Music videos took a bonkers turn in 2014: “Weird Al” Yankovic reveled in all things tasteless, Pee-Wee Herman played a loony race-car driver, butts hit peak ubiquity, and cats morphed into superheroes. From where this madcap, “WTAF” vibe came, we have no idea. I’ll all make sense next year. Probably. Till then, here are the 25 Best Music Videos of 2014.
25. Lykke Li, “Gunshot” (Directed by Fleur & Manu)
If there was ever such a thing as “post-apocalyptic krumping,” it would be whatever Lykke Li is doing in the clip for her beautiful I Never Learn highlight. DAN WEISS P
24. Todd Terje, “Delorean Dynamite” (Directed by Espen Friberg)
If nothing else, this clip for producer Todd Terje’s jittery synth-fest earns points for being practical. In addition to being a music video, it’s also a fully functioning advertisement for the titular 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 (which, apparently, is still available for purchase). One problem: Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. J.G.
23. TV On The Radio, “Happy Idiot” (Directed by Danny Jelinek)
Paul Reubens, best known as Pee-wee Herman, plays Racer Steven, a washed-up race car driver who is probably going insane. With a pitch like that, what else does a music video need? Nothing, but this one also has the delightful Karen Gillan of Dr. Who and Guardians of the Galaxy fame as an added geek bonus. JAMES GREBEY
22. Clean Bandit, “Rather Be” featuring Jess Glynne (Directed by Clean Bandit)
It would’ve been so easy for this British electronic string collective to go the “love story” route with their visuals. Instead, we get a trippy “Is this just real life?” trip through a woman’s increasingly hallucinatory workday, featuring glimmering appearances by members of the band. It ends — as all hazy daydreams do — with a beachside dance-off. BRENNAN CARLEY.
21. Mastodon, “The Motherload” (Directed by Jonathan Rej and Thomas Bingham)
Mastodon’s attempt to make twerking metal may have sparked a little bit of controversy back when the video first came out, but(t) in hindsight you’ve got to admit that it certainly made an impression. The occult tush-shaking is oddly captivating (especially when the ass-kaleidoscope starts a’whirling), and is certainly a humorous change of pace from the genre’s more typical visuals. There’s still over-the-top fire and brimstone metal imagery, only its been taken to the gluteus maximum. J.G.
20. Ariel Pink, “Picture Me Gone” (Directed by Grant Singer)
This macabre clip, which bears a striking resemblance to the Onion’s “Ideal-Woman Rubber Mask” mock-commercial, features a cast of men dressed as women, as Pink says, “in search of meaning and happiness.” Topping their costumes off with creepy latex masks, Pink’s cross-dressers don’t look especially happy, but at least they’re conducting a search. RACHEL BRODSKY
19. Janelle Monáe, “Electric Lady” (Directed by Alan Ferguson)
Monáe’s own version of “Red Solo Cup,” a.k.a. the funkiest sorority party on campus — complete with lightsabers and paddles. D.W.
18. Run the Jewels, “Blockbuster Night Part 1″ (Directed by Trevor Kane)
El-P and Killer Mike play bumbling EMTs for laughs in this clip for a song about — gulp — how the delinquent duo still provide better treatment than too many real-life emergency victims actually do receive. D.W.
17. Kira Isabella, “Quarterback” (Directed by Randall “RT!” Thorne)
In an on-point portrayal of date rape, Kira Isabella’s “Quarterback” clip follows an impressionable high school freshman to a football game, then to a party, then to the backseat of — yep — the eponymous sportsman’s car. And, in keeping dispicable high-school/college tradition of documenting conquests, the antagonist posts photos from his night for the entire school to see. The unfolding story is painful to witness but impossible to ignore: Isabella’s unflinching clip shines a much-needed light on pervasive victim-blaming culture and gendered double-standards. R.B.
16. Tove Lo, “Habits (Stay High)” (Directed by Motellet)
If only every hangover were as fun — if sporadically regrettable — as Tove Lo’s. In this eye-rubbing haze of a video, Tove travels from bathtub to sex club and back in a blur of friendly kissing and shot-pounding. The struggle is real. B.C.
15. Kiesza, “Hideaway” (Directed by Kiesza, Ljuba Castot, and Rami Samir Afuni)
For Kieza — a relative unknown — to inspire typically arm-folded Williamsburg residents join her in what is essentially a sidewalk flash-mob is almost as shocking as her stellar dance moves. Low budget never looked so glossy. B.C.
14. FKA Twigs, “Two Weeks” (Directed by Nabil)
The 300-meets-interpretive dance aesthetic of FKA Twigs’ video conveys one thing — she is a god. The looming artist presides over the energetic dancers at her feet and is content to merely wave her arms with surprising impact. FKA Twigs is wise, talented, and sometimes hard to comprehend, but we’ll try our best to understand as we bow to her musical highness. J.G.
