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The 20 Best Music Videos of the 2010s, Ranked

Featuring Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Childish Gambino, and more.

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The 2010s marked the first full decade of music videos in the online era. Gone are the days of MTV’s Total Request Live or VH1’s Top 20 Countdown as YouTube became the go-to place to watch music videos. Without runtime restrictions or visual payola, artists had more creative freedom to fulfill their vision. Videos from this era spanned short stories to masterful odysseys, further adding to the narrative around a given song, album, or cultural movement. However, well-choreographed dance routines and comedic satires still had their place in music videos. For this list, we took into account creativity, cultural significance, production value, and overall narrative. Without further ado, here’s our ranking of the twenty best music videos from the 2010s.

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20. Vince Staples, “FUN!” (dir. Calmatic, 2018)

Vince Staples’ radio-station takeover album FM! is a thrilling summertime ride around Los Angeles, hosted by none other than Big Boy. For the “FUN!” music video, Vince offers us a look at his native Long Beach neighborhood in the heat of the summer. Creative camera movements akin to Google Earth dash between glimpses of children dancing, couples fighting, and petty theft. Vince maintains a strong presence on-camera despite his limited role in any of the events taking place.

19. Drake feat. Lil Wayne, “HYFR (Hell Yeah F**king Right)” (dir. Director X, 2012)

Choosing to capture his re-bar mitzvah is one of the more unexpected angles Drake could’ve taken for his “HYFR” video. However, seeing him, Lil Wayne, Birdman, and DJ Khaled party at the Jewish coming of age ceremony is loads of fun. The scene where Drake is lifted on a chair during the horah before encouraging Trey Songz to chug a bottle is exactly the chaotic energy we love to see from Drizzy.

18. Rosalía, “Malamente (Cap. 1: Augurio)” (dir. Canada, 2018)

Rosalía sings about a doomed relationship in the minimal, hand-clapping “Malamente” as bad omens loom throughout this hypnotic video. She’s chased by a man on an abandoned street before being struck by a car. Later, a man wearing a Spanish Holy Week capirote rides a skateboard studded with nails. In between, Rosalía and her backup dancers deliver slick choreography in lavish fur vests and tracksuits. The outfits are a stark contrast to the bare, industrial scene they find themselves in. Rosalía’s visual poetry in this music video demonstrates an artistic balance of the delicate with the abrasive.

17. Kali Uchis feat. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins “After the Storm” (dir. Nadia Lee Cohen, 2018)

Nadia Lee Cohen’s colorful visual for “After The Storm” begins with Kali Uchis making a grocery list – bread, cheese, milk, eggs, and a new lover. Rather than traipsing around looking for love, Kali dons a beautiful lemon-colored ensemble and buys exactly what she wants. Kali’s beautifully deadpan stare commands the screen as she purchases seeds to grow a husband. Nearly every shot from this video is perfectly framed and color-blocked, with a plethora of iconic looks from both Kali and Tyler.

16. Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next” (dir. Hannah Lux Davis, 2018)

Ariana Grande is certainly not the first artist to pay tribute to a classic movie in a music video. In “Thank U, Next,” she honors not one but four iconic movies and even recruits some of the original cast members to reprise their roles. Pulling off a video like this takes a pop star at the absolute top of her game. Ariana’s personality and heartfelt subject matter shine through even as she dresses up as her favorite rom-com characters.

15. Danny Brown, “Ain’t It Funny” (dir. Jonah Hill, 2017)

Shot as a white family sitcom on The Religious Values Network, Danny Brown’s “Ain’t It Funny” music video is a wildly creative social commentary. Danny tries to discuss his problem with drug addiction, but all that can be heard is his song and laugh tracks from the studio audience. Even when their beloved “Uncle Danny” smokes crack right in front of them, the white family is too enamored with their own lives to care about his issues.

14. Kendrick Lamar, “HUMBLE” (dir. Dave Meyers & The Little Homies, 2017)

Heads up – this isn’t the last time you’re going to see Kendrick’s name on this list. As the lead single to his Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN., Kendrick knew he had to bring some heat for the visual. Literally. The shot selection for this music video is immaculate. From Kendrick donning religious attire to laying on stacks of Benjamins to the Last Supper sequence, the creativity in this video is amazing. The almost overwhelming pacing makes the art film feel like a strobe light. To me, this video perfectly captures Kendrick’s ascent from generational talent to historical legend, all while remaining humble.

