There was a cohesiveness lacking in the radio hits of summer 2014. Anything involving Iggy Azalea failed to win me over, and Sam Smith succeeded every once in a while… but more-or-less nothing stuck. Unlike 2013, there was no ingenious “We Can’t Stop” or anything as universally singalong-able as “Get Lucky”.
MOTHER: Röyksopp & Robyn, “Monument”
The music video for the Scandinavian masters’ 10 minute sonic odyssey is about “exploring the space around you and finding your own space in it all,” according to director Max Vitali. Röyksopp and Robyn lay down, sit up, and traverse cosmic landscapes upon an illuminated lunar surface as the latter, a modern queen of pop, sings an ultimatum: “This will be my monument / This will be my beacon when I’m gone / So that when the moment comes / I can say I did it all with love.” Existential, otherworldly, and Douglas Trumbull-trippy like the lights you see when you push against your closed eyelids, this video exists in a place as far out there as it gets.
DAUGHTER: Ariana Grande ft. Zedd, “Break Free”
Continuing along in outer space territory, Grande’s vid opens with Star Wars style text warning the viewer that the clip to proceed is “one step ahead of present day reality and two steps ahead of present day sexiness” as it rolls off into the cosmos. Enter martian-suit-clad 21 year old Ariana, pointy pink nails clutching a ray gun. These are her hands of liberty, much like the hands which I assure you will be thrown up on the dancefloors of gay clubs for months to follow as she belts out the infectious chorus: “This is the part when I say I don’t want you / I’m stronger than I’ve been before.” Grande and Zedd’s video, as an endearingly tongue-in-cheek sci-fi throwback, even competes with the mass single/video combos released days afterward: T-Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Ms. Minaj’s “Anaconda”. Something about those singles is Goldilocks too cold and too hot, but “Break Free” feels juuust right.
HOLY SPIRIT: Grimes ft. Blood Diamonds, “Go”
From her place still perched upon the throne of independent music (2012’s night anthem “Oblivion” was just crowned Pitchfork’s ‘Song of the Decade’), Candadian auteur Claire Boucher returns with electronic musician friend Blood Diamonds for the first semblance of new material suggesting a future album. The pair originally wrote “Go” for Rihanna, but once it was rejected they decided to make it their own, fulfilling it with a wonderfully abstract Grimes-style music video. On her tumblr, Boucher explains the video is supposed to be an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, with visual nods to the likes of X-Men, the Metal Gear video games, Dune, and Korn’s “Freak on a Leash”. All this of course interwoven with some sword-handling in the desert and by the sea.