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These Are The Most Mind-Blowing Music Videos Of 2016

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    Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Records.


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    So some things, for better or worse, happened in 2016. Most of them made you wonder whether David Bowie was actually responsible for holding the fabric of reality together (he was) or if this was all a cruel marketing scheme by Black Mirror (it wasn’t). But this was also the year that brought us Beyoncé’s Lemonade, a musical, spiritual, and identity-based meditation on what it meant to be a Black woman throughout various iterations of America.

    Lemonade isn’t a music video, but it does speak to the ways that visuals and music can intertwine to tell a whole new story. There is a reason why famous directors won’t shy away from hopping behind the camera: Music videos can be an entire narrative, but one without ticket sales, studio involvement, or a six-month-long gestation period.

    The 16 most striking music videos of 2016 are a pretty solid cross-section of culture this year. Politicians scream, we sob over drones, Black women rightfully demand to be heard, Reddit stumbles into holes trying to solve mysteries, and Chrissy Teigen is all, “Told you so.” That was 2016 — and here are the best music videos that it produced.

    And Lemonade doesn’t count — because if it did, it would just take first place and everything else would just need to sit down.

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    Song: “Friends”
    Artist: Francis & The Lights ft. Bon Iver and Kanye West
    Director: Jake Schreier

    Paper Towns director Jake Schreier takes some time off from the world of adorable, indie tearjerkers to give us a primo example of awkward dude dancing, courtesy of Kanye West (whose choreographer may have been Drake), Bon Iver, and Francis Starlite (the aforementioned Francis). The single tracking shot is subdued, following Francis groove his way through an empty studio — until Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon joins in for a dance sequence that is great, if not exactly Beyoncé-worthy.

    (Note: Schreier has directed every video for Francis and is buddies with the It musician. Francis appeared on Frank Ocean’s Blonde, The Hamilton Mixtape, and Chance’s Coloring Book, making him, like, the MVP of your fantasy rapper team.)

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    Song: “Angels"
    Artist: Chance The Rapper ft. Saba
    Director: Austin Vesely

    For any Chicagoans, watching Chance tear it up up on State Street while his crew dances on the Brown Line is a true sight to behold. But the real gem of this video is the reminder that Chance, despite being rap’s most celebrated ingenue, can also freaking dance. Remember, there is something so hopeful in this video, which celebrates a city that deserves a little shine now and again.

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    Song: “Say It”
    Artist: Flume ft. Tove Lo
    Director: Nez

    Sometimes, a song just needs a zero-gravity dance battle that takes place in a dreamy utopia comprised of reflective buildings and everyone wears spacesuit white. Extra points if your mirrored lover shows up to be your partner and matches the push-and-pull sexiness of your otherworldly soundtrack.

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    Song: “Gogo”
    Artist: Baauer
    Director: Thomas Rhazi

    French director Thomas Rhazi gets it: That emotional, terrifying plunge into a new relationship, especially when it feels so entirely out of control. The story is familiar and needs no words — a girl hops into a guy’s car on a first date, she bites her lips, he puts on tunes, she likes him, he likes her. Then, they lean in for a kiss, and boom, they fall from an insane height towards an unforeseen ground. Plummeting, the car becomes home to the entire emotional gamut of a new relationship: Lust, comfort, joy, anger, frustration...and then just heading toward the Earth at an absurd speed, wondering how you’ll ever survive.

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    Song: “Don’t Touch My Hair”
    Artist: Solange
    Director: Alan Ferguson & Solange Knowles

    A Seat At The Table let everyone know that there is something fierce and potent about that Knowles blood. Here, she claims autonomy over her personhood, reminding viewers about the different textures, lengths, and types of black hair, but the whole thing isn’t just a warning — it’s also a celebration of raw fact, of Solange cutting a rug, of gender-bending, of the sisterhood of women, and of Blackness.