Sometimes the music is only half the story. Would Michael Jackson’s immortal pop ballad “Thriller” have been the runaway success it was at the dawn of MTV if not for the extended video filled with zombies, werewolves, and Vincent Price? Probably not. Though MTV’s clout has diminished significantly in subsequent decades, artists are still releasing videos at a stunning clip, sharing them on Youtube, Vevo, and pretty much every streaming service out there.
Videos not only offer another side of the person making the music, but also of the music itself, adding in context clues and visual cues that enrich the sonic material. They can also be fun, funny, weird, and shocking. Collected below are some of the most interesting and compelling videos released over the last week.
5. Empress Of — “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed”
If you’re of the mind that pop music peaked in the halcyon days in the 1980s when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper ruled the MTV airwaves, you’re are going to LOVE Empress Of’s new video “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed.” Directed by Lorely Rodriguez herself, the video mostly follows the singer as she dances and whips around a hazy pink room decked out in a diamond-studded leather jacket and pink silk gloves. It’s understated and eye-grabbing all at the same time.
4. Halsey — “Without Me”
Shoutout to Halsey for using the video for her song “Without Me” to exorcise the demons left over from her year-long, fraught relationship with Bay Area rapper G-Eazy. She gave you half of her stage time on SNL and this is how you return the favor Gerald??? I digress. In the video, Halsey is bedeviled by a guy who looks almost exactly like G-Eazy, and offers a glimpse of what life may have been like in their relationship when the cameras weren’t on. Let’s just say it’s ain’t too pretty.
3. Sharon Van Etten — “Comeback Kid”
The video for Sharon Van Etten’s fierce new song “Comeback Kid” is quite reflective of the actual song itself. As she explained in a statement, “As the lyrics for ‘Comeback Kid’ unfolded, I realized I was talking about many selves: the kid, the adult, the sibling, the friend, the neighbor. I imagined a projector streaming over me of memories, unclear if they are mine or someone else’s.” That idea is fleshed out with the present-day Van Etten singing in front of a screen projecting images of her younger self. It’s evocative and a bit unsettling, but engrossing nonetheless.
2. Shawn Mendes — “Lost In Japan”
I’m a sucker for a high concept music video. Explosions, sex, and murder are cool and everything, but give me a strong central narrative and I’ll give you my heart. For his video “Lost In Japan,” Mendes decided to do just that by paying high specific homage to Sofia Coppola’s spellbinding 2003 film Lost In Translation. Any fan of that film is going to fall instantly head over heels for what Mendes and feature guest Zedd have cooked up here, from the Japanese whiskey billboards, the late-night shots of bustling Tokyo, and oh yes, the karaoke. It’s note-for-note perfect.
1. Anderson Paak — “Tints”
Anderson Paak is a man of many guises in his evocative “Tints” video. He’s a recovering and lapsed drug addict. He’s a studious father. He’s a BDSM enthusiast, a kidnap victim, a thieving short order cook, and so much more. Kendrick Lamar shows up midway through to reprise his verse as an old man in a wheelchair hooked up to an oxygen tank while the Grim Reaper is just biding his time in the background. There’s even a blink-if-you-miss-it cameo from Dr. Dre. “Tints” is the kind of video that rewards multiple viewings in order to appreciate all of its tiny subtleties, and it’s for that reason it claims the top spot on this week’s list.