At the end of 2014, I put together a list of the year’s best videos and noted that the race for the title of world’s best music-video director was a tight one, with two people — Nabil and Hiro Murai — in a virtual dead heat for the top spot. Behind the two of them, as a sort of dark-horse candidate, was Grant Singer, who I called the Chris Cunningham to their Spike Jonze/Michel Gondry combo. But Nabil and Murai have been largely M.I.A. this year, and when they do show up, they aren’t always bringing that instant-classic material. Meanwhile, I’m pretty comfortable calling Singer the best music-video director in the world right now. It’s funny how things work out. This week’s picks, which include a Singer video and a Nabil video, are below.
5. LIZ – “When I Rule The World” (Dir. Justin Francis)
There is definitely an ooky little-kid-fetishization thing happening here. But it’s rare to see a video with this much energy and color, with a visual sensibility this distinct and a sense of fun this strong. I’m not saying it’ll happen, but it’s entirely possible to imagine this video ruling the world. If not, at least it’s a welcome sign that Western pop prospects are starting to pick up some visual cues from K-pop.
4. Foals – “Mountain At My Gates” (Dir. Nabil)
This is basically a sponsored demonstration of what the spherical GoPro camera can do, so there’s a reason why it’s not one of Nabil’s best. Still, those final seconds might haunt you.
3. Meek Mill – “All Eyes On You” (Feat. Nicki Minaj & Chris Brown) (Dir. Benny Boom)
Fine, it’s true: Meek Mill lost this week. He is getting lapped all over the place in this Drake feud. But before you go clowning him too hard: Look at his life. Look at how happy these two are together. He’ll be fine. I love watching these two. They are great people being great together.
2. Kehlani – “The Way” (Feat. Chance The Rapper) (Dir. Austin Vesely)
The entire message of this video is: “This artist can dance! Look at her go!” And anytime that’s the message of a music video, that music video has a direct line to my heart. (Related: See below.) And as a nice bonus, Kehlani and Chance have some very serious chemistry.
1. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face” (Dir. Grant Singer)
The song was already a Michael Jackson homage with some deep, dark undercurrents. The video literalizes all of that, giving Abel Tesfaye a chance to show that he can seriously move before paying bent homage to the time MJ’s hair caught on fire on a Pepsi-commerical set. It’s so weird that the Weeknd’s fundamental fucked-upedness comes across so much more clearly now that he’s a pop star than it did when he was an amorphous internet mystery, but that’s the world.