As we step into 2020, we can’t help but reflect on the past ten years. With the experiences and accomplishments that changed our lives, we can’t forget the songs that changed us either. So much music came out of the 2010’s – and even greater music videos. They became cultural references, inspiration for Halloween costumes, and overall minutes of sheer entertainment. Here are our top 30 music videos of the decade!
Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé – Telephone (2010)
Lady Gaga and Beyonce??!! This iconic dup started the decade off with a pop culture hit. Gaga takes the lead as we follow her time in jail from start to release. Who better to pick you up from time served than Beyoncé? As they poison a diner full of people, serve hair and makeup looks, and manage to still fit in dance breaks, this video had to make the list.
Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – We Found Love (2011)
In this video we follow Rihanna in her grunge glory alongside her English co-star, Dudley O’Shaughnessy, as they visualize the day to day of modern relationships. Directed by Melina Matsoukas, the montage of fireworks, flowers, intimacy, drugs and more capture the high highs and low lows of young love.
Goyte ft. Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know (2011)
Body paint and time-lapse can go a long way. Goyte and Kimbra show us that in the accompanying video to Goyte’s signature song, “Somebody That I Used To Know”. The body paint done by Emma Hack, symbolizes the compatibility in their union as it gradually covers their whole bodies then fades away. The video has since received over 1.3 billion views.
Frank Ocean – Pyramids (2012)
As it is one of the best songs if the decade, the music video has to be included by default. Directed by Nabil, a frequent collaborator with Frank Ocean, this video plays with the idea of the Pyramids being a strip club. The literal meaning of pyramids can also be seen in the clips of Ocean riding a motorcycle through sandy terrain. There is also a surprise appearance from John Mayer which is always a plus.
M.I.A. – Bad Girls (2012)
Women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to vote only two years ago, in 2018. In 2012, one of M.I.A’s biggest songs was the soundtrack to the Women To Drive movement. The video was an even bigger middle finger to Saudi government. The ‘Bad Girls’ video is crowned as one of the most badass videos of the last decade for its depiction of Saudi women driving, racing, and drifting through the deserts of Morocco (because she wanted to make a statement, not get arrested).
Kanye West & Jay-Z ft. Frank Ocean – No Church In The Wild (2012)
The video opens with the inception of a riot, the people versus the police – and the people throw the first blow or Molotov cocktail. Fighting ensues along with scenes of war, inter spliced with classic Roman sculptures. The song itself questions traditional and organized religion. It is interesting to see how this video has aged, with similar imagery seen on news programs from protests around the world and Kanye’s new return to faith.
Lana Del Rey – National Anthem (2012)
“National Anthem” is the American dream at its finest. Lana Del Rey portrayed Jackie O and Marilyn Monroe all while having a black co-star, A$AP Rocky, play JFK. As Lana and this video are aesthetically vintage, the concepts were undoubtedly modern for its time.
James Blake ft. Chance The Rapper – Life Round Here (2013)
James Blake and Chance the Rapper drive around in black and white, riding in a convertible on a single eerie road. As the lyrics question life, there are shots with a crow in the backseat and as they cruise, they see some existential symbolism as well. Director of the video, Nabil told Noisey he wanted to “get a mixture of characters, and try and bring it together and make something that makes people question things and hopefully doesn’t take away from the track”.
Sia – Chandelier (2014)
This video marked a pivotal moment in dancer Maddie Ziegler’s career, graduating her from ‘Dance Mom’s’ to the face of Sia’s Grammy nominated song ‘Chandelier’. Ziegler pirouettes, leaps, and angles her body as the camera follows her though an abandoned apartment. She showcases not only physical talent but, delivers emotion as well.
DJ Snake, Lil Jon – Turn Down For What (2014)
As this viral Lil Jon and DJ Snake collaboration is not very lyrically complex, the production and video make up for it. The video shows the infectious and often destructive nature of the ‘turn up’.
Nicki Minaj – Anaconda (2014)
Sampling Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hit “Baby Got Back”, Nicki Minaj showed us that she in fact does. This video is a celebration of the women who want to embrace their curves. If Nicki’s butt didn’t break the internet, the closing shot of her giving Drake a lap dance definitely did.
Paolo Nutini – Iron Sky (2014)
This video highlights the two different paths offered when facing a difficult situation. Either suffer through the inevitable pain, or cope with it by any means necessary. Paolo Nutini tagged Daniel Wolfe to direct this video. He explains it as “a dystopian vision of the future as imagined by a child in the 80s”.
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better (2015)
Tame Impala’s video for “The Less I Know The Better” matches the accompanying song perfectly. It is a what we would imagine a teenage boy envisions when his crush is falling for someone else. The popular cheerleader figure is paired up with an exaggerated dumb jock figure. So much so, that he is literally an ape (which are actually considered to be intelligent but, we get it).
Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money (2015)
If the song did not communicate how Rihanna felt about her former accountant, this video made it crystal clear. Rated TV-MA, the video highlights gore, kidnapping, and torture – all the things Rihanna is willing to do if she does not get her allotted sum of money.
Taylor Swift – Bad Blood (2015)
This video would be the worst case scenario when falling out with one of your good friends. Taylor Swift recruited Kendrick Lamar as well as numerous prominent women in entertainment from Zendaya to Mariska Hargitay, to play crime fighters and prepare her for war with her former friend played by Selena Gomez.
