Welcome to a very special installment of the beloved Verge column One Video, with Kaitlyn and Lizzie. Every week of 2017 — or, technically, since February 3rd, when we had the idea — we’ve been sifting through the slew of music videos that hit the web and selecting the one (or occasionally two, or occasionally zero) that we absolutely need you to watch. Now the year is over, so we’re looking back at dozens of weeks of our own picks, and scraping the sides of the pan for whatever we may have missed along the way. It’s the season of reflection, so we’re complimenting ourselves on a sifting job well done, and we’re making plans to get better in the New Year.
As you know, here at One Video, we’ve never cared much about “good,” best, or most important, and we’ve only ever been concerned with what you need. Or more importantly, what we need — which was for you to watch the videos we cared the most about. It usually meant a creative video, a weird video, a strangely-formatted video, or a video that made us feel nice when we were not at our best. Sometimes it meant all four. “I need you to watch this” is a non-specific compliment on a piece of art, but it is also a very sincere one.
Here are the 10 videos that did the most to pique our interest or pick up our mouth corners in 2017. Take a full hour for lunch today and watch them all?
10. Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar” (Spotify Video)
Critics and analysts spent 2017 ramping up discussion of how Spotify and other streaming giants are changing the way music is written and sold. “People are listening smaller,” songwriter Ross Golan told Pitchfork in September. Pop in the streaming age is about intimacy: both Lorde and Jack Antonoff specifically asked people to listen to songs they wrote this year through earbuds, and The Chainsmokers collaborator Elizabeth Mencel told Pitchfork that pop music listeners “want to feel like they’re being told a secret.” Selena Gomez’ sweaty, salty, summer angst bop “Bad Liar” is the paragon of that.
It had two music videos, but the first was this one, a vertical video you could only watch in Spotify’s mobile app. Not much happens, Selena just rolls around in bed and struggles against some cloth bonds that don’t seem that limiting. She is very good at whispering in your ear; she’s good at embodying the itchiness of sitting in bed while suffering a crush. She’s smart to put a tiny version of herself on your phone screen, to watch on the subway, and to listen to through earbuds. She sighs a lot.
She also made two videos for her Gucci Mane collaboration “Fetish,” one of which involved putting her tongue into an eyelash curler. — Kaitlyn Tiffany
9. Lil Yachty ft. Diplo, “Forever Young” (Lyric Video)
Lyric videos got good this year (unless you’re a Chainsmokers fan, lol) and “Forever Young” is proof. The clip, directed by Glassface (aka Josh Goldenberg) and illustrated by Tristan Zammit, mashes up a nostalgic cartoon style with claymation and lo-fi digital art. Goldenberg told The Verge this summer that because Yachty is an internet-first artist, he had to think about how the video would travel online, favoring GIF-able moments and trendy images rather than something that felt timeless. “The definition of a ‘music video’ is always changing,” he said. “You can make it what you want, whether that's a VR experience, a movie, a cartoon, or a 24-hour stream of somebody chopping wood with the song on loop.”
Maybe we’ll save that last idea for next year. — Lizzie Plaugic
8. St. Vincent, “Los Ageless”
Annie Clark, or the artist, filmmaker, songwriter, and performer known as St. Vincent, is indecipherable, which is her “thing” even as belly-crushing candor is also her thing. In “Los Ageless,” she’s complaining about the vapidity of an American city and screeching at a lost love. She gets her hair done. Her face is ripped off. She’s wrapped in pink patent leather, stone-faced, and then she’s crying on the ground, making a mess. Like all of the videos she released in support of her new pop-rock album MASSEDUCTION, this is a color-blocked dream with cyborg choreography, sweeping declarations of love and regret, and a little hum of something scary. “I try to tell you I love you and it comes out all sick,” she says, on top of an organ and a ... ghost kazoo?
To make such a highly-aestheticized and somber big deal out of an ordinary break-up is bold, daring, and exactly what we are into. Thank you, I guess, to whoever broke Annie’s heart. — KT
7. Kendrick Lamar ft. Rihanna, “Loyalty”
Directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies, the very expensive-looking video for “Loyalty” was worth every penny if you ask me, and you kind of did by opening this article with my name at the top. This video is a gift we did nothing to deserve, like the gift of summer coming once a year or the gift of a vending machine malfunctioning in your favor. Is it important for you to watch Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna look awesome and then get in a fake car crash together? Do you need to see them sink into some magic gravel and hang off the side of a skyscraper and fend off magic gravel sharks? Is watching one Kendrick Lamar in a tuxedo murder a second Kendrick Lamar in a tuxedo good for your health? Yes to all three questions, and yes to “do you want these peanut M&M’s the vending machine gave me by accident?” — KT
6. Björk, “The Gate”
In this video, a collaboration between Bjork and the artist Andrew Thomas Huang, Bjork is wearing a custom Gucci dress that took 550 hours to make, and that’s if you don’t count the more than 300 hours it took to embroider jewels on the fabric. You could watch this 7-minute video many, many, times in 850 hours, but you should watch it at least once.
