The Top Ten Music Videos of 2010

 
I've long been a fan of music videos. At best they can be a kind of pop culture equivalent to the avant garde short film. 2010 was a very good year for music videos. While the attention grabbing viral video flood of previous years was still present we also were treated to some absolutely beautiful work incorporating some truly experimental and creative concepts.
 
A great music video for me doesn't necessarily have to coincide with a great song (of course a great song definitely helps). A successful video needs to tonally compliment its song. It needs to have a well-defined sense of rhythmic counterpoint to the music and of course it needs to be visually arresting. I am not a fan of band orientated music videos. They are often merely advertisments and offer very little of value outside of that.
 
For those who have a university degree in mathematics you may notice I have 12 entries instead of 10. Like I said, it has been a very good year. Make yourself a cup of tea ('a cup of tea' can be considered a euphemism for whatever your poison is), sit back and enjoy a trip through the pop cultural zeitgeist of 2010.
 
10: MASSIVE ATTACK – SPLITTING THE ATOM
(Director : Edouard Salier)
 
Edouard Salier is probably best know for his short film, Flesh which has been provoking conservatives for a few years now (look it up, it contains porn and 9/11 metaphors). In his video for Massive Attack he perfectly compliments the music with a stunning piece of animation that must've taken a very long time to produce. The song is great too!
 
 
9: THE FLAMING LIPS – POWERLESS
(Delo Creative)
 
A simple video that is evocative and accompanies its song in sublime ways. Also contains the best monkey performance of 2010!
 
 
8: OK GO – THIS TOO SHALL PASS & WHITE KNUCKLES
 
OK GO are the kings of the viral music video ever since they burst to fame with their treadmill video for 'Here We Go Again'. They released several videos in 2010 and it was hard for me to decide between two so I have posted both. The Rube Goldberg contraption in 'This Too Shall Pass' is a stunning achievement despite my questions over its authenticity. Even if it isn't 100% accurate, the video is a masterclass in staging, as is their video for 'White Knuckles' which impresses me simply due to the fact that they choreographed half a dozen dogs in perfect synchronicity. Anyone who has tried to make an animal do something they want will be impressed by this one.
 
 
 
7: DIE ANTWOORD – ZEF SIDE
(Director: Caleb Heymann)
 
Die Antwoord are the ultimate WTF act of 2010. Are they real? Is it an act? What the hell is going on? These are all questions you will have while watching this video (which is remarkably well-made). Ironically they are more than a mere novelty group. Musically they are fascinating and you will be hearing a lot more from them as they hit Australia in January before releasing album two of their grand 5 album plan. Harmony Korine is currently working with them on a short film too!
 
 
6: REGGIE WATTS – FUCK SHIT STACK
(Waverly Films)
 
This has been my anthem of 2010 ever since it appeared way back in March. It's a brilliant clip and a brilliant song. Reggie Watts is king! That is all!
 
 
5: GRINDERMAN – HEATHEN CHILD
(Director: John Hillcoat)
 
Grinderman is the best thing Nick Cave has produced in years and with the release of the group's second album this year we were treated to another fantastically odd and creative video. Seeing Nick Cave hamming it up like this is ridiculously fun and the video itself it impeccably produced. Directed by Aussie veteran John Hillcoat better know for his feature film work such as The Proposition & The Road, this video is a masterclass in rhythmic montage. Simply a joy to watch (and listen to also).
 
 
4: LADY GAGA – TELEPHONE
(Director: Jonas Akerlund)
 
Just hear me out for a moment. If you are questioning my sanity over including Gaga on my list then you either have never seen this video or have no appreciation for pop art. Teaming up with veteran Akerlund, Gaga has produced without a doubt one of the weirdest popular videos in many years. This is surreal, absurdist stuff and something of which Warhol would be very proud. Gaga seems to have an awareness of cultural constructs and a willingness to push them to ridiculous levels. I love this video to be honest and combined with Die Antwoord it signals 2010 to be a very weird moment in pop culture. If all mainstream culture was spiked with this level of acid fuelled creative absurdity it would be a different world.
 
