The words "screen time" have completely lost their meaning this year. Life may have been pushed indoors and divided into varying levels of bad screens — anything with access to Zoom, or even worse, email — but thankfully we had music videos for brief but extremely necessary escapes from reality. Honest-to-God fun videos are nothing new by any means, but in a year that offered little else in terms of quality entertainment, the visuals packed a harder punch, and stayed a little longer in our psyches. Below, ten of the most memorable videos of the year, in no particular order.
The Weeknd ft. Doja Cat - “In Your Eyes” Remix
The Weeknd reached his apotheosis with After Hours, but it’s his video for the “In Your Eyes” remix that has really stayed with me. Directed by Sundance-winning animation wunderkind Jeron Braxton, the video is a surreal Rainbow Road-core, tech dystopia. Braxton’s signature disjointed bodies and cheeky critiques on consumption, police brutality and the surveillance state are littered throughout. Pulsing billboards simply advertise “M❤️NEY” while KKKPD cars burn into the night. The Weeknd grabs a can of liquid peyote from a soda dispenser, and facial recognition software immediately labels him a threatening Black male. It’s a new world order, but some things never change. Remember Braxton’s name, watch his work, and thank me later.
Ariana Grande - “34+35”
Ariana Grande has and will always be a theatre kid at heart, and her best visuals are when she makes that known. Much like how she paid homage to the iconic teen film canon that raised her in her music video for "Thank u, next,” she presents a bimbo-fied version of women in STEM in "34 + 35," a song that solely exists to spotlight her high sex drive. She teeters around on platform boots, decked out in a lab coat with a clipboard in hand, until she and her fellow scientists are changed into sex kitten Austin Powers fembots. More women in STEM, indeed!
“Yo Perreo Sola” - Bad Bunny
In an alternate timeline, we would have been shaking our asses to "Yo Perreo Sola" in crowded, dimly lit parties all summer long. Even though that didn't pan out, Bad Bunny still brought the party with the music video. The rapper is a visionary who’s constantly pushing boundaries, this time with some stunning big titty drag looks and total saturated euphoria.
“Kyoto" - Phoebe Bridgers
Bridgers shot the entire video for "Kyoto" on a green screen and really went for full-throttle irreverence. She flies over the ocean, surfs the Japanese railway, and fights Godzilla. And duh, she does it all in her now-infamous skeleton suit. It's a hyper-silly and totally charming take on the otherwise dull quarantine video genre.
SZA - “Hit Different” ft. Ty Dolla $ign
SZA takes this sultry bop to a junkyard for a low-key yet mesmerizing dance video that does, in fact, hit different.
Rico Nasty - “IPHONE”
In the video for her 100 gecs-produced track, Rico Nasty terrorizes screen after screen with chaotic avatars and an Instagram Face so uncanny valley, Jia Tolentino might write another essay about it.
Oneohtrix Point Never - “I Don’t Love Me Anymore”
Oneohtrix Point Never’s glitchy prog-rock single got the karaoke treatment, with assistance from director Dasha Nekrasova. Featuring footage from How To with John Wilson videographer Leia Jospe, the out-of-context and tender clips of New York City's debris and idiosyncrasies are full of heart, and make me ache to sing my heart out with my friends more than I already do.
Arca - “Nonbinary”
Arca is the unofficial queen of the spooky avant-garde. “Nonbinary” naturally has its freak flag at full-mast, presenting us with eerie plastic surgeon visits and a cyber take on The Birth of Venus that without a doubt would've made Sandro Botticelli drop dead from a heart attack.
Doja Cat - “Say So”
Doja Cat's video for "Say So" is a glittery, candy-colored '70s fantasy. There’s nothing self-serious here — just dialed-up flirtation and a sweet homage to the TikTok dance that made the track the hit it is.
Rina Sawayama - “XS”
Rina Sawayama’s talent for crafting immaculate pop is one thing. She also has a good sense of humor. Thankfully, we get to see both in the video for "XS." Sawayama transforms into an HGTV-adjacent host, shamelessly shilling toxic goo with promises of a youthful glow. She commits to the part, and it's so fun to watch.