These artists and more pushed the boundaries of the standard music video in 2017, tacking everything from racism to gender roles through vibrant, thought-provoking, and often downright funny visuals. Below are this year’s 10 best.
10. Kelela, “LMK”
A blonde-wigged Kelela stars in this ‘90s throwback, which taps into the aesthetic (from the wardrobe to the lighting) of videos from R&B groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child. The laid-back, loose energy aligns with the song’s message — no one’s trying to settle down, the party is just getting started. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
9. P!nk, “Beautiful Trauma”
After her rousing tribute to androgyny during the VMAs, P!nk gave the finger to gender rules and cross-dressed alongside Channing Tatum in this hilarious homage to I Love Lucy. Not only is this clip charming, but its saturated hues and carefully choreographed dance sequences compliment the fully realized storyline — one that never once feels overly ambitious. — PATRICK CROWLEY
8. Dua Lipa, “New Rules”
Dua Lipa‘s hair-flipping takedown of everyone’s shady ex, “New Rules,” was a bop to begin with, but it was the track’s girl-powered music video that truly sealed the song’s success. In it, Lipa and a squad of girlfriends have a glamorous (and highly GIF-able) slumber party at a Miami hotel, making the song not just about romance but also the joys of female friendship. — TATIANA CIRISANO
7. Taylor Swift, “Look What You Made Me Do”
There was a lot at stake for Taylor Swift going into this new era: how would she ever top her 1989 sales? And more importantly, how would she overcome Kimye-gate? With this video, The World’s Biggest Pop Star laughed it off and accepted her role as the villain in pop culture’s narrative. Not only that, but she served up her most cinematic clip to date, with zombie prosthetics, stilettoed male dancers and more symbolism than a Kubrick film. Look what you made her do, indeed. — P.C.
6. Selena Gomez, “Bad Liar”
Shouts to the Battle of Troy — the Billboard staff’s favorite song of 2017 came with a music video that was every bit as charming and inscrutable as its own weird self. Born as a minimal, “Psycho Killer”-sampling, left-of-center pop confection, its video brought it to new levels of star-crossed, 1970s suburban intrigue, with our heroine holding down all four leading roles, and looking damn good with a mustache. She’s the smarmy, crotch-grabbing, flirting-with-the-faculty principal! The bombshell basketball coach on the other end! And the principal’s wife, as well as the intrepid high schooler who watches it all go down, who also happens to be the principal’s daughter, who’s simultaneously transfixed by the same short-short-wearing faculty member. Throughout 2017, the one-time Disney star proved what a captivating force she’s becoming, and this Jesse Peretz-directed clip captured her ascension in all its keep-you-guessing glory. — CHRIS PAYNE
5. Migos, “T-Shirt”
During the final days of 2016, Migos traded in their sports cars for snowmobiles and found themselves in a perfect storm to ride into the new year. Directed by DAPS and Migos member Quavo himself, the “T-Shirt” video takes viewers on a cinematic experience through trappin’ in icy Lake Tahoe, to the coziest trap house of all time, with the Atlanta trio’s look — completely swagged out in fur from head to toe — becoming one of the most iconic looks in all 2017 pop. — REGINA CHO
4. JAY-Z, “The Story Of O.J.”
Last June, JAY-Z caused a frenzy with his “The Story of OJ” video. Directed by JAY and Mark Romanek, the black and white animated visual tackles racism head-on: As burning crosses and cotton fields pervade the gut-wrenching clip, Hov morphs into Jaybo — a play off the character Sambo from the 1899 published children’s book The Story of Little Black Sambo — to educate the socially inept on culture and finances. — CARL LAMARRE
3. Charli XCX, “Boys”
Joe Jonas feasts on pancakes, Chromeo have a pillow fight and Diplo bench-presses puppies in the millennial-pink-flooded music video for Charli XCX’s crush anthem “Boys,” which features 60 total cameos from male celebrities. But it’s more than a dreamy bro-fest: Charli’s self-directed video intentionally flips the male gaze, offering a fresh, funny critique of gender stereotypes. — T.C.
2. Kendrick Lamar, “HUMBLE.”
From the reenactment of Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century painting, “The Last Supper,” to the smooth recreation of the iconic Grey Poupon mustard ad from the ’80s, Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” video serves as a cultural cornucopia that is anything but modest. The visual, directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies, will still have you rewinding after the tenth replay to catch another subtle homage. Despite the clip’s richness in references, density of cultural context, and just plain badass imagery, it’s the simplicity of the video’s overall message at its core that’s the most unbeatable aspect, allowing the video to be relevant until the end of time: sit down, be humble. — R.C.
1. Perfume Genius, “Slip Away”
Everything Perfume Genius (a.k.a. Mike Hadreas) does is beautifully executed, from the way he dresses to his on-stage delivery. His music videos are no different: “Slip Away” sees the singer run through different fantasy worlds, as if literally trying to slip away from the voices, thoughts and opinions that clog the minds of many. The use of contrasting colors — warm and cold hues — depict the two worlds Hadreas straddles, until they finally mesh together as one before bursting into flames. A fittingly dramatic ending for an artist with a flair for such things. — L.H.