“The Gate” was the first single off Bjork’s recent album Utopia, a follow-up to her 2015 album Vulnicura, which was about heartbreak and the dissolution of a relationship. Bjork has said Utopia is about “rediscovering love,” and maybe for Bjork that’s what happens when a floating orb extracts itself from your chest and your lover’s chest and creates a kaleidoscopic forcefield. As an art-appreciator, I can dig it. — LP
5. Major Lazer ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR and Nicki Minaj, “Run Up”
House parties are fun. Recording yourself is fun. Resting your phone on someone’s butt while you’re dancing with them — using that butt as a small table so that you can text, making a little joke about how it’s a “butt text,” which is not really even a thing anymore — is fun. A featured verse in which Nicki Minaj talks about how she prefers her spaghetti to be prepared is fun.
Don’t take it all too seriously, and don’t get so annoyed with teens for wanting to keep a record of their good times. They’re still having them; they’re still jumping into the pool in the dark. The 40-or-so (water-resistant) iPhone 7’s in this videos are just props, incorporated to make the choreography more interesting.
This looks like a fantastic party! If there’s one thing I learned this year, it’s that everyone sucks, but the kids are alright. — KT
4. Lana Del Rey, “White Mustang”
Few modern pop stars have released as many consistently good music videos as Lana Del Rey. Each one makes me feel nostalgic for some fictional version of romance, apocalypse, and kitschy Americana that I don’t think anyone has ever really experienced. “White Mustang” is no exception. If I met this long-haired leather boy in real life, and he was like, “Hey, what if we launch a rocket in a public space?” I’d be like, “I have no interest in this scenario, thanks.” But Lana makes it look like an enviable idea. That’s the power of the music video I guess — it can convince the viewer that illogical public destruction will improve your makeout sessions. — LP
3. Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”
This is the video for “Humble” off of Kendrick’s 2017 album DAMN, but I keep calling it “the Young Pope video.” It came out about a month after HBO’s The Young Pope season finale, and features Kendrick dressed in what could be described as “papal garb.” Because I don’t have any other mental Pope references to go on besides a fictional mini-series starring Jude Law, this video and the show immediately connect themselves in my mind. There’s also a scene styled like “The Last Supper,” except Kendrick Lamar is Jesus. Lamar is the only musician to show up twice on this list, and I think that would be true even if Jude Law were making music videos. — LP
2. Charli XCX, “Boys”
I was watching this video at my desk, and Kaitlyn, who sits next to me, said, “Are you blushing?” I kind of was. Joey Badass making eye contact through his heart hands! Riz Ahmed nuzzling a pink teddy bear! Buddy smirking! Uhhh, formerly popular party photographer The Cobrasnake pretending to take a photo? Sure, I’m feeling generous! Crazy that it took until the year 2017 for all of these boys to exist together, but unsurprising that we have Charli XCX to thank for it. — LP
1. Young Thug, “Wyclef Jean”
Ryan Staake didn’t get to make a music video with Young Thug, but he got to make an incredible Young Thug music video. The rapper — known for inscrutable choices like getting on a plane in the middle of a GQ photo-shoot and parading a coffin holding his fake dead body through the streets of Austin, Texas — made plenty of requests for the storyline and aesthetics of his “Wyclef Jean” visual, showed up 10 hours into the shoot, and refused to get out of the car. Staake’s embellishment-free presentation of the events is the perfect example of letting a joke tell itself, and ends with a potshot at the whole idea of labels shelling out obscene amounts of money for projects that their artists aren’t even particularly interested in. “Wyclef Jean” cost $100,000 he says; his first idea was to film Young Thug lighting the entire budget on literal fire. Who cares? The song is brilliant. Listening to it is enough. Young Thug gave us so much this year, including a whopping donation to Planned Parenthood, an irresistible collab with a former girl band star, a stupid-fun buddy-riff mixtape, a batch of folk-infused love songs nobody could have seen coming, the best country duet since Johnny and June, and this photo.
Young Thug got a paltry $15,000 from Atlantic Records when he signed with them in 2014. He’s worth the world. I literally don’t care if he burns every dollar they have. — KT