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.