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The Best Music Videos of the Decade

From elaborately crafted high concepts to striking portraits of a nation's legacy, these videos made their mark on an already rich art form.

Best Music Videos of the Decade

5. Robyn — “Call Your Girlfriend” (dir. Max Vitali)

The one-take dance video is well-worn territory, but of all the potential nominees in this category, none rise to the heights of Robyn’s bravura performance in her video for “Call Your Girlfriend.” Well, maybe one, but it’s too close to call. —LG

4. DJ Shadow (feat. Run the Jewels) — “Nobody Speak” (dir. Sam Pilling)

Yes, it’s a surprise to see El-P and Killer Mike’s verses sprung from the mouths of aged white diplomats. A lesser video would be content to treat this as a great visual joke and nothing more, but Sam Pilling doesn’t rest on that contrast. Instead, this four minute opus imagines an international summit where complacency and civility are gone and pent-up rage is all that’s left in its place. With assembly participants hurling themselves at each other (and with El and Mike also present as eyebrow-raised observers), the video culminates with a pointed image of a crusading fighter using the American flag as a weapon. It ends with a guttural shout before real bloodshed begins, but like so much of what fuels these real-world parallels, there’s a feeling that it’s already too late. —SG

3. “Girl Walk // All Day” (dir. Jacob Krupnik)

Admittedly, this is the closest thing to a cheat on our list. The entry that’s most removed from the actual creation of the music itself, it’s hard to watch Jacob Krupnik and Anne Marsen’s feature-length dance opus and not imagine that it was made in tandem with Gregg Gillis’ mashups right from the start. There’s an elegance and vitality to Marsen’s dancing that doesn’t let up, even as the beats she’s dancing to shift in the background. Telling the story of a free-spirited ballet dancer joyously making her mark across New York City, there’s a spontaneity in the slightly guerilla-style approach to getting these sequences at the city’s various landmarks. Inspired by the album, but not explicitly tied to it, this is multimedia ecstasy at its finest. —SG

2. Beyoncé — “Formation” (dir. Melina Matsoukas)

Released the day before she was scheduled to perform with Coldplay during the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show, Beyonce’s “Formation” seized the zeitgeist, reminding everyone who the reigning Queen of the music industry was. Helmed by Melina Matsoukas, whose feature film debut “Queen & Slim” opened last week, “Formation” showcased Beyonce expounding upon not only what it meant to be black in America, but to be a black woman in America—to say nothing of its tackling of cultural appropriation, police brutality, and still lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina. —LG

1. Childish Gambino — “This Is America” (dir. Hiro Murai)

You’d be hard-pressed to name a collaborative relationship as fruitful as the one Donald Glover and Hiro Murai have cultivated over the course of the past decade (beginning with a set of videos that all would’ve made this list if it weren’t for our one per artist/director rule) before expertly moving to the small screen with Atlanta. But “This Is America” is the culmination of all the work, a nuanced reflection on the commodification of race in this country, where no choice is accidental and every frame tells a story. This may be recency bias, but it’s doubtful there’s ever been a video that demanded and deserved as much attention as “This Is America.” —LG

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