Welcome to 2018 where, believe it or not, music videos are still alive and well. Case-in-point: Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, jumped to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for his song "This Is America" this May—pushing Drake's "Nice for What" down to number two after the Canadian rapper held the spot for 15 weeks following the release of "God's Plan." Gambino's song became an instant hit, in part thanks to his much-talked about music video, which gruesomely highlights the dark reality of gun violence in America.
Of course, other music videos are amazing simply for their stunning visuals and—let's be honest—the artist itself. Here, a roundup of the best videos released this year.
"Thank U, Next" - Ariana Grande
Did you really have to ask? On November 30, Ariana Grande dropped her highly-anticipated "Thank U, Next" music video, in which she reenacted classic 2000s films including Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, Bring It On, and 13 Going on 30. It was everything and more, really—the video featured not only friends of Grande's as the iconic characters, but also original actors like Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, and Jennifer Coolidge as Paulette Bonafonté from Legally Blonde. Kris Jenner made a major cameo, and there were so many easter eggs (see: Ari's reference to Pete Davidson's BDE) that you'll need to watch it at least five times to fully appreciate its geniusness.
"APES**T" - The Carters
When the Carters enter the Louvre, beautiful things happen. Behold: the "APES**T" music video. The first single from their Everything Is Love album won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography back in August. Here's why: First, it takes place in the rich, classic art mecca of the world. Second, the history, the dancing, and the gorgeous matching suits are just a few examples of physical art coming to life, embodying the singers' legacies. It's a meta feat only Beyoncé and Jay-Z can successfully execute.
"Fallingwater" - Maggie Rogers
One look at how the sun hits the camera in "Fallingwater," and you'll understand why this video is beloved for its stunning aesthetics brought to you courtesy of mother nature. Folk-pop singer Maggie Rogers will release her first album, Heard It In a Past Life, in January 2019 and this video is the perfect interlude before the talented 24-year-old Maryland native inevitably becomes a household name.
"After the Storm" - Kali Uchis ft. Tyler the Creator
Come for the '60s wonderland starring the inimitable Kali Uchis, stay for the equally iconic Tyler the Creator singing his verse underneath the ground covered in grass. His 2017 album title, Flower Boy, has never been more appropriate.
"God's Plan" - Drake
I cried when I watched this video for the first time, mainly because I didn't think Drake could get any better. In the music video directed by 22-year-old Karena Evans, Drake surprised Miami grocery shoppers with more than $175,000 worth of goods, gave students at the University of Miami scholarship money for college, handed kids toys and parents cash, and made people genuinely happy overall. Here, he makes a music video about him without actually making it about him.
"This Is America" - Childish Gambino
A shirtless, dancing Donald Glover enters the first scene of his "This Is America" music video and you expect to watch a reel of his steamy dance moves. The next you thing you know, Glover pulls out a gun and shoots a man point-blank from behind—highlighting the gripping reality of the U.S. and its neglected gun violence epidemic. "This is America / Guns in my area," he echoes throughout the song.
"All the Stars" - Kendrick Lamar ft. SZA
Ahead of the Black Panther premiere in February, Kendrick and SZA released the "All the Stars" music video. (The song was originally made for the film.) The collaboration made it on to our "Best Songs of 2018" list because it is that good, and the music video is even better—the visuals are noteworthy on their own, but specifically because Kendrick beautifully highlights Afrofuturism: a historical cultural philosophy "that combines African and African American culture, technology, and science fiction to create provocative portrayals of the future." You can read more about it here.
"Make Me Feel" - Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe makes me feel with the sexy, neon '80s nightclub scenes in this video from her album, Dirty Computer. It also features actress Tessa Thompson and amazing dance moves from the two.
"No Tears Left to Cry" - Ariana Grande
A gothic Ariana Grande comes to life in "No Tears Left to Cry," which made its debut in April. She enters the video in, essentially, an optical illusion, transitions to a room full of mesmerizing string lights, and suddenly appears within a striking animation of NYC that makes you feel like you're on the Spiderman ride at Disney. 10/10 in our book.
"Nice for What" - Drake
"Nice for What" is one of those music videos that makes your jaw drop when you realize every single one of your favorite female celebrities—from Yara Shahidi to Rashida Jones to Issa Rae to Tiffany Haddish to Olivia Wilde to Emma Roberts to Misty Copeland (we could keep going)—makes a cameo. Beyond the stunning visuals (and people!) in the video, the song itself empowers women to be their most confident, carefree selves. It should also be noted it was directed by 22-year-old (!) Karena Evans.
"Walk It Talk It" - Migos ft. Drake
In a completely unexpected move, Migos (otherwise known as the trio Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff) takes everyone back to the '70s in the "Walk It Talk It" music video. It also features a cameo from Drake and Jamie Foxx—two icons I didn't know I needed to see together until now.
"Savior" - Iggy Azalea ft. Quavo
This dark, twisty music video from Iggy Azalea has me reminiscing about this year's Met Gala "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" theme. Glowing halos, fires, and an angelic Iggy Azalea make this video required viewing.
"Lovely" - Billie Ellish ft. Khalid
The concept: Billie Ellish and Khalid pacing around a dark room. The result: a gorgeous work of art. If you haven't heard of Ellish, you can learn more about the talented 16-year-old artist here.
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Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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