around reading books, eating calzones, and complaining (it’s known in some circles as college).

SPIRITUALIZED: HEY JANE (dir. AG Rojas)

A 10 minute video?! Ain’t nobody got time for that! At least that’s what I thought when I first found Spiritualized’s music video for “Hey Jane,” but I got over it and I’m so glad! This video is equal parts touching and brutal. The clip follows a trans woman going about her day with her young son. If she looks familiar, it’s because the actor is no other than James Ross a.k.a. Tyra Sanchez, season 2 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race (the young boy is his real son, too). I was more than a little bitter when Tyra won over Raven (don’t get me started), but all that angst has disipated upon viewing this video. Shantay, you stay.

KINDNESS: HOUSE (dir. Daniel Brereton)

Do you ever question the innate goodness of humanity? Endless wars, petty election sniping, and that jerk mean muggin’ on the Geary bus can get to a person. Thankfully for us, there’s this British singer/songwriter by the name of Adam Bainbridge that is so nice that he named his music project Kindness. But he doesn’t stop at making cheery dance music. He takes it one step further in the music video for “House,” in which he teaches a young boy how to use a drum machine and then recruits him to help out with the song and some cute-as-pie dancing too. If you’re not smiling by the end of this video, I’m sorry to say you’re kind of a monster.

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About the Author ()

Emmanuel Hapsis studied creative writing at University of Maryland, College Park and went on to receive his MFA in the field from California College of the Arts. After a few years of odd jobs, he landed at KQED, where he worked his way up from an intern to being the lead producer of a literature podcast and then the creator and editor of KQED Pop. In his free time, he teaches yoga and sings his heart out at karaoke.

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