13. Tyler, the Creator, “Yonkers” (dir. Wolf Haley, 2011)

Tyler had a clear vision: “I’m sitting on a chair rapping, I’m playing with a bug, I eat it, I throw up, my eyes go black, and I hang myself.” That’s exactly how it went down in what has become one of the most iconic black and white music videos of the 2010s, and perhaps of all time. The video was effective enough to make stomachs turn all over the world, earning the young rapper a Video of the Year nod at the VMAs. Tyler’s more recent videos have become much more opulent and artsy, but it’s impossible to forget this classic.

12. Frank Ocean, “Pyramids” (dir. Nabil Elderkin, 2012)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets Lost Highway in the dizzying video for Frank Ocean’s ten-minute odyssey, “Pyramids”. The video opens with a character – believed to be Ocean – downing four shots before shooting a bartender. Frank zips across the desert on a motorcycle, giggles in a strip club, and runs into John Mayer in the middle of nowhere. The dusty, neon-drenched vision quest is beautifully filmed under the guise of Nabil Elderkin.

11. Jay-Z, “Moonlight” (dir. Alan Yang, 2017)

Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” is one of the most insightful, revelatory music videos on this countdown. The short film sees Jerrod Carmichael, Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Lil Rel Howery, and Tessa Thompson in a parody of Friends. The “critically acclaimed” comedy of the 90s featured an all-white cast and drastically overshadowed shows like Living Single in mainstream media. The song “Moonlight” – named after the Oscar-winning film that was mistakenly overshadowed by “La La Land” – discusses themes of trying to fit into a world that doesn’t want you in it. Hov’s vision for the video also highlights how Black artists and their creations are often diminished by white critics.

10. M.I.A., “Bad Girls” (dir. Romain Gavras, 2012)

M.I.A. and director Romain Gravas already proved they could make an unforgettable visual with the controversial “Born Free” video. Shot in Morocco, the video pays homage to Saudi drifting, where cars ride on their sides on only two wheels. Scenes of men and women sitting on the outside of the cars are juxtaposed with shots of M.I.A. and a glam posse dressed in metallic fabrics and animal prints. M.I.A. even gets in on the drifting action herself, as she lounges out the passenger door of a white BMW, filing her nails like the lavish queen she is.

9. Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway” (dir. Kanye West, 2010)

The music video for “Runaway” captures Kanye in his rarest, most vulnerable form. He’s been stripped of his bravado, the feuds, the tweets. Instead, he’s left alone to plink at an out-of-tune piano before being swarmed by somber ballet dancers. The decision to shoot part of the sequence in slow motion highlights the dancer’s grace as West mourns what his ego cost him. The visual is absolutely gorgeous, showing that even when he’s acting with humility, Kanye still does it big. Kanye’s full-length film accompanying My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is definitely worth watching.

8. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake, “King’s Dead” (dir. Dave Free & Jack Begert, 2018)

From a very biased POV, this is my favorite music video from the last ten years. The creativity in the shot selection, camera movements, and editing is remarkable. From Kendrick eating elote in a tree to Future being the Wolf of Wall Street, this video has everything that makes modern hip-hop videos amazing. Kendrick, Future, and Jay Rock look like a trio of kings overlooking their pride atop Los Angeles high rises. Dave Free has proven to be one of the most sought-after directors of this current era. And that closing sequence with Kendrick in the intersection? Flawless.

7. Beyoncé, “Formation” (dir. Melina Matsoukas, 2016)

Queen Bey stopped the world for the umpteenth time when she release the explosive video for “Formation”. As with nearly every Beyoncé music video, the choreography is perfected to a tee. Frequent collaborator Melina Matsoukas shot the video in Los Angeles, though every second is deeply rooted in Louisiana and Beyoncé’s Creole ancestry. The iconic video is rife with historical references, including Antebellum-style houses, Victorian hoop skirts and petticoats, and the now-legendary wide-brimmed hat. Further, New Orleans legends Big Freedia and Messy Mya provide additional sounds as Beyoncé sings atop a police car submerged in water as a nod to Hurricane Katrina. Beyoncé’s socio-political message is fearless, unapologetic, and stunning.

6. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright” (dir. Colin Tilley & The Little Homies, 2015)

As you can see from this countdown, few artists do visuals as well as Kendrick Lamar. The “Alright” music video begins with his “Luci” speech that dots the entirety of TPAB. Kendrick floats throughout the whole song, both on the mic and literally in the video. From the cinematography to how it addresses social issues, everything about this music video reflects the song (and album) itself, depicting the joys and horrors experienced by Black people in America. “We gon’ be alright” became a slogan for the new civil rights movement, and this video further illuminates why Kendrick Lamar’s work is so important to our world.

5. Solange, “Cranes in the Sky” (dir. Alan Ferguson and Solange Knowles, 2016)

Solange’s work has become synonymous with eye-catching, highbrow aesthetics, and this is no exception. The “Cranes in the Sky” music video is solemn yet undeniably stylish. She wears a variety of colors and textures as she sings outdoors against stark nature backdrops, lays pensively on tile, and sits beside statuesque companions. While there is nothing particularly remarkable about these activities, Solange’s keen eye for art direction shines through. Every shot resembles either an opulent Vogue photoshoot or an interpretive dance performance. It’s an absolutely beautiful piece of art.

4. The Carters, “APESHIT” (dir. Ricky Saiz, 2018)

There’s only one couple in the world who can rent out the most significant art institution in the world for a private couples therapy session. Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s critically underrated collaborative album EVERYTHING IS LOVE gave us the power-flex that is the “APESHIT” music video. Filmed at The Louvre, the video sees the dynamic duo unapologetically owning their space amongst some of the most renowned works of art in the world. It’s a visually stunning masterpiece complete with perfectly synchronized dancers and captivating cinematography. There’s a reason why those “they’re just like us fr” comments never show up under anything Hov and Bey are associated with. This music video shows the most powerful couple in entertainment at their peak, proving the two are undoubtedly in a league of their own.

3. Childish Gambino, “This Is America” (dir. Hiro Murai, 2018)

Released after hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” quickly took the world by storm. The video is drenched in symbolism, as Gambino performs choreography derived from both viral hip-hop trends and traditional African dance. He’s all smiles even though violence permeates all around him. Guns are gently laid down on red velvet while murdered Black bodies are hastily dragged away. We could spend hours dissecting all the nuances of this music video, but we’ll leave you to run it back for yourself. This could easily have earned the top spot on this list as “This Is America” has been praised as one of the best music videos of all time.

2. FKA twigs, “cellophane” (dir. Andrew Thomas Huang, 2019)

FKA twigs’ video for “cellophane” is a beautiful masterpiece. The video comes after twigs’ very public separations from Robert Pattinson and Shia Labeouf and serves as a visual showcase of her healing process. With vivid style and precision, the video articulates a desire to defy gravity although our feet are rooted in cold soil. It begins with a masterful and entrancing pole dancing routine, a delicate yet strong display of twigs regaining her power. Then, a dreamlike ascent brought to life by a CGI sphinx before twigs endures a hellish collapse into the ether. After all she’s been through, FKA twigs soars above it all with beauty and grace, creating one of the best videos of the decade.

1. Tierra Whack, “Whack World” (dir. Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Leger, 2018)

A fitting end to our countdown sees Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack’s magnificent brainchild Whack World reign supreme. The visionary artist makes sight and sound go hand in hand with this creative 15-minute video set to her debut album. Fifteen tracks, each spanning roughly sixty seconds in length. The songs interact in fascinating ways: she acts out the opener “Black Nails” with pictograph fingertips; eats pearls with chopsticks off a body during “Hungry Hippo”; glams up a taxidermied dog in “Flea Market”; is laid to rest in a pinstripe suit and sequined coffin in “Sore Loser”. Throughout these vignettes, Whack is chameleonic, obscuring her face or playing a character as we wonder who she really is. With Whack World, Tierra Whack offers us one of the most unique, creative pieces of art in recent memory and shows us that she’s going to be whoever she wants to be.

We hope you enjoyed our ranking of the 20 Best Music Videos from the 2010s. Be sure to let us know some of your favorite videos from this era in the comments section below!

Lastly, for more music editorials, check out Top 50 Rap Albums of the Decade.

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