So many extraordinary music videos were released this year, and there were quite a few special ones. Music videos seemed to have temporarily left the mainstream for a little bit, but this year, music videos felt like an event again, and I’m all for it. While compiling this list, I realized just how many amazing videos were released this year. The tones of these videos range from more serious like a call to action to more comical with a sense of humor to some just outright stunning visuals.
18. “New Light” by John Mayer
Directed by Fatal Farm
John Mayer fully embraces the magic of the green screen in his ridiculous “New Light” music video that was so bad it was good. The goofy video sparked a series of memes online, and Twitter had a lot to say about the corny parody. Sometimes a video doesn’t have to be entirely serious or thought-provoking to be good, and while I hope this video doesn’t start a trend with other artists, it was definitely funny enough to earn its spot on this list.
17. “All The Stars” by Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Directed by Dave Meyers & the little homies
Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s visually stunning and imaginative “All The Stars” music video that goes to Africa and is packed full with symbolism and references to the many cultures of the continent. The video is a futuristic and unusual take on the African diaspora, which coincided perfectly with the Black Panther movie for which the song was made.
16. “Youth” by Shawn Mendes featuring Khalid
Directed by Anthony Mandler
“Youth” was one of the most powerful songs on Shawn Mendes’ self-titled album, so it’s only fitting that its video is just as strong. Released ahead of the midterm elections, the video is a call to action that the younger generations need to vote. Alternating between shots of Shawn Mendes and Khalid singing and highlighting the talents of over 30 kids and teenagers doing their craft including dancing, wrestling, doing gymnastics, painting, the youth themselves really take center stage. The chilling video is nearly eight minutes long quite literally set the stage to honor the youth in such an epic way.
15. “Fall In Line” by Christina Aguilera featuring Demi Lovato
Directed by Luke Gilford
The music video for Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato’s feminist power-anthem shows the two as captives of an oppressive, patriarchal prison, and they fight their way out to freedom. A visual metaphor, the video is very impactful as they overtake their abusers and make it to the light. Both stars grew up in the limelight from a very young age, so it was interesting to see their take having come from such similar circumstances.
14. “1999” by Charli XCX featuring Troye Sivan
Directed by Ryan Staake
Charli XCX and Troye Sivan’s “1999” video is one of the more feel-good and comical ones on this list, and if the song alone doesn’t throw you back to the ’90s, the video surely will. This video could not be more packed FULL with throwback references to Steve Jobs, TLC’s “Waterfalls” video, the iconic Jack-and-Rose-at-the-end-of-the-boat scene from Titanic, the Spice Girls, the Backstreet Boys, Eminem, Sims, The Matrix, and Justin Timberlake just to name a few of them.
13. “High Horse” by Kacey Musgraves
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis
Kacey Musgraves’ country-disco song “High Horse” got the music video treatment it deserved with its 9-to-5-inspired plot where she takes down the creep of a boss before transitioning into a full-on disco karaoke battle. Decked out in rhinestones, Kacey Musgraves’ “High Horse” video is set in the 1970s and has a perfectly fitting retro vibe.
12. “Say Something” by Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton
Directed by Arturo Perez Jr. and La Blogothèque
Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton’s first time collaborating on stage was the CMAs in 2015 where they performed a medley of “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away,” and expectations were high for this new collaboration. This music video surely says something as it was filmed live and all in one take making for an epic acoustic performance from the two. The singing wasn’t pre-recorded. They’re really playing their guitars. There aren’t any fancy visual effects or heavy editing. It’s a completely organic, true, and perfectly coordinated musical performance that exceeded all expectations.
11. “End Game” by Taylor Swift featuring Ed Sheeran & Future
Directed by Joseph Kahn
Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Future collaborated all one song, and Joseph Kahn directed the music video, so it had to be good. The “End Game” music video takes Taylor to London with Ed, Tokyo, and Miami with Future – just another typical day for Taylor Swift – on a yacht, in a Lambhorgini, and on a motorcycle (like I said, typical stuff). The video showcases what new Taylor is up to living out her adult dream lifestyle. This video is filled with little Easter eggs like how she’s playing Snake, hidden 13’s, and a shot of a cat thrown in for good measure.
10. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” by Mark Ronson featuring Miley Cyrus
Directed by We Are From LA
Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus’ western-tinged song’s music video follows a high-speed police chase and has several political undertones that make it all the more interesting to follow. Some of the video’s modern political tidbits include children playing with bullets, a strip club full of onlooking priests, and a row of football players kneeling to reference Colin Kaepernick’s protests. The video is filled with Easter eggs taking us back through Miley’s career including her iconic wrecking ball figurine swinging from her rear view mirror, pictures from her Mike WiLL Made-It collaboration “23” inside the helicopter, and a Tennessee license plate on her car to pay homage to her TN roots.