 
3: THE KLAXONS – TWIN FLAME
(Director: Saam Farahmand )
 
Provocative director Saam Farahmand, steps up to the plate again and delivers the most controversial video of 2010. A mere NSFW warning is an understatement as you will see a mutating mass of naked conjoined bodies writhing around while covered in some kind of semen-like goo. Extraordinary on a technical level, not for all tastes though. Simply one of the most memorable videos of 2010 and believe it or not, this is not the uncut version!!
 
 
2: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – DRUNK GIRLS
(Director: Spike Jonze & James Murphy)
 
Co-directed by Spike Jonze and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, this simple one take video is the most enjoyable clip I have seen all year. Complimenting a great pop song is a video that takes the idea of annoying drunks to its most extreme conclusion. Cleverly mixing live audio into the song we get one of the tightest little videos of 2010 and a welcome return to the music video medium for Spike Jonze. His other music video of 2010 (Arcade Fire - Suburbs) is highly regarded in some circles but I think it is merely OK. Jonze fans should track it down though.
 
 
1: MIA – BORN FREE
(Director: Romain Gavras)
 
I have written extensively on this clip previously here and it remains my favorite video of 2010. As a film it is a remarkable piece of provocation. It may be vacuous and sensationalistic but it is effective and communicates with the song marvellously. A truly brilliant music video.
 
 
 
BONUS CLIPS
 
Because there were others I felt I needed to share with you guys here are two more clips that I have a soft spot for. The first clip from Hollerado is one of those well-executed viral video concepts. It is a sharp and simple idea that must've taken quite a few takes to get right. Marvel at the hard work some people go to in order to pull off clever ideas.
 
The second clip is from an outfit called Dancing Pigeons. Who doesn't like super slow-motion? Who doesn't like Mexican stand-offs? Combine the two and add a flame thrower and a fire extinguisher and you have a perfectly executed visual idea that is a lot of fun to watch. Eye-candy with a touch of absurdity. A great clip.
 
 
 
 
 

Comments

Speaking solely about pop:
Rihanna Only Girl in the World http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa14VNsdSYM because I like the colour grading, the loneliness of the figure, the understated glamour, no flashy cars or jewellry, and it's old Hollywoodness, David O Selznick would have loved it. And I have a secret thing for the song. OMG I just realised have a celebrity crush.

Oh and I forgot about Black Eyed Peas "The TIme (Dirty Bit) but it's only just come out. For rampant product placement and nifty graphics, its the latest incarnation of The Greatest Party In the World That You're Not At video genre.

I retract what I said earlier about not watching much music tv.

It's OK Sam, I accept your guilty secret even though I can't share the enthusiasm. The song grates on me sadly. While the aesthetic of the clip is pretty it still is a pretty bland clip. The colours are admittedly gorgeous but I can only go so far with clips of someone dancing in an open space while lip syncing...
While the Blackeyed peas song did make me throw up in my mouth a little the clip was kinda cool. I'm a sucker for that pixellation effect they utilize despite their very contrived "retro" thing they have been moving towards over the last couple of years. Love your "The Greatest Party In the World That You're Not At" tag!! Maybe another Top Ten list is in order??

1. You didn't acknowledge the sublime accuracy of David O Selznick's postumous endorsement. [sulks]
2. Flo Rida does induce coma, I think that is what he wants.
3. Black Eyed Peas have been moving retro because they no longer have the sort of ideas that made Bridging the Gap so fresh and enjoyable at the same time. Now they're like 'Hey, we're electro now cos that's what the kids like or we hope they do still'. Like when Kanye went Daft Punk.
4. NERD - Heard their first record way back, loved it. Then they started saying the bitch wants it and I got turned off. I think they're greatly overrated the way Andre 3000 was a few years ago, but All the Girls has something.
5. The 'cultural relevance and technical crispness' is exactly what makes Ready To Start work for me. That and the photogenic band members, the beauty and sonic power of the song, the fetishisation of live performance itself, the fervour and wonderment of the crowd, the beatification of the front man and the cute curly headed drummer, and the slo mo is just poetic, a study of a craft in motion. Be it a typical concert footage/studio song, It is my favourite example of that genre so far. I'm not the least obsessed.

