If you need a quick crash-course in why music videos are not what they once were, have a look at Alex Pappademas’s celebration of the great Hype Williams in Grantland. Plenty of great music video directors are working today, but none of them are bringing the sheer opulent visual verve that Hype had at his peak. In any case, it’s great to see the old master, who’s never really gone away, return with a great new video that tops this week’s list without breaking a sweat. This week’s picks below.
5. Meek Mill – “Amen” (Feat. Drake & Jeremih) (Dir. DRE Films)
One imagines that Meek Mill and Drake have pretty good lives, so it doesn’t exactly take a brilliant auteur to make it look fun to be them. But there’s an appealing lightness to this rap-star road-trip travelogue, with all the supporting players on Drake’s most recent Club Paradise tour conscripted to mug and celebrate for the cameras. This is how to pile a bunch of famous rappers into a video without attempting to make an overblown event out of it.
4. Lana Del Rey – “Summertime Sadness” (Dir. Kyle Newman & Spencer Susser)
It’s fun to see LDR and Jaime King playing doomed lovers or friends or whatever in this fuzzy, self consciously nonsense narrative. But the real stars of this video are the vast, pillowy plumes of smoke that waft through every scene. Also, that St. Bernard. I like that St. Bernard.
3. Passion Pit – “I’ll Be Alright” (Dir. Greg Barth)
Amateur contest-winner videos don’t often show up on this list, but I would’ve had no idea that this wasn’t a professionally commissioned Passion Pit video if I hadn’t read it. Barth does great work bringing early-MTV-era art-school cartoon doofiness to the screen in a fun story about a tripping-balls security guard, and all the actors and set designers do their jobs with serious panache.
2. The-Dream – “Dope Bitch” (Feat. Pusha-T) (Dir. Lance Drake)
This one has all the hallmarks of an expensive mid-grade early-’00s R&B video: The shiny black backgrounds, the absurdly beautiful women, the stars who look like they’d rather be just about anywhere else. But for whatever reason, this one also has the sort of signs of excess that nobody could ever get away with displaying on BET: Blow, guns, the word “bitch” written out by multiple absurdly beautiful female bodies. It’s antisocial spectacle.
1. Jack White – “Freedom At 21″ (Dir. Hype Williams)
In which the reigning visual fabulist of ’90s rap conscripts video chicks, Josh Homme, and the world’s most expensive muscle car to make an exploitation movie for a hermetic weirdo of a rock star. Somehow, Jack White has never looked cooler.