In a year without Beyoncé, Gaga, or Robyn pumping out the jams, it's okay to wonder why one should even be watching music videos anymore, anyway. Musically, 2012 was a pretty great year, but we aren't talking about music. Instead, we are discussing music in its most visceral form: the music video.
While this year had some amazing filmic additions and a few send-ups to the illuminati, ten true tunes paid attention to the job of the music video — be engaging while keeping the theme of the song intact. These aren't our favorite songs of the year, but they certainly are our favorite ones to look at.
2 Chainz feat. Kanye West, "Birthday Song"
Look, we don't love the topic of this song, and referring to women as "big booty hoes" is always problematic. But say, if you will, this is a celebration of women of all sizes. And to 2 Chainz, it sure is. This house party is as silly as it is poppin' off, and the culture of rap is cast in a hilarious and surreal light.
Die Antwoord, "I FINK U FREEKY"
Yolandi Visser, we think you freaky, and we like you a lot. While the heavy lifting in Die Antwoord videos is usually split by Yolandi and Ninja equally, the lady-half of the South African group really shines here. Daring viewers to find her sexy, Yolandi is covered in dirt, rats, and maybe blood. This dance vid is one of our favorites because no one (and this isn't an exaggeration) looks so good being so mad.
Grizzly Bear, "Yet Again"
When you think Grizzly Bear, you think ice-skating immediately, right? No? In one of the BK boys most memorable videos to date, an ice-dancing lady makes a bit of a, erm, breakthrough on the ice, sending her swimming. Suddenly transported, the skater arrives at a carnival, and finds herself totally alone. This video is filled with solitude, forest traipses, and ice-skates that have seen better days.
Fiona Apple, "Every Single Night"
Filling out the quirky girl quotient once belonging to Oh Land or Regina Spektor, quirky girl Fiona Apple is back. Though it is hard to erase what an era-defining video "Criminal" was, Fiona shows she still has it. All the zany elements are there: aquatic imagery, baby bangs, and even super fast, high-saturated cuts. Hey, if anyone can do it, Fiona can.
Psy, "Gangnam Style"
This wasn't as much of a video as it was a phenomenon, a zeitgest, and yes, a meme. But talking about videos in 2012 wouldn't be complete without the horse-like dancing and self-aware techno of Psy. If you haven't seen it, you are living under a rock. Maybe even three rocks.
Frank Ocean, "Thinking About You"
Inarguably, the song is as good as the video, but the video is nothing like the song. Frank doesn't even have a big part, but instead tells a story about love and sacrifice, and what we could (and would) do to save the people in our lives. The ending is ambiguous, and beautiful.
Do not forget that Drake is a Canadian guy who got his start on Degrassi. Do not forget that he has a lot of feelings, and most of them are quaint and pretty charming. Luckily, he won't let you, because while "Take Care" is a much better song, Drake reminds you of his unconventional roots by having a party with Lil' Wayne as a "re-Bar Mitzvah". Sorry, it all just makes us a little verklempt.
Ben Folds Five, "Do It Anyway"
True, Ben Folds is so grown up music for the whimsical...which has never been proven more true than in his fully-realized Fraggle Rock reunion. The Fraggles, from Boober to Gobo, actually live beneath Ben's studio, which means that they can dance, cause ruckus, and play washboards with Ben Folds. Oh, and Anna Kendrick is there, because when anything is awesome and heartwarming, she shows up. Stick around for the impromptu Fraggle Rock theme song at the end.
Odd Future, "Oldie"
Last year was the year of Odd Future. The group wasn't in the spotlight as much in '12, even though Earl Sweatshirt returned. But for "Oldie," the kids basically have a ten-minute freestyle performance, with every member of the West Coast group stepping forward. Musically, pretty boring, but the youth and energy of all of the OFWGKTA group, including Earl Sweatshirt, carries every one of those ten minutes. And to be honest, watching Tyler override Terry Richardson is pretty cool, too.
M.I.A., "Bad Girls"
Here is a video that you start to tell your friends about, only to end it by suggesting they are better off just watching it themselves. M.I.A makes a proper gangster rap video, but she trades in tropes for a hidden glimpse of Persian Gulf life, "ghost-riding" her whip on two wheels while literally letting her chains hit the dashboard — and dancing with gun-toting, niqab-wearing gals, a revolutionary vision in countries who don't allow women drivers. Hands down, the best and most engaging video of 2012, and never has M.I.A looked cooler. In fact, this is a rare instance where the video makes the song better.