There have been some impressive music videos released in the past twelve months, especially considering the limitations of quarantine. But most of these masterpieces weren’t even nominated for the MTV Video Music Awards. Here our favorite, most iconic music videos released this award cycle that should have won the VMAs:

 


 

10. Princess Nokia – Gross

Simultaneously terrifying and fascinating, the music video for “Gross” certainly lives up to its name. Featuring Princess Nokia performing a series of dangerous circus acts like sword swallowing and spinning on a knife-throwing wheel, this music video is an all-around suspenseful experience. 

 

 

 

 

9. Kali Uchis, Rico Nasty – Aquí Yo Mando

If you’re a sucker for ‘90s grunge fashion, then you’ll love this music video. Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty sport spiky hair, dark eyeliner, super-thin eyebrows and other staple looks. Bonus points for the action-packed storyline of these two women fighting against corrupt FBI agents.

 

 

 

 

8. BLACKPINK – How You Like That

K-pop groups are known for their grandeur, high-budget music videos, but BLACKPINK takes things to another level with “How You Like That” music video to another level. With scenes alternating between the gothic underworld and fairy gardens to bohemian palaces and chilly mountain tops, this girl shows off their luxurious outfits and killer dance moves no matter the location.  A testament to the music video’s success, it set a YouTube record for the most views in the first 24 hours of its release.

 

 

 

 

7. REI AMI – Dictator

The success of the “Dictator” music video relies on its ability to capture the polar opposites of REI AMI, the saddest bad bitch in the game. Much of this is because of the video’s phenomenal lighting direction that reflects not just the psychology of the characters but the mood of each scene. In the vengeful opening, neon red flickers across the screen as REI AMI drags an unconscious body through a burnt-down house, all the way to a torture chamber. But then, this terrifying moment is suddenly cut short by a somber, foggy blue-lit scene of her laying in a murky bathtub, her demeanor so defeated that you question if she is even the same person.

 

 

 

 

6. Phoebe Bridgers – I Know The End

Eerily solemn, just like the song that accompanies it, the “I Know The End” music video follows Phoebe Bridgers through her closet of sopping wet clothes toward an unknown final destination. The dull coloring of this video feels apocalyptic and barren, but the visuals are never boring. Complete with cool glitches that match the sonic production of the song, as well as unexpected visits from past and future selves, this magnificent music video will leave you hooked.

 

 

 

 

5. Arca – “Nonbinary” 

Arca’s “Nonbinary” music video feels like the climax of a dystopian science fiction movie. But instead of rooting for the humans, you’re rooting for the robots — and that robot is Arca. Directed by Frederik Heyman, this video captures Arca’s glorious transformation from human to cyborg, visualizing what Arca spoke about in an interview PAPER Magazine about the meaning behind the song: “I’m asking for recognition that we have multiple selves without denying that there’s a singular unit. I want to be seen as an ecosystem of minor self-states without being stripped of the dignity of being a whole.”

 

 

 

 

4. Orville Peck – No Glory in the West  

Mysterious, just like the Toronto-based country musician Orville Peck’s masked persona, the “No Glory in the West” music video captures the lonesome winter landscapes of the Northern continent. Like something out of Game of Thrones, the video plot consists of Orville trotting through a cold, desolate mountain — presumably on a trek to find something or someone — only to arrive back to his cold and empty home, engulfed in a new kind of solitude.

 

 

 

 

3. Joji – Run

The coolest thing about Joji’s music videos is that they may be all connected, with “Run” being one of the most interesting storylines in the Joji universe. A fantastic world-builder, Joji’s “Run music video” is multilayered and open to interpretation, touching on fame, unrequited love, self-acceptance and more. Watch Joji stumble his way through the seemingly never-ending aisle of the limousine, until he finally reaches the light at the end of the tunnel, breaking through a Matrix-like computer screen into another reality.

 

 

 

 

2. Rina Sawayama – XS 

Rina Sawayama’s music video builds upon the fabulously anti-capitalist lyrics of her hit single “XS.” Rina adopting the persona of a special guest (who’s also a robot!) on a TV shopping channel. Her product? A glittery beverage that’s 99% 24k gold, and 1% plasma — but no one blinks an eye, not when the source of the drink is revealed nor when Rina’s backup dancers pour the toxic liquid on her, causing her to glitch out and get thrown away. A poignant critique of consumerism, you don’t want to miss out on this amazing music video.

 

 

 

 

1. Tyler The Creator – a boy is a gun

Everything about Tyler The Creator’s “a boy is a gun” feels cinematic — so much so that you find yourself replaying it, wishing it was a short film. From its stellar cinematography to its surrealist costume design, the intricacy of each creative decision makes for a visually-stunning masterpiece. Follow Tyler’s alter-ego “IGOR” as he roams through a luxurious mansion yearning for a lover who inevitably drives away in his vintage car.