9. “Finesse (Remix)” by Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B
Directed by Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s collaboration on the “Finesse (Remix)” was the most perfect way to enter 2018, and while the song was great, the video may have been even better. The video has a throwback flare to it as it pays homage to In Loving Color with its choreographed dancing and vibrant colors. This music video really looks like it could have been released in the ’90s, and I mean that as a compliment as it doesn’t resort to any cheesy antics to achieve its classic quality.
8. “Babe” by Sugarland featuring Taylor Swift
Directed by Anthony Mandler
Sugarland, the country duo comprised of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, returned from their hiatus this year with an amazing album, Bigger, and one of the standout tracks is “Babe” featuring Taylor Swift. The video was inspired by “Mad Men” and plays out a drama set in the 1960s. Taylor Swift reached out Sugarland and said she had a great concept for the video where she wrote herself as a red-haired character. Everyone involved had such incredible characters, and I was just excited to have some new Sugarland in my life, never dreaming we would get such a good video that featured Taylor Swift.
7. “God is a woman” by Ariana Grande
Directed by Dave Meyers
Ariana Grande’s music videos dominated this year, and she repeatedly cranked out video after video making it difficult to choose favorites. The “God is a woman” video employs some pretty amazing visual effects that place Ariana in the galaxy, transform her into the Thinking Woman, and allows her to literally break the glass ceiling. Madonna’s voice makes a cameo in the video reciting the Ezekial 25:17 made famous by Samuel L. Jackson’s monologue from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction as Ariana mouths the words. Everything about this video is just stunning from the visuals to its inspiring message, easily making it one of the best videos of 2018.
6. “APES**T” by THE CARTERS
Directed by Ricky Saiz
Beyonce and JAY-Z, known collectively as THE CARTERS, surprise released their highly anticipated joint album, EVERYTHING IS LOVE, this year, and alongside the project came the “APES**T” music video. Filmed at the Louvre in Paris, the duo takes center stage at a museum that has historically made little room for many non-white artists. The goal of the video seemed to involve highlighting these non-white artifacts like an Egyptian sphinx and black figures in classical paintings like those by French artists. While this history-defying element is crucial to the video, viewers who are unaware of that may still find the video plenty interesting as the famous couple are artwork among artwork in every frame.
5. “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B
Directed by David Dobkin
Maroon 5 and Cardi B’s “Girls Like You” was one of the most successful songs of the year, and the video was also widely popular, as well. The video brought together a variety of famous women from all walks of life including Ellen DeGeneres, Camila Cabello, Tiffany Haddish, Aly Raisman, Millie Bobby Brown, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Danica Patrick, Rita Ora, Ashley Graham, Gal Gadot, and Sarah Silverman. Rotating around a platform, this video could not feature an any more powerful cast of female athletes, comedians, and entertainers showing how women help to shape the world.
4. “Tequila” by Dan + Shay
Directed by Patrick Tracy
Dan + Shay’s song, “Tequila,” was one of the best of 2018, and the music video is also one of the most stunning and visually appealing of the year. It follows the love story of a young female skier played by Mica Von Turkovich and a male hiker played by deaf actor and model Nyle DiMarco. The video breaks in and out of the song to tell their sweet story, and stay tuned after the song ends to see the ending to the tale. “Tequila” plays out with the beautiful backdrop of the snow-covered mountains of Colorado. This video beautifully breaks down the barriers as two people from two totally different worlds fall in love, proving that love can always prevail.
3. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino
Directed by Hiro Murai
Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” music video is probably better than the song itself, and the video is largely responsible for its debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The video was one of the most widely discussed and controversial of this year, and it is so simple while speaking volumes. The complex video is one of the most #woke of 2018 as it combines serious and comical imagery to provoke and bring attention to things like black oppression, white supremacy, and gun violence in America.
2. “Nice For What” by Drake
Directed by Karena Evans
Drake’s “Nice For What” music video was released alongside the song that went one the top charts for a number of weeks. The video stars a long list of incredible women that we all know and love: Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Olivia Wilde, Misty Copeland, Rashida Jones, Jourdan Dunn, Emma Roberts, Syd, Letitia Wright, Elizabeth and Victoria Lejonhjärta, and Bria Vinaite. This women-centric video is a perfect time capsule of some of the women who were just killing it in 2018.
1. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis
There was not a more all around amazing or more hyped up music video in recent history than Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” video, and rightfully so. This nostalgic video recreates scenes from four iconic chick flicks – Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, 13 Going on 30, and Bring It On. Ariana got to show off her acting chops again, and it broke the record for the most viewed music video on YouTube and Vevo with over 50 MILLION views in its first 24 hours! Now let’s get started with some of these incredible cameos in the video from Mean Girls‘ Jonathon Bennett, Legally Blonde‘s Jennifer Coolidge, a mini “Victorious” reunion with Elizabeth Gillies and Matt Bennett, Troye Sivan, a very pregnant Colleen Ballinger, and the hilarious closing scene from Kris Jenner saying, “Thank you, next, bitch!”