The absolute best music videos of 2017
Nothing beats the hype of a hot new track from your favorite artist, that is unless the song is accompanied by an equally amazing music video.
2016 was epic with the release of Rihanna‘s powerful Anti, Beyoncé‘s revolutionary Lemonade, and Frank Ocean‘s highly anticipated Blonde. But 2017 is rolling out with powerful music videos that rival last year’s batch.
After hours of scanning through music videos, we’ve gathered the cream of the crop, listed by month. See you on the other side.
The best music videos of 2017
“Unholy War” — Jacob Banks
Hailing from Birmingham, U.K., Jacob Banks is a singer-songwriter who has been buzzing. The music video for “Unholy War” is more than just a short film accompanied by a track. It begins with a powerful message about living in a time where people live under oppression, saying “they will come for you because your heart glows in the dark, because you are familiar but not the same.” The video tells a story of a young boy whose father figure urges him to run from an antagonist that resembles a confederate soldier.
Banks was the first unsigned artist to appear on BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge in 2014, and also won the Adidas “Are You In” music competition in 2012.
“Use Me” — Future
The Atlanta-native rapper, Future, released HNDRXX in February, and the music video for “Use Me” followed a month later. The music video’s cinematography captures viewers with a storyline and simple shots similar to the Oscar winner for best picture, Moonlight. It avoids the dizzying jump cuts of artists singing into cameras, and showing off all their belongings. In fact Future stars in the music video, mentoring a young boy whose mother owes someone a large sum of money—with a moving ending, no less.
“Green Light” — Lorde
Lorde made a comeback with the release of “Green Light,” a power anthem about picking yourself back up after dealing with betrayal from someone you once cared for, and rightly moving on to better things. The 20-year-old singer doesn’t hold back in the music video, dancing out her anger in clubs and down city streets until the early morning. The video is compelling from the raw beginning of Lorde passionately singing into the camera lens, to the fast cuts of dancing toward the end.
If you’ve ever had to deal with someone who left you for another love, this music video will inspire you do go out and show the world that you are worth it all.
“Love Drought” — Beyoncé
Beyoncé released “Love Drought” from her 2016 visual album Lemonade after her stunning Grammys performance. Like almost all of her works, the clip is a masterful art piece in itself, with a delicate, ethereal aesthetic and powerful message.
The music video features a haunting voiceover from Bey, frames of the artist gracefully wading ankle-deep in formation with her Beyhive in angelic white gowns, and the famous tilted wooden chair debuted in her performance.
“I Wanna Prove to You” — the Lemon Twigs
The pop-rock band fronted by two brothers, Brian and Michael D’Addario, offers the canddi “I Wanna Prove To You” that tells the story of their director’s grandparent’s 50 years of marriage in quaint Utah. The two brothers stay at the married couple’s house to see what life is actually like in an everlasting, monogamous marriage.
The video is shot with vintage pomp, incorporating home video shots and jump cuts of the two learning how to bake cookies and tie a tie. The music video had me chuckling a few times, especially with the twist of betrayal during the outro. The video ends with the director rhetorically asking: “Isn’t life one big lesson in letting go?” Maybe!
“Venus Fly” — Grimes ft. Janelle Monáe
From “Genisis” to “Flesh Without Blood,” Grimes‘ vision and directing style is unique and captivating. Presented orginally by Tidal and featuring Janelle Monáe, Venus Fly’s costume design is otherworldly with a black angel, bejeweled leather suits, and flaming ninja swords. The video is heavily edited, detaching time and space in the frames, focusing on Grimes and Monáe flaunting their martial arts moves, and ending with Grimes bathing in a tub of blood.
The credits are a mesmerizing extension of the music video with reflected, fast-forwarded frames.
“POWA” — MIA
“POWA” is a self-directed music video by the artist herself, and is a rejection of idolized pop stars. The visual stunner is filmed in a desolate setting of barren land and cliffs above a river, while M.I.A. stands out draped in luxurious fabrics looking like the goddess she is.
The music video begins with M.I.A. lying in the bed of a truck filled with assorted flowers in pastel chiffon, and jumps to a group of choreographed dancers delivering an amazing stunt that makes you wish you had a crew large enough to pull off a wave like that.
“Love” — Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey hasn’t been particularly on target since 2012, but her music video for comeback single “Love” is dreamy, and makes you catch the butterflies from young love.
The video is a mixture of close-up shots of Del Rey’s set, and the cosmic voyage two couples take. The road trip ends on another planet, colliding reality and dreams. It’s surreal as hell.
“Reminder” — the Weeknd
The music video for “Reminder” was dropped on the Weeknd‘s (Abel Tesfaye) 27th birthday. It’s star-studded with big cameos from YG, French Montana, Drake, and A$AP Rocky. Shot in Los Angeles, the clip is a traditional, flexing power play, where the rap stars flaunt fancy cars, modern homes, and vixen groupies.
But the music video was skillfully shot in low lighting with red and blue fluorescent lights, an emerging aesthetic for headlining rappers. (Think “Work” by Rihanna, and “Hotline Bling” by Drake.) The visuals are distinct and captivating, and you’ll want to run it back.
“Swang” — Rae Sremmurd
Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy of Rae Sremmurd tear up the golf course in “Swang,” poking fun at a sport favored by college frat boys and stuffy executives. The two hit the putting green with a preppy crew, and the video features frames shot with a home video, while the brothers show they’re living the good life.
“Кольщик” — Ленинград
Directed by Ilya Naishuller, the wild video for Russia’s Leningrad is a bloody and absurd series of unfortunate events that unfurl backward. (There’s a forward version, too, if you want to try and piece together the caper.) Think OK Go, but with vicious circus animals and decapitated villains. You won’t be able to look away.
“HEAVEN” — Troye Sivan ft. Betty Who
YouTube star turned global pop phenomenon and activist Troye Sivan is on a roll. “Heaven” is both emotional and motivational. The beautiful, black-and-white clip directed by Luke Gilford is a representation of solidarity for the LGBTQ community, featuring people all over the world standing up for gay rights and equality.
“Better Than Me” — Blood Orange
Directed by Blood Orange’s Devonte Hynes, the music video captures the intense beauty and vivid message behind the track from Freetown Sound. The clip stars Hynes, Carly Rae Jepsen, and a suited-up dance team acting out an interpretive skit.
The video features notes from a serenading saxophone and starts out with a moving letter: “I did not grow up to be you but I did grow up to be me and be in love with who this woman is. To be a woman playing a man’s game and not be apologetic about any of it.”
“Pops”— Angel Olsen
Co-directed by Angel Olsen herself, the clip captures the moody vibes of her traditional ballad. (From intensely beautiful breakout record, My Woman.) The clip is dark with an absence of color, reflecting the message behind the track’s lyrics. The video is a visual representation of what depression can look and feel like to those coping with grief, as Olsen is surrounded by solitude.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Kristen Hubby is a tech and lifestyle reporter. Her writing focuses on sex, pop culture, streaming entertainment, and social media, with an emphasis on major platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Spotify. Her work has also appeared in Austin Monthly and the Austin American-Statesman, where she covered local news and the dining scene in Austin, Texas.