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ᐉ 20 Pitchfork Staffers On Their Favorite Music Videos Of The 2010s ᐉ New Mobile Gadget

noviembre 16, 2022

In the 2010s, music videos were more creative than ever—visual albums, anyone?—and keeping up with them was more than a full-time job. Pitchfork’s staffers tried, anyway, and came away with some clear favorites. Here are our personal, unranked picks for the most stunning, most amusing, and most essential videos of the decade.


September 2016

Director: Colin Whitaker

Sometimes, all you need is a face. In the stark, one-shot video for ANOHNI’s “CRISIS,” that face belongs to actress Storm Lever, whose performance embodies an entire universe of helpless sorrow. Against a pitch-black backdrop, she stares into the camera, mouthing ANOHNI’s words, trying to withhold tears until she no longer can. The song is a plea for understanding and forgiveness directed at both the victims of U.S. drone-bomb attacks in the Middle East and complicit Americans whose tax dollars fund such mechanized carnage. But “CRISIS” doesn’t point fingers as much as it uncovers a common empathy. In Lever’s heavy breaths and watery eyes, you can see the cascading cost of atrocities that so often feel unreachable, worlds away. “I’m sorry,” she pleads, knowing it’s not enough. She is us; we are her. –Ryan Dombal

Grimes: “Oblivion”

March 2012

Director: Emily Kai Bock/Grimes

Grimes sets the video for “Oblivion,” a song about the paranoia that lingers after an assault, at two extremely testosterone-heavy events: a football game and a motorbike rally. Its undercurrent of fear is established immediately: As she enters the stadium, someone flips up her hood from behind, suggesting the inescapable threats that loom beyond her vision. Yet she radiates quiet confidence as she drifts around with massive headphones and a boombox.

While the video has many gleeful shots of Grimes moshing in the bleachers and mugging with frat dudes, one particular moment lingers. It’s a brief image of her standing in a strobe-lit locker room, flanked by towel-clad and weightlifting men. As the song promises that she will “see you on a dark night,” Grimes looks over her shoulder, grins, and slowly nods. A new power balance is born. –Quinn Moreland

Mashrou’ Leila: “Roman”

July 2017

Director: Jessy Mousallem

The lyrics of “Roman,” by the Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila, balance vulnerability and confidence. “Worms sculpt my body now/The earth cradles my skin/Why’d you sell me to the Romans?” they lament, before a defiant chorus that orders, “Charge!” The video is also a show of strength that celebrates Muslim women: Clad in bright hijabs, abayas, and niqabs, they dance while gazing into the camera, asserting their autonomy. Stunning aerial shots show dozens of women forming concentric circles and walking towards the ocean, underscoring the beauty and power in their unity. The video builds a utopia free from the male and white gaze, allowing its women to be fierce and feminine, communal and individual, joyous and angry. –Vrinda Jagota

Ski Mask the Slump God: “Catch Me Outside”

July 2017

Director: Cole Bennett

When a rapper arrives in New York, the unofficial rule is that they have to shoot a music video in Times Square. Most of them turn out the same: They take pics with fans or roll up with Minnie Mouse. But Ski Mask the Slump God’s clip for “Catch Me Outside” uses the madness of Times Square as a foundation, not the focus, as he parades around the zoo of tourists in a surreal purple haze, gripping a Chucky doll. Director Cole Bennett’s animations are crisp and underplayed, turning Ski Mask into an intoxicated anime character.

Since Bennett’s rise in 2016, criticisms have been leveled against him, and fairly—his Lyrical Lemonade empire takes heavy influence from Chicago’s drill directors. But Cole always takes the time to make videos that reflect his rappers’ personalities, and on “Catch Me Outside,” the twisted mind of Ski Mask gets a warped city playground to match. –Alphonse Pierre

Billie Eilish: “bad guy”

March 2019

Director: Dave Meyers

Here’s a video script we’ve seen a million times: A rosy young woman is seduced and made submissive by a powerful older man. In “bad guy,” you can feel Billie Eilish smirking as she upends this trope. To this defiantly dead-eyed teen in androgynous clothes, men are merely household objects: an ottoman, a cereal bowl, a tray for her saliva-filled Invisalign. Eilish murmurs lines about subservience (“bruises on both my knees for you”) while dominating these adults physically, as if to mock anyone who’d dare sexualize her. “bad guy” shows a 17-year-old girl less interested in falling prey to men than claiming the supremacy they’ve long held. –Cat Zhang

