The Key’s Year-End Mania: Maureen Walsh’s best music videos of 2016
Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, contributing writer Maureen Walsh recaps five of the year’s best music videos.
While the music video is no longer a requirement in order for audiences to discover an artist’s work, it is still a viable way for them to give us a visual representation of a mood, a way to supplement the song they have created, and also a way to promote their art.
Since not everyone is creating videos, those that do normally do so because they have a great idea for one. 2016 brought us videos that were weighty and visually striking. Water and rebirth were the theme of the vast majority of videos I picked on my list. 2016 was a bummer of a year for many, let’s hope the waters of healing reinvigorate us for 2017.
Beyonce’s “Formation” — Before January of this year, many thought Beyonce was in a house on a hill looking down upon her kingdom proclaiming “Let them eat cake!” Boy, were we wrong. Beyonce knows exactly what is happening in our country and made a gorgeous video that encompassed many aspects of black culture from Southern Gothic imagery to a young child confronting a row of cops in riot gear with dance. The video showed that the most famous black artist in 2016 is not going to compromise her vision to appease her larger audience.
Anderson .Paak’s “The Season/Carry Me/The Waters” — What I admire about this video sampler of Anderson Paak’s Malibu album is the sheer ambition of it. The video is clips of three songs with Paak existing inside of Philly visual artist (and rapper in his own right) Dewey Saunders’ artwork. The video gives a representation of the directions Anderson .Paak feels pulled into. We first go to a garbage dump where he’s chased by a, well, familiar looking monster made of trash. Then we go to Hell, a baptism in the river, and a dreamscape with featured rapper BJ the Chicago Kid all in one continuous ride.
Japanese Breakfast’s “Everybody Wants to Love You” — This fun, bouncy song is accompanied by a similarly fun video. It features Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner playing an unconventional Cinderella. She runs around Philly in a hanbok and plays pool, a pick-up game of basketball, and shotguns a beer in the El Bar among other things. The video is a clever play on Asian stereotypes – embracing the culture and at the same time mocking how non-Asians view it.
Chance the Rapper’s “How Great (ft. Jay Electronica)” — Back in October, Chance tweeted a link to his new video as though it was just a little something him and his friends put together, which it was. It’s shot on an iPhone (and through some sort of glitch, can only be watched properly on a phone while the screen is locked; otherwise the screen flips all over the place) and features his cousin on vocals. The video starts with a choral group singing “How Great is our God,” on a stage, then the view expands as Chance comes in a performs his rap live, accompanied by the singers. Then, literally, a door on the stage opens and Jay Electronica joins the performance and raps his lines with Chance excitedly joining in. The energy of the song being performed live as well as the intimacy of watching Chance and his family and friends put this together is the reason I put this one on my list.
David Bowie’s “Blackstar” – No one knew at the time that this was Bowie’s way of saying “That’s All Folks,” but the three videos he released for Blackstar were his goodbye to his fans and his personae. “Blackstar,” bid adieu to Major Tom with a religious ceremony complete with people writhing and convulsing while worshipping his skull. Meanwhile, Bowie’s face is bandaged with buttons where his eyes are, which many writers have taken to mean that he is playing a blind prophet in the video. A strange video indeed but a clever way to communicate his fate to us.