For whatever reason, this is the week that many of the old music-video-director gods awakened to walk the earth again. Their names, chanted aloud, inspire nothing but fear in the hearts of the music-video directors of today: Gondry! Romanek! Pellington! Those younger directors, the ones used to working on YouTube budgets, hoped and prayed that the elder gods had left for the world of motion pictures, that they’d never be back again. And yet here they are again, all bringing new videos. And yet they were all smitten by the young warrior Nabil, an equal to the Old Ones but one who’s just now hitting his prime. (Romanek’s U2 video didn’t even make this week’s top five; Bono’s hanging lit-up spinny mic is a neat trick but not enough to build a whole video around.)
5. Guided By Voices – “Planet Score” (Dir. Mike Postalakis)
I’m excited for Better Call Saul to start, but I’m a bit bummed that AMC didn’t go with my idea for a Breaking Bad spinoff: A sitcom about the continuing adventures of Badger and Skinny Pete, Jesse’s two bungling-bood comic-relief tweaker sidekicks. This playground-basketball hallucination isn’t exactly that show made flesh, but at the very least, it’s a trippy dream that Badger could lovingly describe to Skinny Pete in the pilot episode.
4. Thundercat – “Evangelion”/We’ll Die” (Dir. B+)
I like to imagine that this one started when Thundercat and B+ did something I did years ago, that they rented the feeble 1998 cult-movie attempt Six-String Samurai and said to themselves, “Hey, this would be a pretty cool movie if it didn’t suck horrendously.” The difference, of course, was that Thundercat and B+ set about correcting that injustice, whereas I just returned it to the video store and probably rented Blade again.
3. Metronomy – “Love Letters” (Dir. Michel Gondry)
I was actually in one, so I know a few things about Michel Gondry’s homespun gadget-happy single-tracking-shot videos: I know they require a ridiculous amount of work and precision, way more than you might realize when you’re actually watching the things, and I know they’re rarely among his best videos. This one does fascinating things with perspective, with all the different windows of the tricky handmade box that Gondry shoots Metronomy inside of, but it doesn’t make the song sound better or get at some iconic truth in Metronomy’s music or tap deep into Gondry’s endless reserves of whimsy. It doesn’t make me feel anything. It’s just a fun music video. But that’s still something.
2. Chelsea Wolfe – “Feral Love” (Dir. Mark Pellington)
This one earned its spot, but it’s also here because if I put it any lower, Chelsea Wolfe might come to my house and murder me by staring at me really hard without changing her expression. Vast respect to any director who can put werewolves in a music video without making a joke out of them.
1. Nicki Minaj – “Lookin’ Ass Nigga” (Dir. Nabil)
After a few years of turning all her videos into candy-coated hypercolor wonderlands, Nicki needed to do something like this — to present herself as the unflinching diamond-hard badass that she can be when she wants. So she got Nabil to shoot her with the same cold, worshipful precision that he uses for, like, James Blake. Problem solved.