Drake: “HYFR” [ft. Lil Wayne]

April 2012

Director: Director X

As a Jew who takes great pleasure in making fun of just about anything having to do with being Jewish, of course this is my favorite video of the 2010s. I mean, it’s Drake getting “re-Bar Mitzvahed”! He wears a tallis and a yarmulke! He reads the Torah! He dances the hora! There’s a challah and gefilte fish spread! However, unlike the countless lame, boring Bar or Bat Mitzvahs I’ve been to (including my own), this one also features Lil Wayne rapping in a panda mask and going apeshit with a skateboard. Birdman and Trey Songz are also there—and so, too, is DJ Khaled, partying in the synagogue’s aisles, surely one of the high-water marks for Palestinian/Jewish relations this decade. L’chaim! –Amy Phillips

Aimee Mann: “Labrador”

September 2012

Director: Tom Scharpling

The Best Show host Tom Scharpling spent the 2010s directing videos that highlighted the absurdity in band biopics and musicals, that satirized sponsorship deals and dramatized the struggle in finding an original band name. This one—his simplest display of music nerdery—may be his masterpiece. There’s Jon Hamm with a penciled-in mustache, mispronouncing the word “collaborative” (“collamberative”). There’s rock drummer and Scharpling’s comedic partner Jon Wurster in the scene-stealing role-within-a-role of a lifetime (as a hotshot actor on a music video set). And, of course, there’s Aimee Mann—one of rock’s most consistently creative voices, hellbent on never repeating herself—forced to recreate her biggest MTV hit from the ’80s shot-for-shot. “I want to make it completely clear,” she deadpans in the intro, “I had no choice in this video. I was legally bound to do it.” The joke is in how terrible an idea this would be, but the result proves iconic, too. –Sam Sodomsky

Jay-Z: “Moonlight”

August 2017

Director: Alan Yang

“Moonlight” never stood out for me among the many legacy-defining songs on Jay-Z’s 4:44. It seemed muddled, aiming its criticism at too many targets: rap posturing, lack of black ownership in the entertainment industry, racially unbalanced scales of justice. The title, a nod to that all-black film’s Oscar night debacle, didn’t tie it together as much as Jay seemed to think.

It wasn’t until the Alan Yang-directed video that these ideas gelled. The brilliant, nearly seven-minute film casts Tiffany Haddish, Issa Rae, Tessa Thompson, Jerrod Carmichael, Lakeith Stanfield, and Lil Rel Howery as the leads of an all-black Friends reboot. Through scenes recreated shot-for-shot from the original show and faux behind-the-scenes commentary from Hannibal Buress, “Moonlight” comes into focus. When Carmichael becomes aware that the whole endeavor is bullshit, and abandons the set to venture outside in what feels like a fever dream, the video becomes illustrative of the song’s points about posturing, ownership, and what representation and success mean—and on whose terms they become realized. –Sheldon Pearce

Fiona Apple: “Every Single Night”

June 2012

Director: Joseph Cahill

Fiona Apple made just one request to her director, Joseph Cahill, for “Every Single Night”: She wanted to be covered in snails. Her wish was granted, alongside many other striking images: Anonymous hands rearrange the octopus tentacles on her head. She is a marionette feeding fish to an alligator. She wears a grass skirt and soaks in a tub with a live turtle clutched in each hand. In this unforgettable clip, Apple performs the act of falling apart, singing deliriously about how she contends with the unwelcome thoughts that rattle around inside her head. Singing her famous refrain—“I just wanna feel everything”—she shows how exhausting that desire can be. When she finally crawls next to a bull-headed man to take her rest, we know it won’t be for long. –Colin Lodewick

Girl Talk: “Girl Walk // All Day”