13. Iggy Azalea, “Fancy” featuring Charli XCX (Directed by Director X)
Say what you will about the woman behind the biggest song of the summer: Her taste in ’90s movies is unimpeachable. D.W.
12. “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Tacky” (Directed by “Weird Al” Yankovic)
Write what you know, they say. So “Weird Al” took up a political cause near and dear to his heart on the Pharrell-aping hit from his biggest album: dancing ridiculously in the most outrageous outfits imaginable. Turns out it’s important to Margaret Cho, Aisha Tyler, Eric Stonestreet, Kristen Schaal and a fannypack-clad Jack Black, too. D.W.
11. Perfume Genius, “Queen” (Directed by Cody Critcheloe)
Mike Hadreas’ thought-provoking visuals leave the viewer with plenty to ponder. Sights include, but are not limited to: heart-shaped chocolate boxes, pigs, smashed computers, giant shrimp dinners, a one-legged Elvis impersonator, and cheerleaders pom-pomming a suicide. Ultimately, Hadreas, who oscillates between playing himself and a street hustler, achieves his end-goal of embracing queer identity. R.B.
10. Smarf, “Too Many Cooks” (Directed by Casper Kelly)
Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. Too many Cooks. SMARF
9. Beyoncé, “7/11″ (Directed by Beyoncé)
Leave it to Beyoncé to end the year with another guerilla, “fuck your Friday night”-style release. The “Go-Pro with your girls” video lets Blue Ivy serve some shade and gets Queen Bey into her zone, chair-swiveling, bed-jumping, and all. B.C.
8. Flying Lotus, “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar (Directed by Hiro Murai)
The death-escaping fantasy of FlyLo’s clip for You’re Dead’s standout track is all too poignant as 2014 comes to a close, with two children waking up at their funeral, escaping in a hearse, and — almost as implausibly — dancing to a disjointed Flying Lotus beat. D.W.
7. Tweedy, “Low Key” (Directed by Nick Offerman)
Tweedy’s cameo-filled video — featuring John Hodgman, Melissa McCarthy, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Mavis Staples, Steve Albini, and Chance the Rapper — is a hilarious bit of irreverent commentary on the state of the music industry. Is the father-son team hinting that the future of music is door-to-door D.I.Y. sales? Or are they trying to warn us about our secret ape overlords before it’s too late? Probably best to stock up on albums just in case. J.G.
6. Spoon, “Do You” (Directed by Hiro Murai)
Britt Daniel’s eerie-calm car ride looks like a single, beautiful unbroken shot. And while the camera-work is comparable to that amazing Children of Men car scene, what makes this video so great is the slow reveal. If you missed it, we’re not going to spoil it here. Just watch, and keep an eye out for clues that something is amiss. J.G.
5. Bobby Shmurda, “Hot Nigga”
A tossed hat, a pair of intercrossed arms and Jello-light legs, and a blaring, insistent cry of “about a week ago” was all it took for this Brooklyn boy to command Rap Twitter to follow along. B.C.
4. Jenny Lewis, “Just One Of the Guys” (Directed by Jenny Lewis)
Jenny Lewis revisits her acting roots in the video for “Just One Of the Guys,” which also features Hollywood A-listers Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, and Brie Larson starring as Lewis’ heavy-lidded cohorts. Face it: Hers was the best backing band since Robert Palmer’s dead-eyed “Addicted to Love” models. R.B.
3. Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda” (Directed by Colin Tilley)
Without the jiggling, subversive “Anaconda” visuals, Nicki Minaj’s re-appropriating rump-bumper wouldn’t have registered nearly the same impact. We’ll never look at bananas without quivering again. B.C.
2. DJ Snake, Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What” (Directed by Daniels)
This proudly insane clip could also be called “Turn Down For What the Fuck Am I Watching?” Yet you can’t deny that this unstoppable, totally out-of-control video captures the spirit of DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s raucous ode to partying. It’s a perfect fit: big, bonkers, and in your face. Just like that poor lady’s rapidly expanding boobs. J.G.
1. Sia, “Chandelier” (Directed by Sia and Daniel Askill)
With its low-gloss grit, unglamorous set design, and sobering subject matter, Sia’s “Chandelier” visuals meld commercial music video with highbrow performance art. Wearing a now-ubiquitous blond “Sia” bob, Dance Moms contestant Maddie Ziegler is a stand-in for the video’s press-phobic creator — our Artist of the Year — as she winds her form around a decrepit apartment, letting her body tell the story of a pre-recovery alcoholic barely clinging onto the edge of control. R.B.