With the entire live concert business and most other promotional venues closed for business until further notice, music videos have been more precious than ever in allowing for engagement with our favorite artists this year.
Sometimes these videos reminded us that their creators were in this quarantine thing with us, other times they allowed us to escape with them to an entire world away — but their comfort was appreciated regardless. Here are our 20 favorites from 2020 so far, presented alphabetically.
Bad Bunny, “Yo Perreo Sola” (dir. Bad Bunny & Stillz)
Bad Bunny’s gender-bending exploits and overall messaging reach new heights in this video (whose title translates to “She Twerks Alone.”) That glamazon dressed in red leather from head to toe? The club girl with a tight dress and flowing black hair? The sleek, dressed-in-all-black blonde? All Bad Bunny, who dubbed this “the most badass music video.” Co-helmed by the Puerto Rican superstar with his 21-year old visual director Stillz, “Sola” is visual candy, bursting with color and imagery that contrast with the simple directness of the song. That a tough-talking reggaetonero would even contemplate dressing in drag is noteworthy in itself, but Bad Bunny transcended the concept with a convincing clip that also includes women of all ages, colors and sizes. It drives home the point he spells out in writing at the end of the video: “If she doesn’t want to dance with you, respect. She twerks alone.” – LEILA COBO
Breland, “My Truck” (dir. Alex Bittan)
“My Truck” cleverly begins with a fakeout, centering a bearded white guy with a jeans and a cowboy hat as its likely protagonist, before Breland — black, bespectacled and giddy as hell — kicks him out of the way so he can get busy Skrrrrrrt-ing on the chorus. From there, it’s just pickups doing donuts, flatbed surfing on the highway, and flames shooting out of the exhaust pipe, as true and joyful a celebration you’ll find in country of the titular thematic staple, from a voice that’s both brand new and totally familiar. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Christine and the Queens, “La Vita Nuova” (dir. Colin Solal Cardo)
Christine and the Queens’ short film “La Vita Nuova” (“a prospect for a new life”) arrived as a surprise in February, along with a stunning EP of the same name. The 14-minute visual is pure performance art, as Chris and her talented dancers writhe inside (and atop) the world famous Opéra Garnier in Paris. Collaborator Caroline Polachek also makes an appearance, though we won’t spoil that heated moment. “La Vita Nuova” is stirring, feverish, decadent — just like its creator, the inimitable Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier. — GAB GINSBERG
DaBaby feat. YoungBoy Never Broke Again, “Jump” (dir. Reel Goats)
One way to film a video in quarantine: Have cleaners in full lab suits constantly sanitizing all around you and your co-star commit acts of various degrees of hazardousness (and, when in doubt, disinfect with weed smoke.) Not the most socially responsible of social distancing regimens, perhaps, but undeniably amusing, and hell if DaBaby doesn’t look sharp with his matching yellow pants, hand towel and box of wipes. — A.U.
Drake, “Toosie Slide” (dir. Theo Skudra)
Honestly, this is probably how Drake should film all his videos: just a loosely guided tour around his palatial Toronto abode, various forms of past revelry implied as a distant memory, half-hearted dance moves optional. By the time you get to the rooftop for the closing fireworks, you realize this is kind of the party for one that The Boy’s entire musically and emotionally distanced career has pretty much been leading up to. — A.U.
Dua Lipa, “Break My Heart” (dir. Henry Scholfield)
Dua Lipa looks bored by the shapeshifting world around her at the start of the “Break My Heart” clip — and then her girls show up, she steps to the center of a raised platform and shimmies to the song’s INXS-interpolating hook. The visual to “Break My Heart” finds Lipa feeding off the energy of the surreal world around her and leaning into some rom-com acting, like in the sequence of literal revolving beds featuring a variety of scuzzy dudes. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
Future feat. Drake, “Life Is Good” (dir. Director X)
Working on the weekend (like usual) seems to suit Drake and Future just fine in the “Life Is Good” video, in which two of rap’s most typically morose purveyors of club anthems seem to have the time of their lives peddling Apple products, serving up fast food and loading up garbage trucks. Watching Drake shimmy his way around the deep-fryer while Future macks on girls in the auto shop waiting room, you wonder if the grass really is always greener on the other side — even when your side boasts a decade of uninterrupted success and prosperity. — A.U.
