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The 20 Best Music Videos of 2013

The 20 Best Music Videos of 2013

by Stephen Bevan, 12 December 2013

The purpose of a music video has always been clear to me; it is a marketing tool intended to prolong the length of a track. Not physically of course, the majority of songs are kept to a radio-friendly 3 minutes 30 seconds, but through the use of over-the-top visuals, they are employed to keep the audience thinking about the track long after it fades out. Thankfully for us this often means intensively high concepts and colourfully creative visuals that intend to bombard and overload the senses.

Music Videos have been at the centre of controversy in 2013, from David Bowie's star studded hyper-religious video for 'The Next Day', to more recently Kimye's video for 'Bound 2' and the return of Lily Allen with 'Hard Out Here', which got under the skin of many (I am not above this pun). We also saw the rise of lyric videos. These literal displays of a song's lyrical content may seem mundane - I'm looking at you JT - but can also result in ingenuity: shout out to Childish Gambino.

For the purpose of this end of year list, I decided to exclude lyric videos, sessions, live videos etc, due to the fact I am not Santa Claus and do not have all year to compile a list a thousand miles long. So therefore, this top twenty has been kept strictly to music videos - I have also excluded any of my own videos because I have been informed that extreme narcissism is not always a favourable quality.

There were hundreds of excellent videos I wanted to include but simply couldn't, so don't forget to add your opinion to the comments section and let us know what your favourite one is, whether it was included or not. It has to be 2013 though, if you pipe up with a video from 2012 you're on the naughty list!


20. Darwin Deez - 'You Can't Be My Girl'

(Dir: Keith Schofield)

Comprised of the most uncreative and banal stock footage clips, Darwin Deez has been composited into them as a voyeur desiring the unattainable relationships portrayed. As hilarious as the video is, juxtaposing Darwin's sadness against these highly commercial images should remind us all of the plastic perfection we are told to aim for and just how empty it is.

Also - I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a music video, watch out for Darwin rocking out on the back of a lion!



19. Kanye West - 'BLKK SKKKN HEAD'

(Dir: Nick Knight)

When Kanye released a track as passionate, militant and defiant as 'BLKK SKKN HEAD' the visuals would have to match up. These intense monochromatic images show a CGI-enhanced West as a foreboding and apocalyptic figure with sharp digitised distortions. The video leaves you with a feeling of unease, as if Yeezy is the purveyor of a fierce revolution.



18. Just Blaze & Baauer feat. Jay Z - 'Higher'

(Dir: NABIL)

A short film implemented as music promo is nothing new, but it has become far more common in recent years. Shot in Kerala, India this film tells the story of a band of street boys turning from prey into predator against the Kalaripayattu warriors they once admired. The final shot of the film is incredible.



17. FKA Twigs - 'Water Me'

(Dir: Jesse Kanda)

FKA Twigs has rose to near prominence in 2013 with 'EP2' and a series of endearing visuals to accompany her frail weightless tracks. She stares manga-eyed down the lens and recites lines like, "He won't make love to me" as digitised tears fall. If you liked this this, be sure to check out her equally excellent videos for 'Papi Pacify' or 'Ache (2 of 4)'.



16. Local Natives - 'Heavy Feet'

(Dir: Ben Reed)

Being Welsh and mildly visually impaired (I wear glasses), this video was always going to strike a chord with me, but hopefully it will with a wider audience too. This documentary video follows the story of the Llandow Visually Impaired Harriers: a troop of partially sighted men, who build and pilot model aircraft via their keener senses.

I could've done without the singing sandwiches, but I suppose their purpose is to communicate a sense of playful wonderment, which I believe the video would do strongly enough without. However, it still remains one of my favourite music videos of the year.



15. Rejjie Snow - 'Lost in Empathy'

(Dir: Jamie Delaney)

Irish rapper Rejjie Snow released EP Rejovich earlier this year and often faces comparisons to Tyler, The Creator. His dark narrative video draws influence from the brutal persecution of albinos in Tanzania; it features terrific performances and a strong suspenseful story. I believe the last five seconds detracts from the affect, however - I still fell in love with the creepy visuals as soon as I saw them.



14. Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z - 'Suit & Tie'

(Dir: David Fincher)

Well... it's only a bloody JT video directed by David Fincher, the guy who made modern Hollywood classics such as; Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network. Of course it was going to be brilliant.

Displaying sheer glamour which is rarely seen in modern music videos, it's a throwback to the glitz of latter-day showbiz. Shot in gorgeous monochrome; clean and straight lines are prominent. It looks like the best episode of Mad Men ever. JT is shown playing piano, smoking a cigarette, performing live, hanging out with the Jigga man and it all looks effortlessly cool.



13. Hervé feat. Seasfire - 'Lose Control'

(Dir: thirtytwo)

Directing duo Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, aka thirtytwo, weave the story of a middle-aged everyman driven out of his mind by marital infidelity. His psychoses soon begin to effect his work, resulting in distressing visions. The promo is gorgeously shot and brilliantly captures the protagonist's torture and stress.



12. Portugal. The Man - 'Modern Jesus'

(Dir: AG Rojas)

This simple yet powerful video shows vignettes of an America largely ignored by contemporary media. The varied scenes accompanied by the bands lyrics "Don't pray for us/We don't need no modern Jesus," emphasises both the stubbornness of this society, as well as the community's self-sustenance.



11. FIDLAR - 'Cocaine'

(Dir: Ryan Baxley)

This totally OTT video features Nick Offerman, aka Parks and Recreation's 'Ron Swanson', dealing with his recent, sudden redundancy by getting drunk and relieving himself all over Los Angeles. That's pretty much the extent of it. It's Ron Swanson pissing EVERYWHERE. What more could you want?!

