MTV’s annual Video Music Awards theoretically exist to honor excellence in the field of music videos. But they’re really about famous people either agreeing on truces or declaring open war on one another, this year more than ever. They’re silly bullshit. And the three high-profile videos that debuted on VMA night are all basically silly bullshit, too. For “What Do You Mean,” Justin Bieber enlisted John Leguizamo to kidnap his girlfriend for a scary-mask surprise dance party, or something? I’m not really sure what was going on there. Miley Cyrus’ “Dooo It!” mostly just made me queasy wondering how much glitter Cyrus must’ve accidentally ingested. Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” drew a whole lot of (justifiable) white-privilege scrutiny, but it’s probably still the best of the three, with its old-Hollywood melodrama at least coming across as something convincingly cinematic. None of those videos are on this week’s list. Instead, all of this week’s picks have lower budgets, higher levels of playfulness, and a general willingness to stop taking themselves so goddam seriously. Check out all five of them below.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” (NSFW-ish) (Dir. Dimitri Basl & Cooper Roussel)
The central idea of this one is its complete lack of central ideas — just two directors playing a game of “you give me a word, I’ll give you a weirdly striking and memorable image.” More directors should play that game.
4. Tinashe – “Bet” (Dir. Stephen Garnett)
There’s a lonely ambience to this thing, a Michael Mann sense of the eeriness of an abandoned late-night cityscape. And I love the idea that Tinashe’s dancing is so powerful that the authorities need to shut down entire roads just to contain it. It is really powerful dancing. When was the last time a pop star let us see her sweat this much?
3. The Knocks – “Collect My Love” (Feat. Alex Newell) (Dir. Austin Peters)
Another strong and vivid reminder that late-night New York, in the right circumstances, is the most magical place in the world.
2. Media Jeweler – “Passport Invalid” (Dir. Anthony Joseph Lucido)
A fatalistic Toy Story told on the lowest budget possible. I was really pulling for that penguin to make it.
1. Girl Band – “Pears For Lunch” (Dir. Bob Gallagher)
Their debut album isn’t even out yet, and already Girl Band have a stronger videography than any noise-rock band could reasonably expect to amass. I’m pretty sure this one swipes its central concept from the robot royal family of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, but that’s a pretty great source. And I love the idea that the mere image of Girl Band performing would be enough to wreck this poor TV-head guy’s life.