December 2011

Director: Jacob Krupnick

For an innocent moment in the early 2010s, it looked like social media and smartphones might transform the world for the better. In music, that meant enabling innovative DIY artists to find their audience. There’s no better realization of that potential than “Girl Walk// All Day,” a 71-minute video set to mash-up maven Girl Talk’s free album, All Day. Shot guerilla-style across New York, the film follows actress Anne Marsen and two other improvisational dancers as they shimmy their way from dawn to dusk, from the Staten Island Ferry to Yankee Stadium, from Soulja Boy vs. Aphex Twin to Fugazi vs. Rihanna. Exuberant and endlessly replayable (and similar to Pharrell’s later 24-hour video for “Happy”), it’s a testament to how the next great music video can come from a few dedicated souls, willing the everyday into something sublime. –Marc Hogan

FKA twigs: “Cellophane”

April 2019

Director: Andrew Thomas Huang

After the removal of six fibroid tumors in late 2017, FKA twigs could have taken time away from music to regroup. But instead, she spent a year training her body back into peak shape, rigorously studying pole dancing in order to execute a vision she’d dreamed up in recovery. The resulting video for “Cellophane” is a master class in the beauty and physical demands of such dancing, joined with ornate, thought-provoking motifs from director Andrew Thomas Huang. After twigs twists through a stunning routine, she is beset by a CGI sphinx bearing her own face, takes a terrifying plummet to earth, and rises from the loam of a dark cave, born anew. You could pore over the portents and meanings in this imagery for weeks, but seeing “Cellophane” for the first time is its own rare, arresting experience. –Eric Torres


February 2016

Director: Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux

The lyric video is no longer a homely little placeholder; it’s an art form unto itself, and “DVP” is the best in class. What a concept: The lyrics to a self-loathing punk song show up as dialogue in retro video games. It looks deceptively basic but I’m guessing it was quite complicated to design. The minute attention paid to fonts, the clever pairing of scenes with lyrics, the fact that the opening guitar riff does kind of sound like an 8-bit intro to some forgotten action game for Super Nintendo: It’s the most fun you can have watching words on a screen. –Jeremy D. Larson

Robyn: “Call Your Girlfriend”

June 2011

Director: Max Vitali

Robyn dances in a dim warehouse, clad in a fuzzy, cropped sweater and perfect platform sneakers. She skates and twirls and punches the air, then lands an immediately legendary backwards tumble. The crucial part is that she’s alone.

“Call Your Girlfriend” is a song of perilous unknowns: Robyn is coaching her new potential partner on how to empathetically end another relationship, but who knows if they will? The uncertainty gives “Call Your Girlfriend” that stomach-twisting feel of nascent love; it’s all a fantasy, a disco ball sparkling over a web of ambiguity. But the “Call Your Girlfriend” video is another story: Here is Robyn emboldening herself, one inspired move at a time. “I wouldn’t say that making music is my therapy,” she said last year, “but music does makes me feel like I want to be alive.” This iconic video makes me feel the same way. –Jenn Pelly

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Problem Areas”

August 2013

Director: Takeshi Murata

In making his song “Problem Areas,” Oneohtrix Point Never said he “wanted to characterize a linear world with cracks in its edifice.” For its video, he tapped the artist Takeshi Murata to drive this point home. Murata used compositions from two of his own shows featuring 3D-rendered still lifes that dance between the possible and impossible.

The video feels emblematic of the time in which it was created, a post-internet era when everyday objects were able to gain new meanings online. Its readymade sculptures of a cracked iPhone and tangled earbuds suggest banal frustration, and a hyper-realistic McDonald’s cup and a cartoonishly foam-like trumpet are paired together in goofy contrast. A model ship inside an empty Gatorade bottle plays with the notion of craftsmanship during late-capitalism. There’s humor beneath these objects’ stillness and mundanity, and Oneohtrix Point Never’s triumphant yet comical MIDI orchestra heightens the absurdity. –Arjun Srivatsa

Holly Herndon: “Home”

September 2014

Director: Metahaven

With “Home,” Holly Herndon captures the paranoia of post-Patriot Act America. Blocked by a camera, she cranes her neck around it, blankly making eye contact with the viewer. “I feel like I’m on my own/And it feels like you see me,” she sings over crackling digital effects, as the sky rains mysterious icons. Turns out, those are NSA symbols—or as directors Metahaven, the radical Dutch design collective, described them: “Code names, acronyms, icons and graphics from a shadow world designed to never be publicly exposed.” No other video captures our shiny, grotesque, technocratic era so well. –Drew Litowitz