Loyle Carner – Florence (2015)
As the song is dedicated to Loyle Carner’s hypothetical little sister, Florence, the video is dedicated to a pastime they could have shared – making pancakes. The video is shot with very few takes and feels like a cooking tutorial until the fourth wall is broken and the set is revealed. The camera then pans out to a little girl watching the tutorial on screen. The video is very simplistic but efficient, and somehow soothing.
Beyonce – Formation (2016)
Melina Matsoukas directed this video for “Formation”, the lead single off of Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed album, Lemonade. The video captures the essence of the song, celebrating self love, hard work, and representation for black people. It captures New Orleans culture, comments on police brutality, and the critics Bey and her family have gotten over the years. Lemonade is widely recognized as on of the best albums of the decade and this video goes right along with it.
Kanye West – Fade (2016)
This video catapulted Teyana Taylor back into the public eye. Casting Taylor made so much sense because not only are her and Kanye label mates, the main sample of Hardrive’s “Deep Inside” speaks to ballroom culture that Teyana is very familiar with. The video centered around Taylor’s incredible physique as she worked out to the track. The video broke the internet, now at over 135 million views, having everyone scramble to change their diet and exercise routines. It also has a questionable ending but, nevertheless iconic.
Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair (2016)
Within the height of the deprecation and appropriation of black hair, this video Solange Knowles released and co directed with Alan Ferguson, is a celebration of it. From braids, beads, wigs, fros, this video has an appearance from every hairstyle you can think of. Solange told Billboard that she “felt a lot of pressure” delivering this message of pride for black hair. We know it was well worth it as it is a video that will still be praised not only for the message but the cinematography for the last decade and beyond.
Kendrick Lamar – Element (2017)
Kendrick Lamar is the new age face of conscious rap, this video shows he can still get violent if need be. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem & the little homies, we see the various intersections and applications of physical violence. Whether that is a fist fight, defensive fighting, military training, or play fighting this video captures it alongside images referencing New York photojournalist, Gordon Park’s photography.
Jay-Z – Moonlight (2017)
Along with themes off his latest album, 4:44, Jay-Z tackles race and artistic ownership in the video for “Moonlight”. Directed by Alan Yang, the video reimagines pop culture phenomena, “Friends” with a star studded all black cast with Jerrod Carmichael as the lead. This idea is particularly nuanced since “Friends” was initially seen as “Living Single” with an all white cast.
Drake – God’s Plan (2018)
From single mothers and grocery stores full of people, to scholarships and shopping sprees, Drake was here to lend a helping hand. Instead of spending the music video budget on creating a concept video, Drake decided to give that money away and record it. It is the very move that made this video a memorable one for the decade. Humanitarian, but make it a music video.
Childish Gambino – Feel Like Summer (2018)
This animated video of Childish Gambino strolling though the neighborhood listening to music, under a hot sun, highlights the nuanced interactions of the hip hop community. The song lyrics tackles large scale issues of the world like environmentalism but, the video follows the entertainment that keeps our mind from thinking about these issues.
A$AP Rocky ft. Moby – A$AP Forever (2018)
With the camera taking 180 degree shots into each scene, this video took editing to a different level. In the video for “A$AP Forever, we see scenes of Harlem, drugs, cars, parties, and friends, the lifestyle A$AP Rocky raps about adjusting to. The track samples Moby’s “Porcelain” and the video references that video as well, with shots found in reflective objects like the human eyeball.
The Carters – APESHIT (2018)
If there is anyone that should be allowed to shoot a music video in the Louvre it is the king and queen of America, Beyonce and Jay-Z. Directed by Ricky Saiz, the video juxtaposed modern art by way of looks, music and dance, in a classical European setting. The Carters are redefining beauty, victory, and success with imagery of them versus classic paintings depicting these ideas like the Mona Lisa.
Childish Gambino – This Is America (2018)
Open to so many interpretations, “This Is America” is a video that you want and each time take away something new. Directed by Hiro Murai, the video cuts dancing with scenes of violence. It is just one of those things you have to see for yourself.
Vince Staples – FUN! (2018)
This video is the product of Google Earth meeting Ramona Park. Directed by self taught South Central filmmaker, Calmatic, this video seems to be a commentary on the way people consume cultures that they don’t have immediate access to. people they are far removed from urban communities, who are just living their everyday lives, can participate while remaining safe and distanced. Often provided with the opportunity to leave whenever they see fit sometimes as instantly as closing a computer screen.
Black Pumas – Colors (2019)
Grammy nominated group, Black Pumas, have called on Kristian Mercado to direct a video to their hit, “Colors”. This video follows a Bronx family through the process of losing their home. Mercado told Rolling Stone, “we wanted to celebrate family connections, movement and life… to show both the joys and hardships of life colliding and expressing things in movement with images colliding together.”
Tierra Whack – Unemployed (2019)
No one has a mind like Tierra Whack and we get a glimpse into it with this video. A potato is personified and we see the perspective of a root vegetable have an existential crisis, watching the various ways its fellow legs can be slaughtered. The video then takes a turn when chef Tierra ends up serving potatoes practicing cannibalism.
FKA twigs – Cellophane (2019)
FKA Twigs was absent from the music sphere for a while, working on her health and picking up new crafts. In “Cellophane”, we see the fruits of her labor as she pole dances, one of the many forms of dance she has quickly excelled in. She climbs to the top of the pole meeting a robotic insect hybrid of herself then takes a fall to a space that can be likened to an underworld.