Harry Styles, “Watermelon Sugar” (dir. Bradley & Pablo)
In his recent Tiny Desk concert, Harry Styles explained that “Watermelon Sugar” is about “that initial euphoria of when you start seeing someone.” On May 18, Styles dropped the music video that captured just that. Filmed on a beach, the video is reminiscent of a summer picnic — one attended by models in crochet bikinis, and Harry outfitted in Gucci jeans and a crop top. Using watermelons as delicious props, the music video is an ode to touching and tasting the sweet freedom of being within six feet of others. — MIA NAZARENO
Isaac Dunbar, “Makeup Drawer” (dir. Jasper Soloff)
When 17-year-old pop artist Isaac Dunbar is ready to make a statement, he knows exactly how to do it. With the video for his hyper-pop single “Makeup Drawer,” Dunbar shows off just about every look he has — in one frame, he’s runway-ready in a sleek outfit, while in the next, he is a human disco ball literally dripping head to toe in shimmering glitter. As he continues to step up each of his exuberant looks, Dunbar accomplishes the more important task of setting himself free as he embraces his sexuality whole-heartedly. — STEPHEN DAW
Jonas Brothers, “What a Man Gotta Do” (dir. Joseph Kahn)
The Jonas Brothers’ swoon-worthy pop jams already set them up as heartthrobs straight out of a decades-old romcom, and they really channeled that image for the lively “What a Man Gotta Do” video. With Nick partaking in some Risky Business with Priyanka Chopra, Kevin holding a boombox outside his wife Danielle’s window to hear her Say Anything, and of course, Joe and Sophie Turner rocking the iconic Grease dance sequence, the happily married JoBros have proved just how much a man gotta do to be “totally locked up by you.” — RANIA ANIFTOS
Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande, “Rain on Me” (dir. Robert Rodriguez)
As “Rain on Me” begins, we quickly see Gaga go from impaled on the ground to crawling while declaring, “I’m ready, rain on me,” to damply delivering defiant choreography — and when I say quickly, I mean that all happens within the first 30 seconds. And before a full minute is even up, we’re in an alternate universe in which Ariana Grande (wearing metal butterfly wings, no less) is our fearless leader. To see two pop powerhouses — both of whom have publicly endured unimaginable trauma — chanting “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive” offers a momentary escape to a realm that feels so tangible that by the time the clip is over, you’re shocked by having to return to reality. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
Major Lazer feat. Marcus Mumford, “Lay Your Head on Me” (dir. Filip Nilsson)
In a moment when hope is in short supply, three minutes of legitimate comfort are available through a perhaps unlikely source: Major Lazer. The Diplo-led electronic trio’s collaboration with Marcus Mumford, “Lay Your Head On Me,” is as aurally soothing as the name suggests. The real special sauce, however, is in the video, which features 208 artists from 28 countries dancing and playing instruments along with the tropical folk track. (Choreography was done by Ryan Heffington, known for his work with Sia, Christine and the Queens and more.) Necessitated by quarantine, the racially, culturally and generationally diverse video is sweet and effective proof that for as literally and figuratively divided as we are right now, music still maintains its ability to unite. — KATIE BAIN
Missy Elliott, “Cool Off” (dir. Daniel Russell)
Missy Elliott has always made art worthy of recognition in museums, but in the music video for “Cool Off,” she is literally art in a museum. Whether posing as a bronze statue or as a Weeble doll bobbing back-and-forth, the hip-hop veteran packs neon colors and comic book-like catchphrases to the impressive visual from the track on her August 2019 EP, Iconology. Make sure to stick around for the Teyana Taylor cameo at the end of the video, too. — JOSH GLICKSMAN
Orville Peck, “No Glory in the West” (dir. Isaiah Seret)