Danny Brown: “Grown Up”

June 2012

Director: Greg Brunkalla

Impeccably mouthing Danny Brown’s origin story, and styled to be his mini-me, 9-year-old actor Dante Hoagland runs amok through a full day of pint-sized adventures. He starts by speeding off on training wheels en route to trashing an elementary school, flexing atop a coin-operated horsey ride, and popping killshots with a squirt gun. The irrepressible actor’s presence is a perfect foil to Brown’s song and self: “Grown Up” is an origin story, its salvos to Hot Pockets and Tommy Hilfiger delivered in Brown’s excitable rubber flow, as it highlights the guileless joy that anchors his music. –Stacey Anderson

M.I.A.: “Bad Girls”

February 2012

Director: Romain Gavras

M.I.A.’s clip for “Bad Girls” transforms a plotless, pretty-girls-and-fast-cars video trope and a featureless stretch of Moroccan desert into a visual celebration of tafheet (Middle Eastern-style drifting and street racing). But there is a subversive reversal: The women are the drivers here, and they carry rifles and wear flashy, animal-print hijabs. Intended as an irreverent protest of Saudi Arabia’s longtime ban on women drivers, which finally ended in 2018, “Bad Girls” stands as a testament to how M.I.A. saw herself then: filing her nails with a pocketknife, perched in the window of a car riding on its left-side wheels, a wild card in a world where no woman can fully escape judgement. –Anna Gaca

Blockhead: “The Music Scene”

May 2010

Director: Anthony F. Schepperd

“The Music Scene” is exactly the kind of trip that opens a teenager’s mind to the soul-crushing consumerist culture we live in. The animated video doesn’t have any lewd imagery, or even many words; there are only two lyrics in the entire song, repeating like a sacred mantra: “The music scene has got me down/’Cause I don’t want to be a clown” and “We call that a joint.” But even still, the video drips with symbolism and stimulation: Animals ooze with rainbow goo as they run from an all-absorbing force, then become swept into a distorted, colorful ribbon as humans sit in front of the TV, watching them passively. It certainly inspired me to start asking questions that still stand: Is anyone else depressed about the music scene? What happens when we’re eternally plugged in? Is capitalism evil? Is anyone going to roll a joint? –Bailey Constas

Paramore: “Rose-Colored Boy”

February 2018

Director: Warren Fu

In Paramore’s video for “Rose-Colored Boy,” the pop-punk stars force grins as they host an ’80s morning TV show, their robotic motions underscoring the malaise of lyrics like “just let me cry a little bit longer.” Singer Hayley Williams is interrupted by a wall of TVs that display a version of her younger self: “Hayley, what are you doing? This isn’t you!” young Williams pleads from the screen. The voice multiplies into an overwhelming clamor, exuding disdain and uncertainty that feels startlingly intimate, as if we’re hearing Williams’ deepest doubts about herself. As Paramore turn the show’s set into their stage, it feels like they’re surrendering a decade’s worth of pent-up woes, amplifying the song’s cathartic message: It’s OK not to smile if you don’t want to. –Abby Jones

Radiohead: “Lotus Flower”

February 2011

Director: Garth Jennings

Who is the “king of limbs?” Some Radiohead fans might quip it’s Thom Yorke himself, spasming across the stage in a fit of… musical passion? Discomfort under the spotlight? The first Radiohead music video of the 2010s, “Lotus Flower,” took those charmingly awkward moves to their logical conclusion. Working with the renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor, Yorke looks sometimes like he’s improvising how his body writhes and contorts, reacting to rhythms only hinted at in the studio recording. The result humanized the famously terse frontman in a way we’d never seen before, and gave us the first hints of the physical comedy we’d see from him years later.

That’s not to say he enjoyed filming the clip. “I was deeply uncomfortable,” Yorke said later. “It was like paparazzi footage of me naked or something. It was fucked up. But if it’s a risk, that’s probably a good thing.” Indeed, it was. –Noah Yoo