Each month, we run down the most memorable clips and celebrate artists who are breaking ground with their visuals.
8. Celeste: “Tonight Tonight”
Director: Noah Lee
The video for British soul singer Celeste’s “Tonight Tonight” operates on surreal dream logic—think Amy Winehouse filtered through director Michel Gondry’s funhouse aesthetic. Starting with a meta opening scene, Celeste faces troubles that escalate in mind-bending twists: Her newspaper is ruined by water spouting from the wall. Her cigarette grows long and limp like a plastic toy. Eventually she finds a tunnel straight out of Being John Malkovich that leads to a neon cabaret where tongue kissing takes on a newly grotesque meaning. The whole clip is like a magic trick that surprises as much as it disturbs.
7. Aldous Harding: “Old Peel”
Directors: Aldous Harding and Martin Sagadin
New Zealand folk enigma Aldous Harding’s videos are intriguingly peculiar, marked by disarming delights: take the surprise monster mask at the end of “The Barrel,” or the uncanny, guitar-playing figure set against a remote mountain landscape in “Fixture Picture.” She pares things back for new single “Old Peel,” which stars co-director Martin Sagadin as the lead singer of a band at a house show. Barefoot and sporting a bowl cut and mesh shirt, Sagadin gives off electric Iggy Pop energy as they commit to the performance, intercut with disorienting, low-angle shots of Harding performing at a keyboard. Eventually, Sagadin abandons the band entirely to stomp down an empty tunnel, an oblique ending in tune with the song’s off-kilter rhythm.
6. Snoh Aalegra: “LOST YOU”
Let’s be honest, this one is all about the garments. Swedish-Iranian singer Snoh Aalegra’s ruminative R&B cut, directed by longtime collaborator I.P.W., is accented with a decadent wardrobe and accessories: a pinstripe Mugler jacket, sparkling gloves, and a pair of white sunglasses that seem stolen from a fashion-forward Martian. With her hair in a long, braided ponytail in the spirit of Sade, Aalegra is filmed in snapshots that tilt her in and out of frame, offering askew glimpses of her commanding poses.
5. Tyler, the Creator: “LUMBERJACK”
Director: Wolf Haley
Tyler, the Creator’s rollout for new album Call Me If You Get Lost has included a slew of videos dripping in colorful imagery indebted to the whimsical sets of Wes Anderson. The first, “LUMBERJACK,” is the best: Filmed in bright pastel shades, Tyler lounges in a wood-paneled room with circular windows, indulging in a manicure from an old lady and standing atop a towering stack of designer suitcases. Once he leaves the humble abode (with a butler in tow), he’s hit by an inexplicable snowstorm. Captured largely on green-screen with simple effects, the video is outlandish in the best way, a quality Tyler amplified at this year’s BET Awards with an electrifying, windswept rendition.
4. SPELLLING: “Turning Wheel”
The orchestral title track from Tia Cabral’s third album as SPELLLING is plenty dreamy on its own, but the woodsy, self-directed video neatly rounds off her fairytale vision. Here, Cabral is the blissful leader of a band of musical nomads, their faces painted in vibrant shades and plastered with butterflies in a nod to Japanese avant-garde filmmaker Shūji Terayama. The clip switches from a gauzy filter to scenes filmed behind strands of silver thread as the troupe play cards, peer through a crystal ball, and flounce in a field. It’s a serene kind of paradise, with a cultish undercurrent that makes you want to pick up a tambourine and join in, no questions asked.
3. Vince Staples: “LAW OF AVERAGES”
Director: Kid. Studio
“LAW OF AVERAGES” is a kinetic trip through a version of Vince Staples’ home turf of Long Beach, where everything is slightly off. Jumping from dizzying zooms to wide pans, the clip finds Staples posted on a front lawn and in the street, intercut with scenes of various people with haunting rictus grins in the vein of Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.” “Everyone that I’ve ever known asked me for a loan/Leave me ’lone,” he raps, the sense of mistrust rendered plain on the fake smiles following him around like ghosts.
2. Yves Tumor: “Jackie”
Directors: Actual Objects
Rock experimentalist Yves Tumor’s latest visual is an AI-powered hellscape. The song’s namesake shreds on a guitar, as Tumor wanders a blood-red forest, their faces swapping with each other in a lurid use of deepfake technology. Tumor’s anguished cries match the chaos onscreen as they brandish a sword against Jackie’s electric guitar, and the two of them rage into battle. “Jackie” has all the ambition of a Marvel movie—and the drama of a demented rock opera.
1. Megan Thee Stallion: “Thot Shit”
Director: Aube Perrie
“Thot Shit” is the new crown jewel in Megan Thee Stallion’s run of astounding music videos, a horror-comedy romp that deserves the full-feature treatment ASAP. Aiming squarely at the bedwetting politicians who publicly criticized the rapper’s bawdy persona over the past year, the clip puts a skeevy, YouTube-trolling senator at the mercy of Megan and her fleet of hip-shaking hotties who pop up at every corner: mowing him down with a garbage truck, eating his food at a diner, mobbing him in an elevator. It’s a bold reaction to the conservative outcry after “WAP” as much as it is an excuse for Meg to pay tribute to her scary movie faves, with references to A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining. I haven’t been able to shake the closing scene’s hilariously shocking moment of body horror in weeks.