A byproduct of the streaming era, both in terms of numbers and resources, has been the resurgence of the music video. There’s no throughline among the best music videos of the year so far — just rising stars, like Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion, and certified veterans, like Madonna and the Jonas Brothers, trying to flex as imaginatively as possible. The results can be lewd, controversial, empowering, silly, and surprising. The playbook only requires that you stand out.
On a Roll – Miley Cyrus
“On a Roll,” is a bona fide earworm that has been taking over Twitter. The re-imagined Nine Inch Nails song was first heard in the Black Mirror episode “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” along with snippets of an accompanying music video. The fans immediately demanded an official release and the full video, and Ashley obliged.
The visual features Ashley (Miley) in all of her popstar glory, wearing sexy popstar garb and performing the appropriate choreography. However, because this is Black Mirror, at about less than two minutes, it all starts to go down the tubes, with literal cracks in the video reflecting Ashley O’s journey in the episode. The unhappy singer is caught giving the camera the finger, she makes a mess in a pink bathtub, and finally, we’re treated to some eerie frames of Aunt Catherine looking pissed.
Bury a Friend – Billie Eilish
Most conventional pop music videos aim to be dream-like escapes from the natural horrors of the outside world… but then, Billie Eilish doesn’t make conventional pop music. It’s only fitting that her videos should follow suit, especially with her sinister, spine-chilling video for “Bury a Friend.” Starring as the monster under someone’s bed, Eilish pulls out the most effective horror tropes to give life to her spooky song. Hypodermic needles pierce her back, darkness clouds her eyes, and lights flicker across her face as the star haunts her sleeping friend. Is it a visual representation of sleep paralysis? Is it a metaphor for the fear of loneliness? When you find yourself asking these questions about a music video, you know the artist has clearly done something right.
Boy With Luv – BTS and Halsey
The concept behind “Boy With Luv” is simple: coat BTS and Halsey in pastel colors and have them dance everywhere. It’s exactly what fans, and the rest of the world, want right now — joy so pure it has the power to turn your entire day around. Maybe that’s why it became the most-viewed 24-hour debut in YouTube history. There’s something satisfying and uplifting about watching the seven members dance around an aesthetically pleasing movie theater, diner, and a giant set of piano keys. For such a sparkly, over-the-top pop anthem, you get what you deserve.
Sucker – Jonas Brothers
For their long-awaited comeback single, the Jonas Brothers could have just filmed themselves playing “Sucker” in a garage and fans would have been happy. What Nick, Kevin and Joe Jonas did instead was one of the most delightfully glamorous music videos of the year: “Sucker” has all of the drama, flamboyant costumes, lavish sets and ridiculous acting that you want to see from a high-quality music video, along with starring roles for the self-dubbed “J Sisters,” Sophie Turner, Priyanka Chopra and Danielle Jonas.
The Killers – Land of the Free
For their first song since 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful, the Killers attacked a host of scourges plaguing America — mass shootings, the prison-industrial complex, militarization at the Mexico-U.S. border — through a dramatic piano ballad. Brandon Flowers and co. enlisted Spike Lee to direct its fittingly gripping video: filmed over a few weeks in late 2018, the clip includes rage-inducing footage of border patrol agents tear-gassing migrant families, alongside inspirational shots of communal celebration and solidarity.