A sublimely camp entry in the great wintery western canon (think Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence, or more recently Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight), “No Glory in the West” finds queer country troubadour Orville Peck on a pony journeying through the snow-capped mountains, dancing around a bonfire while bringing the solitary splendor and sadness of the cowboy life to a YouTube near you (pro tip: watch this one in fullscreen). — JOE LYNCH
Perfume Genius, “Describe” (dir. Mike Hadreas)
Over the crunchy, careening vertigo of Set My Heart on Fire Immediately standout “Describe,” Perfume Genius coyly reclaims a variety of masculine signifiers with balletic camp intensity. From knife fighting to cigar chomping to muscle flexing, there’s a coded queer subtext that quietly rises to the top with a gently orgiastic denouement, as the Robert Quine-esque guitars are replaced by meek synths and soft murmurs. — J. Lynch
The Pussycat Dolls, “React” (dir. Bradley & Pablo)
While the Pussycat Dolls’ “React” is more potent than most years-in-the-making comeback pop singles, the quintet is very aware that PCD fans are hungry for a little mid-’00s nostalgia. Hence the throwback vibe of the music video, in which Nicole Scherzinger and co. dance, wink and smolder as if they never really left their “Don’t Cha” days. — J. Lipshutz
Residente, “Antes Que el Mundo Se Acabe” (dir. René Pérez Joglar)
Even if it hadn’t been conceived and produced during the global COVID-19 lockdown, “Antes Que El Mundo Se Acabe” (Before the World Ends) would have been a show-stopper. Residente asked 100 couples of all nationalities, genders and ethnicities — including a few celebrity friends like Ricky Martin and Lionel Messi — to film themselves kissing, as a way to drill home the words: “No one knows when we’ll go out again. For now, best to kiss before the world comes to an end.” The 100 kisses, kicked off by Residente’s own with his girlfriend, are genuine and beautiful and real, and a reminder that among all the madness there really still is pure love in every corner of the world. — L.C.
SiR, “John Redcorn” (dir. Daniel Russell & Domonic Polcino)
If you’re going to name your lovelorn ballad after King of the Hill’s adulterous lover, you better be ready to go the whole nine yards with the music video. Luckily. directors Daniel Russell and Dominic Polcino were prepared to commit with their “John Redcorn” clip, which not only features SiR as one-third of an animated extramarital love triangle, but also includes a recreated King credit sequence with TDE All-Stars in place of the four main characters (and Kendrick Lamar as Hank Hill, natch). The video ends on a pretty dramatic and ambiguous note, so here’s hoping there are future episodes to tune into here. — A.U.
Tame Impala, “Is It True (Live on Colbert)”
It’s not technically a music video, but a pre-assembled “live” taping for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Nonetheless, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala’s performance of “Is It True” is as visually striking as any of the outfit’s proper clips, with a split-screened Parker accompanying his vocals on both guitar and bass in three separate, color-coded columns. The ending result is somehow exponentially more captivating than your average remote livestream performance. — A.U.
The Weeknd, “Heartless” / “Blinding Lights” / “In Your Eyes” (dir. Anton Tammi)
The Weeknd wasn’t in the critically-acclaimed 2019 film Uncut Gems for more than a few minutes, but it sure seems like he learned a lot from the film’s directors, Josh and Benny Safdie. Much like the brothers’ cinematography, his After Hours video accompaniments are swiftly paced and rife with tension — two elements that work particularly well for clips spanning just a few minutes each. Donning a red suit, black tie, sunglasses and mustache — which made its splashy debut on the red carpet last September — The Weeknd quickly goes from drug-infused gambler to cold-blooded killer during an apparent bender in Las Vegas. Throughout the journey, jump cuts, sinister smiles and bloody noses run aplenty, and even if the plotline isn’t seamless, it’s still one hell of a ride. — J.G.