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The 8 Ball 12.27.13: The Top 8 Music Videos of 2013
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 12.28.2013

Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!

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Top 8 Music Videos of 2013

Welcome, one and all, to the Music Zone 8 Ball! The end of the year is upon us and Year-End Columns are about to come out in full force. It's time to look back at the last twelve months and pluck out the best, worst, hottest, funniest, saddest or what-have you of the year and we're kicking that off in the music wing of 8 Ball Headquarters with music videos. Music videos may not be at their height from the MTV/VH-1 era, but I daresay that the continued rise of streaming internet video has brought the format to its highest point since those music video-centric networks moved onto reality TV. This year we had no short of good and bad videos and so let's take a look at some of the best to have been released in 2013.

Caveat: The key criterion here was simple: the music video had to be released in 2013. There are some cases where a song was released before January of this year but the video wasn't, and those videos were eligible for the list. Second, I was looking at artists who work primarily in music. There are a ton of great videos out there (mostly humor-based) that come from comedians or actors who aren't a "regular part" of the music industry, so to speak. It's a fuzzy line but usually obvious. One other thing: in terms of criteria, I just looked for the ones that appealed to me the most. In some cases it is artistic value, in others its pure entertainment. The song didn't directly factor into any of them, as this is about the video and not the music.

Just Missing The Cut

Lorde - "Team"
The Knife - "Tooth for an Eye"
Maroon 5 - "Love Somebody"
Lonely Island (ft. Kendrick Lamar & Adam Levine) - "YOLO"
Foals - "Late Night"

#8: Disclosure (ft. AlunaGeorge) - "White Noise"

First up on our list is my favorite EDM music video of the year. 2013 saw the genre break out wider than ever before with groups like Daft Punk rising high on the charts while more mainstream genres continued to incorporate dance beats and sounds into their music. Amidst all of that was Disclosure, the garage-electro duo who released their debut LP Settle in June. For their second single off of the album, the group turned to director Luke Monoghan for this wondrous video. Set within the decaying urban landscape of Detroit--the birthplace of techno--Monaghan delivered a fantastic juxtaposition between that somber setting and joyous dance moves that fit the beeps and beats of "White Noise." The drab, overcast setting from the beginning of the song is like a dark cloud that can't keep the music down--or the chief subject of the video, who walks into a ruined building and starts busting a move with an enthusiasm that could only be matched by Christopher Walken. It's both a deeply fun music video and a powerful statement about the power of music to lift even the darkest settings, as well as one about the music still being alive and well (and even passed on, as the end of the video shows) in the Motor City.

#7: Lily Allen "Hard Out Here"

Lily Allen's been away from the music industry for a while in order to create a family, and good for her. The pop industry has certainly missed her biting wit though, and when she came back she brought that wit full-force with "Hard Out Here." The music video for Allen's comeback single fires unrepentant shots at the sad state of certain elements in the music business, replete with satirical assaults on the likes of Robin Thicke, twerking and sexism. Allen has never been subtle but her sarcasm is always a pleasant breath of fresh air in the false earnestness that often infects the airwaves. Gaga, Taylor and Katy can talk about girl power, but Allen has the market cornered and she delivered here. Of course if you're not a big fan of gender equality and just wanna see a bunch of twerking I suppose you could mute it and just pay attention to the sexually-charged images, so there's something for everyone. Really though, what's the fun in that. Bonus points for mocking her critics with the "Lily Allen has a baggy p***y" balloons. The video attracted some unwarranted and rather misinformed charges of racism for surrounding Allen with African-American backup dancers to do all the twerking, but let that silly mess float on by you and just enjoy the sarcastic fun.

#6: Capital Cities "Safe and Sound"

Not every video needs to be about social messages; sometimes you just want to have a good time. That's exactly what Capital Cities delivered with their video for "Safe and Sound," an ode to dancing throughout the years piled all in one. This single was actually released back in 2011 and had a first music video which juxtaposed images of dancing and war from the last 100 years in chronological order, but when the song became a hit on radio a new video was created in April. This video is set within the Los Angeles Theatre and features the duo performing on stage while the theater fills with the ghosts of dancers from the theater's long history. Ballroom dancing and ballet shares the stage (and halls) with roller disco, break dancers and more. It's not only a beautiful tribute to a truly historic movie theater; it's a tribute to the sheer spirit of dance and is perfectly-wedded to the song's sound and aura. This one has grabbed a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video and I'm certainly pulling for it.

#5: Janelle Monaé (ft. Erykah Badu) - "Q.U.E.E.N."

This deliriously over-the-top video is not only a hell of a lot of fun, it's a powerful anthem as well. Kicking off with a little sci-fi intro that sets a stage of a future in which musical rebels are held in suspended animation as a living museum, the song has striking visuals that make it instantly memorable. This deeply stylized clip defies you not to pay attention with a black on white color palette, with splashes of red here and there. But while you're paying attention to the visuals you're also getting swept away by two of R&B's best delivering. This song is a call to arms for the oppressed. It's the kind of video that is sure to stay with people for a long time, not only for the creative production design but for the directorial style. The cuts are done just right, particularly at the end when Monae delivers her rapped verse calling for (and promising) a better place. It's simply a kick-ass video for an equally kick-ass song; what more can you want?