10. James Blake - 'Overgrown'

(Dir: NABIL)

I was so so tempted to cheat here and put two videos for number ten, as James Blake released an equally excellent video for 'Retrograde' earlier in the year; the two promos are tonally and visually quite similar, therefore I couldn't warrant including them both on the list. However, I believe 'Overgrown' is the more powerful of the two.

The video itself is very simple; it features stunningly dark moody aesthetics as a subdued and contemplative James Blake strolls through an eerie landscape. His superbly visualised demons follow him wherever he goes and although he may try to leave them behind, ultimately they are a part of him.



9. Jon Hopkins feat. Purity Ring - 'Breathe This Air'

(Dir: Anthony Dickenson)

Jon Hopkins has had an incredible 2013 with the release of Immunity - an album of patient, restrained electronic music. The video for 'Breathe This Air' shares a similar patience, stunningly photographed in a wonderfully picturesque landscape. The video features a car crash, a deer and a lady partaking in some skinny-dipping but I don't want to spoil the story. Just watch it.



8. Passion Pit - 'Cry Like A Ghost'

(Dir: Daniels)

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan are better known by their inventively named moniker 'Daniels'. Here they direct a dizzying dreamlike promo based on the concept of a girl 'dancing through her relationships'. Unlike their moniker, this video is incredibly imaginative and complex. I have enjoyed watching it time and time again and always notice something different. If you're into that sort of thing there is an extended cut... for... extended viewing here and a brief making of here.



7. Junip - 'Line of Fire'

(Dir: Mikel Cee Karlsson)

Scratching far beneath the surface veneer of seemingly wholesome family life, this promo for Junip bares more than a passing resemblance to the photography work of Gregory Crewsdon. The awkward repetitive motions of the characters create a deep sense of unease, as the director continually suggests corruption in the home.

Don't worry, I wouldn't leave you hanging. Here's Part II:



6. Gesaffelstein - 'Hate or Glory'

(Dir: Fleur & Manu)

The French directing duo Fleur & Manu tell the story of a gangster in search of power and the ultimate piece of bling. His greed will eventually lead to his demise, but the visuals we are treated to along the way are gripping and super sexy.



5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 'Sacrilege'

(Dir: MEGAFORCE)

British model and actress Lily Cole is the centre of attention in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' video promo for 'Sacrilege'. The video is set in small town rural America where everyone seems to know each other's business. The video opens with Lily Cole being burned at the stake while a maniacal mob looks on. The circumstances leading to this event are then slowly and expertly unwound in a series of flashbacks. The pace of the video maintains a strong sense of purpose throughout: we are shown that Lily Cole whilst still a victim of jealousy and zealous mob mentality, may not be as innocent as we are initially led to believe.



4. The Knife - 'Tooth For An Eye'

(Dir: Roxy Farhat & Kakan Hermansson)

Deconstructing stereotypes and gender preconceptions is the main theme for this video for 'Tooth For An Eye' by The Knife. We are shown a typically male dominated field - sport, in particular the men's changing rooms, which harbours an incredibly masculine atmosphere, to which we are then thrown a curve ball. The figure of power enters - a young women dressed in referee's attire. She commands the respect of the men around her and leads them in an emotionally open and vulnerable dance.

Not only does this video address the perception of gender but also that of societal hierarchy. Who are the true leaders in our society and why have we bestowed in them our trust?



3. Is Tropical - 'Dancing Anymore'

(Dir: MEGAFORCE)

Well, this could get awkward... MEGAFORCE explore the imagination of a teenage boy when he is left in a mansion all by himself. Things start out playful enough; a little spot of golf, playing a tune on the piano. Eventually it leads to where all teenage boys minds tend to lead and with the help of magical CGI trickery we are shown increasingly more ridiculous and hilarious scenarios. Wait was that 50 Cent? Sit back and enjoy the absurdity of it all, just make sure to clean up after you *ahem* finish.



2. Oneohtrix Point Never - 'Still Life (Betamale)'

(Dir: Jon Rafman)

The acronym NSFW has become very prominent in recent years, most notably within the music video canon. However, I would apply just the first two letters of that acronym to this video. It is generally not safe; for work, for school, for your bedroom, for travelling home on the bus - just plain not safe.

The video is a collage of clips pulled from the creepiest most surreal dungeons of the internet. The film deals with contemporary society's relationship with technology and how it adversely affects our perception of reality. Or something like that, maybe? I'm not sure, this one's pretty hard to decipher. If you're feeling brave and like me you enjoy your brain either boiled, fried or scrambled, then join me and plug in to the machine.



1. Bob Dylan - 'Like A Rolling Stone'

(Dir: Vania Heymann)

Bob Dylan's iconic track 'Like A Rolling Stone' was originally released way back in 1965, before I or many of you reading this were born. Surprisingly the song, which was voted 'The Greatest Song of All Time' by Rolling Stone, never got an official music video release.

The interactive video was made by a small Israeli production company called 'Interlude' who specialise in interactive film, and was directed by 27-year old Vania Heymann. Bob Dylan once famously said, "I hate seeing myself on television" and Interlude took this concept and ran with it. They created an interactive video mimicking the format of television complete with 16 individual channels allowing the viewer to seamlessly switch between them at any moment they choose.

The scope of this is almost unfathomable. All stations feature people lip-synching to Dylan's infamous lyrics, including a gameshow host, tennis players, and even Danny Brown! The video, which took over two months to shoot, contains around 1 hour and 15 minutes of edited footage. It doesn't end there, plans are already in place to add more channels to the already existing sixteen.

The filmmakers behind this interactive masterpiece have managed to transform channel-hopping, a usually passive and benign action, into something wonderful and almost euphoric.

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