1: I apologize for not noting that. It definitely was a discrepancy and yes your Selznick reference was SPOT ON!!
2: In that case he is a brilliantly successful artist and should be working with the military on psychological warfare techniques.
3: Blackeyed peas for their last few albums have basically been appropriating musical fashions from niche electronic dance genres and commercializing them. Their new track for example sounds exactly like the electro-house I was hearing coming out of Europe about 2 - 3 years ago. In that regard they are a brilliant commercial band, after all it is exactly the same thing Madonna built a 30 year career on.
4: True.
5: Your enthusiasm and well written descriptions have made me like this clip more. I still dont love it but now I can tolerate and even enjoy it. Kudos...

Yes your observation that BEP have simply been appropriating fashions from electronic dance is right on. I hadn't put it that simply before.
I feel most validated by Selznick, the Arcade Fire, and of course Duck Sauce. I think you see the same things in it that I do.
And yes, let's have the Parties You Want to Be Invited To list.

Forgot to mention, everything by Flo Rida deserves your scornful fascination

I just woke up from a Flo Rida induced coma... Holy Moly... Scornful fascination is a mild way to put my current emotional state...

Okay that is a good list in every sense Rich.
But now it's "But what about..." time now
I agree that Suburbs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Euj9f3gdyM does not qualify. It was lifted from a Jonze short film, and there is no real logic (rhythmic or symbolic) between the picture and the sound. It fails in my view.
BUT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oI27uSzxNQ
Ready to Start from the same band totally succeeds for me. AND its a 'band' clip. It's the exception that proves the rule, by showing how great band-oriented clips really can be, and so rarely are.
It's not stylistically or technically groundbreaking, but it's perfection in its own aesthetic, and for me is a spine-tingling document of a band on the verge of all conquering demigod status.
Admittedly I didn't watch much music tv, but I absolutely love that clip.
Honourable mentions to:
Kanye West's 35 minute video for re-inventing and repurposing the rock opera wank wheel for hip hoppers with megalomania and delusions of grandeur (and that is some achievement)
And to NERD for all the girls etc cos I like its facebookiness and how it epitomises the crassness of our times.

While it doesn't bother me that Jonze appropriated the Suburbs clips from a short film that is yet be released, I do agree that there is a significant disparity between the sound and image in it that for me makes it an unsatisfying experience to watch. Maybe the short film will feel more complete?
I watched 'Ready To Start' and have to disagree with you. It is exactly the type of band video that doesn't work for me. It's aesthetic comes across as generic and repetitive. I have seen variations on this clip so many times now that I just switch off when I come across them. Sure this one has a degree of cultural relevance and a technical crispness that is nice but apart from that, I get nothing ;)
Good old Kayne!! I will watch his opus from start to finish one day. One day...
NERD: Look at you. Look at me!! I love NERD. Their clips are decent in a functional mainstreamy way...

More than misses than hits I see. I think I should clarify. If one were to make a separate list -
Top 10 music videos that do not groundbreak, but are paragons in their respective artistic ghettoes.
So I think I have half that list done already.
Fast forward to MTV awards>>>>>
Best Live Band Video > Arcade Fire
Best Jiggly Bits Video > Flo Rida
Best Party You're Not At Video > It's a photo finish for NERD and Black Eyed Peas
Best Wanky Set Piece of Breathtaking Self Indulgence > Kanye West
Best Singer in Desert, and Best Colour Grading, and Best Revisionist Video > Rihanna

So let's have that party List, and can I start with LL Cool J - Something Like a Phenomenon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3UL_KxbqhA
Dungeon Family - Trans DF Express
Lauryn Hill - That Thing

Hehehehe Now thats my kind of list!!!! A fellow obsessive!! Don't know about that LL Cool J clips though. Are we talking about parties that I would actually want to be at? Cause that would open up a whole new kettle of" weird video clip" fish (i'm enjoying my mixed metaphors today!)

Ooooh I forgot that one of my favourites this year was Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand, not cos its a good song but because the clip makes fantastic use of diegetic sound, and has lots of cool NYers in it. Sort of on the party you're not at list as well.

Duck Sauce was on my shortlist for favorite clip of 2010. I think it made my top 15 and I cut it out to get to 10.

Someone combined three of my favourite things! Spike Jonze, LCD Soundsystem and drunk girls...

Seriously though, I love that music video. It's creative, anarchic and just a little unsettling. I'm also in the 'highly regarded' circle for his Arcade Fire one.

Excellent list.