#4: Justin Timberlake - "Mirrors"

Justin Timberlake made a huge musical comeback in 2013, with his The 20/20 Experience bursting almost out of nowhere to become the top-selling album of the year. A big part of that was "Mirrors" and its accompanying music video, which earned a host of awards that it well deserves. The video is a narrative tribute to his maternal grandparents' marriage of sixty-three years, cut short by his grandfather's death last year. Even if you didn't know that particular detail though, it would still be a great narrative which shows the ups and downs of a decades-long relationship. Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways) directed this piece and frankly did so more or less to perfection, right down to one of my favorite shots in a music video all year. It's right at 5:23, when the widowed woman steps forward toward her husband and they vanish. The placement of the various mirrors in the room and the way the reflections all work just make it absolutely beautiful and, honestly, more than a little heartbreaking when you see the look on the widow's face after the fact. And if narrative videos don't work you can always skip to twenty seconds after that and get Timberlake's excellent-as-always dance moves in a hall of mirrors, surrounded by women who bear more than a passing resemblance to his own wife, Jessica Biel. It's a truly sublime piece of musical filmmaking.

#3: David Bowie - "The Next Day"

In terms of music videos with sheer "WTF" factor, David Bowie takes the cake this year. Don't get me wrong; there are absolutely other music videos out there which are more extreme, more graphic, more violent and more sexual. And they certainly deserve that reaction as well. But this is Bowie, and he has no qualms about delivering high art with shocking and controversial developments. In the video for "The Next Day" Bowie plays a prophet performing at some kind of Catholic nightclub in which cardinals and one priest with some serious issues (played by none other than Gary Oldman) get their fun in. Oldman begins dancing with a sexy seductress played by Marion Cotillard until he gets angry and she starts spouting blood out of stigmata wounds. And that's not even getting into the self-flagellation, the woman with nothing but tassels from the waist up, the milk tears, the black-eyed woman with strands of hair coming down from her eyes and all the rest of the strangeness. Of course the Catholic League went crazy over this, making them look ridiculous, and Bowie had the last laugh. And I don't know why, but the bit at the end where he politely thanks Oldman, Cotillard and the rest before blinking away makes me chuckle every time. He may be sixty-six but man, Bowie's still got it.

#2: Eminem (ft. Rihanna) - "The Monster"

One of the most anticipated albums of the year was Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and it certainly delivered. I'll get more into that in a few weeks, but among its many gifts were the music videos to the singles released so far. All four music videos have been good, from "Berserk's" 1980s sensibility and "Survival's" video game-charged intensity to "Rap God's" Max Headroom, Portal and Matrix-inspired visuals. My personal favorite though is his latest, for "The Monster." With Rihanna acting as his shrink, Eminem takes a journey back through his history of a rapper to great results. The video recreates the music videos for "My Name Is" and "Lose Yourself," as well as his 2001 Elton John-assisted Grammy Awards performance of "Stan." Each of these play as Eminem travels high up into his psyche by virtue of a metaphorical elevator. At the top is his own monster, his lyrical skill under the persona of Slim Shady held in a box with armed guards. It's a great concept for a video and they do a great job with recreating the old videos and performances; along the way you have references to other videos including "The Way I Am" and "Not Afraid." It doesn't hurt that Rihanna's looking damned good as well. It makes for what is easily my favorite video for a song that was newly-released in 2013.

#1: Bob Dylan - "Like a Rolling Stone"

Okay, I know what you're thinking: is it fair to award the #1 spot to the video of a song that is almost fifty years old? If the video was released this year then hell yes. The term "interactive music video" has been floated around a lot this year, as if it is a new innovation that will take videos to a new level and perhaps even bring them back to the prevalence that they were at when MTV was at its height. Unfortunately most of the interactive videos have been little more than gimmicks that get old quickly. Bob Dylan did it right with his video for "Like a Rolling Stone," though. This song is, without exaggeration, my personal favorite song of all time and so if I'm being honest, it was likely to rank high even if the video wasn't great. However, it is a great video, as Dylan uses sixteen separate channels of video to run the length of the video. Clicking on the up and down channels allow you to switch from one to the other, in which people like Mark Meron, Drew Carey and Danny Brown lip synch along. One channel is a Dylan performance and that's worth watching on its own. This is a music video that has true replay value; you can spend almost an hour watching all of the different video versions individually and still have fun flipping through after that, watching an animated cat's lip synch morph into a BBC anchor. Forty-eight years after its initial release, "Like a Rolling Stone" is still showing the music industry exactly how it's done. It's a transcendence of the music video format and clearly the best video of the year by my reckoning.


This week in our Music Video A-Go-Go we're getting a twofer. I love end of year mashups and have spotlighted DJ Earworm's yearly "United State of Pop" track combining the top Billboard hits of each year, and this year is no difference. I would also like to thank 411 alumni Andy Clark for sharing another mashup, by Pop Danthology. Check them both out below:

And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.


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