Well, this turned out to be pretty easy. The single best video of the year dropped into our collective lap last night, and we’re still reeling from it. There are four other music videos in this post, but nobody will blame you if you just opt to watch “Countdown” a bunch of times in a row. I seriously considered including the video five times and calling it a day.
1. Beyoncé – “Countdown” (Dir. Adria Petty)
On Twitter last night, my friend Zach Baron had this to say: “I’m not sure if Tom Petty ever did anything as good as the “Countdown” video his daughter just directed.” This is obviously ridiculous; Tom Petty is the man. And yet, maybe he’s right? For months now, all my music-critic friends have been clamoring for Beyoncé to release “Countdown,” one of her best and brightest songs ever, as a single, and we kept worrying it wouldn’t happen as Bey kept all the attention on her relatively bland ballads. And now here comes this insane thing, a riot of color and dancing and the best face-acting you’ll see outside of, like, There Will Be Blood. Beyoncé didn’t really need to do this, but she fucked around and made a hybrid Busby Berkeley/Jaques Tati movie with butts in it. And if you’ve ever lived with a pregnant woman, or been a pregnant woman, you’ll understand that the moves Bey pulls off in this video are impossible superhuman shit. The whole thing is amazing and beautiful and fun and, in a sidways way, emotionally fulfilling. It’s a tribute to the human spirit, and it’ll be some kind of rare feat of professionalism if I manage to keep myself from just watching it over and over all day.
In other words: Hey, Feist’s “1234″ video? We appreciate all you’ve done for us, but your services are no longer required here. You can see yourself out.
2. Trash Talk – “Burn Alive” (Dir. High 5 Collective)
Up until last night, I thought sure Trash Talk would top this list again, just like they did a few weeks ago. And even if it’s no “Countdown,” Trash Talk’s punks-vs.-riot cops video is frantic, gripping, intense filmmaking, and watching it makes me feel like being dragged across gravel. The tattered Raymond Pettibon video in the clip makes me wonder what upsetting stuff a band like Black Flag would’ve made if they’d had the internet-era resources that Trash Talk enjoys, and I’m not sure they could’ve topped this. Great song, too.
3. Fucked Up – “Do You Feed” (Dir. Lance Ludwig)
At the exact opposite end of the punk-video spectrum, we’ve got this fun, adorable no-stakes video in which two members of Fucked Up go on a date to eat some curry and do an admirable job convincing the camera that they actually really like each other. That one little-kid reaction shot is great, and if the band’s name wasn’t a problem, I’d strongly recommend that some TV studio put together a Monkees-style sitcom starring Fucked Up.
4. Ty Segall – “Goodbye Bread” (Dir. Matt Yoka) (NSFW-ish)
If you’ve ever seen his live shows or listened to his older records, you know that Ty Segall can do frantic just fine. So it’s fun to watch him go the opposite direction, singing this prettily Neil Young-ish shaggy midtempo jam while looking bored and placid, staring off into the middle distance while insanity rages around him.
5. Drake – “Headlines” (Dir. Lamar Taylor & Hyghly Alleyne)
Drake’s ’70s Vegas mobster look suits him well, but the best thing about the “Headlines” video is that it tries to ape rap-video cliches without quite pulling them off. So we see him posing in front of graffiti or holding court at a conference table or standing in front of a sea of goons, but the snare-driven quick-cutting and Toronto architecture and Drake’s own general goofiness throw it all off in some pretty interesting ways. Awkwardness aside, the videos editing is pretty remarkable, and that one shot of the Rogers Centre roof opening is just epic.