Top 10 Music Videos of 2013

Whether or not you believe the art form known as the music video is “dead,” musicians and filmmakers are still producing expressive visuals to accompany the music we know and love. This trend continued throughout 2013 with some of these videos pushing beyond the boundaries of what we even consider “music videos” to be (e.g., Pharrell’s “Happy” or Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”), while others pushed beyond the boundaries of decency (I’m looking at you, Kanye West’s “Bound 2″ and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”).

Still others, such as those ten listed below, pushed the medium forward and fully captured the essence of their respective songs. The videos listed here represent our favorites of 2013, and we think they each deserve a viewing (or five).

#10: Avicii – “Wake Me Up”

The video for Avicii’s hit single “Wake Me Up!” reflects the song’s own folksy, world-weary-but-optimistic sensibility. Shot in Southern California and featuring a beautiful mother and daughter with matching Avicii birthmarks, the song’s video is a glimpse into their quiet quest for belonging. Intercut with the mother and daughter is Avicii concert footage, which contrasts with the rest of the video’s imagery in the same pleasing way that the song’s electronic breakdown does with its gently twanging verses. – Megan Driscoll

#9: Arctic Monkeys – “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

“Do I Wanna Know” was the first single and video to get us ready for AM, and if that didn’t catch your attention, first of all, why not?! Second of all, the follow-up video for “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” damn well should have. Going from animated to imaginative, “Do I Wanna Know” literally leads us into the “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” video with an alcohol-influenced scenario of not being able to get someone out of your head. One too many drinks leads Alex Turner on a stumbled mission to the home of his heart’s desire, all the while committing social faux pas and experiencing hallucinogenic visions of the one who won’t return his texts. A great video and amazing song, but really, who wouldn’t return that guy’s messages? – Angelica Corona

#8: Foals – “Late Night”

This was not only one of my favorite videos of the year, it was one of the best I have seen in a long time. “Late Night” is a provocative song by itself, but reaches a whole new level when accompanied by this visually jaw-dropping and emotionally draining video. It takes place in a brothel where three rooms hold the three stages of life. One room features a man and woman having sex, the second shows a woman giving birth, and the final room reveals a man ending his life. It is a striking and powerful video that all fans of good cinema should watch. – Gerry Doot

#7: Chvrches – “Lies”

Electro-pop buzz band Chvrches’ single “Lies” is an undeniably epic tune, so it was only appropriate that the band paired this track from their spectacular debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, with an equally cool video. The flawlessly produced music video directed by Sing J. Lee is a psychological thriller of sorts. It combines images of the band saturated in stunning, vivid lighting with glimpses of a dystopian world where virtual reality reigns over actual reality. This combination of a sparkling, power-driven song and a mind-blowing video exemplifies Chvrches’ knack for the dramatic. – Sarah Bellman

#6: Capital Cities “Safe and Sound”

The Grady Hall-directed “Safe and Sound” video, filmed in the historic and newly restored Los Angeles Theater, is a visually stunning chronicle of one hundred years of dance set to quite possibly the catchiest tune ever to be recorded. Featuring dance direction from celebrated choreographer Mandy Moore and countless styles of dance at once, the video won a 2013 MTV Video Music Award for Best Visual Effects — much-deserved, in my book. Bonus points awarded to Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant for their dance contributions as well. – Megan Driscoll

#5: Portugal. The Man – “Modern Jesus”

You witness a lot of things on a road trip or a tour, heck, even on just a walk, but Portugal. the Man and AG Rojas stepped out of the tour van and into the living rooms, churches, and backyards they passed to get a deeper glimpse into the urban and suburban lives we hardly notice in our rearview mirrors. There’s an overly quoted lyric or movie line (I’m the worst at remembering these. Was it from Ferris Bueller?) that says to not blink or your life will pass you by (not incredibly practical advise and perhaps not quoted accurately on my part), but it’s moments like the ones previewed in “Modern Jesus” that, if appreciated, bring to light lifestyles so very different from our own. – Angelica Corona

#4: Haim – “The Wire”

We loved when this LA-based trio of sisters dropped the music video for their uptempo break-up ballad. Despite the song’s somewhat heavy content, the lighthearted, overly dramatic playfulness of the video shows us these effortlessly cool girls still know how to goof around. They flip the conventional break-up tale on its head and have guys, including Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island, pining after their now-exes. The result is a fun, entertaining video worthy of being one of our favorites of 2013. – Mary Bonney

#3: Janelle Monáe – “Q.U.E.E.N.”

Janelle Monáe has kind of taken over the world. Her live show is beyond amazing, and the video for “Q.U.E.E.N.” is just a small taste of it. Her most recent album, The Electric Lady, is a great example of her status as an amazing talent, being accompanied by peers such as Miguel, Prince, and on this particular track, Erykah Badu. The video has a great style with a contrasting black-and-white scheme, look-a-likes, and a band that is painted in silver. No wonder it made this list of the year’s best videos. – Gerry Doot

#2: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”

Directed by French director consortium Megaforce, “Sacrilege” tells the story of the events leading up to the grisly deaths of a man and a woman in reverse chronological order. The woman in question, star Lily Cole, smolders. Literally. “Sacrilege” opens with scenes of Cole being bound to a stake and burned before detailing the various sordid affairs she has engaged in prior. It all culminates in a gorgeous shot of her coming through double doors looking effervescent in a virginal white wedding gown while her soon-to-be murderers stare at her in awe. Definitely deserves its spot as one of the year’s best video. – Lesley Park

#1: James Blake – “Retrograde”

James Blake’s sophomore album, Overgrown, quietly rose to the near-top of my list of best albums of 2013, and I pretty much owe it to this music video. As I stated back in June in my mid-year review of 2013’s music videos, “Director Martin de Thurah illustrates (the song’s) complexity and hidden beauty using a spatial visual architecture not unlike those used by filmmakers Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick. Everything in the frame matters, and the documentarian aesthetic allows us, the observer, to piece together whatever subtext we believe is connected to the intended narrative. It’s cinematic and enormously interactive, a rare kind of music video that you just don’t often see anymore.” Six months later, every word of that description still proves true and will continue to do so long after 2013 ends. – David Fisch