Here are 10 videos that I enjoyed in 2012. 5 of them are by female artists: while two of them are from 2011, I included them in this list as “rediscoveries,” because they were part of this year for me. The other 5 videos are by male artists or mixed groups. Many of them have already been discussed on GLG, so I’ve included links where relevant.
*disclaimer – many of these hip-hop videos feature explicit lyrics. Don’t say you weren’t warned.*
Videos Featuring Female Artists That Rocked My World in 2012
I scoured the Internet for top video lists to see how mine stacked up, and there wasn’t a list I could find that did NOT include M.I.A.’s controversial and infinitely watchable “Bad Girls.” A perfect balance of epic and fun, this video underscores the song’s claims to swagger with depictions of hagwalah, the Middle East’s take on drifting. The car stunts are bad ass and M.I.A. is ferociously sexy. If you don’t wish you were part of the dusty, dancing crowd by the end, you need to take some kind of fun supplement.
The bubblegum but bad-ass world that Nicki made famous in “SuperBass” reappears here as an escapist candyland for broken-hearted lady MCs. But don’t be fooled by the sparkly eyeshadow, cotton candy, and pink hair salons. If you use your “bust-up swag” to cross these ferocious women, you face possible retribution via flame-throwers, razors, and quick-swerving cars. The video is a perfect fit for this tongue-in-cheek empowerment anthem, which pushes women to succeed together while the boys waste their money on trying to win “love.”
Iggy Azalea, featuring T.I. – “Murda Bizness” [studio version]
While Iggy released an official video for this song, I still prefer the version that features her, T.I., and Chip playing around in the studio. There’s a light-heartedness to this video’s swagger as the three rappers hold stacks of money up to the camera, lean over each others’ shoulders to swap lines, and throw finger guns with glee. As Sarah T. has said before, “I kill pride/ I hurt feelings” is a fantastic line, and it encapsulates perfectly the video’s ability to sport attitude without taking itself too seriously.
Kimbra – “Good Intent” (2011)
There’s a sinister glamor to this video, which stalks like the relentless accusation roiling through the lyrics and yet flirts like the song’s bouncy backbeats. Duplicity, desire, and blame – these are the competing tensions manifest in the three differently colored versions of Kimbra that cajole and dance with three identical, suited men. I like to think of this as Kimbra’s more complete answer to the apologetic ignorance she so aptly refutes in her feature on Gotye’s megahit, “Somebody that I Used to Know”: while he pleads there to be remembered and acknowledged, here, she sneers at lovers’ inability to follow through on their best of intentions, crooning that “It’s not enough to say it’s not what’s in your heart – you’ve tainted every moment ’til death do us part.”
Azealia Banks – “212” (2011)
Speaking of laying the smack down on hip-looking guys, in this video, Azealia Banks raps ferociously in profile, directing her vitriol at a blandly smiling white dude. Much of the video is a close-up of her face, directing our attention to the mouth that spits such fast and ferocious rhymes. And don’t be fooled by the benign smile and the cartoon sweatshirt: this song is no-holds barred trashtalk to match the wacky eyes she keeps pulling.
Other Top Videos from 2012 (by Male Artists or Mixed Groups)
David Guetta, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne – “I Can Only Imagine”
I like videos that take me to another world and make me ask questions. For instance, in this video, who the heck is that purple-headed guy with the red laser eyes and why does he sprout some kind of jet propulsion rockets halfway through the song? Why does Weezy suddenly have a skateboard at a skatepark? And why do Chris Brown’s eyes keep going weird, as well as his teeth? I enjoy my confusion about all these questions. I also like the continuation of the David-Guetta-as-mad-musical-scientist-creator theme that we first saw with “Turn Me On.”
Gotye with Kimbra – “Somebody that I Used to Know”
I find this video evocative and hypnotic. There’s something immensely apt about the simple geometric design that extends from the walls to Gotye’s and Kimbra’s bodies – and it helps explain something about mismatched, failed relationships when we see him slowly drawn into the pattern despite his resistance and when we see her slowly emerging despite her initial facelessness. When she rolls her shoulder muscles and glides over to sing at him, forcing him to flinch away and turn his eyes to the ground, I want to say – “Yes! Yes! That is what failed relationships feel like.” Bravo to the musicians for their wonderfully emotive faces.
Sarah T.’s post on this video (linked above) explains a lot why it is a big deal and also rocks. My random contributions: 1) Once again, I have questions about Lil Wayne, like, “Panda hat?” 2) I cannot understand why I truly love DJ Khaled’s nod at 0:45 but I sure do. 3) I want the owl sweater Drake sports.
Kanye – “Mercy”
I’m a sucker for any video where hip-hop artists are clearly having fun (“Otis” and “BedRock” being two prime examples) – even if the fun is within some weird boys’ club. But Kanye doing a mocking version of his famous “heh” at 1:00? Grinning foolishly as he runs between pillars? Wearing that strange hood for every moment except his awesome verse, which is tense and metered and addictive? Something is working for me here, even while I feel like I should sense some race or gender troubles in this murky, ambient world.
This ambiguous and yet deliberately epic video is a perfect match for the tone of the 2011 Watch the Throne album – with its slo-mo Molotov cocktails and backlit classical sculptures, it’s grandiose to the point of pretentious and political without having a clear agenda. Yet, while I see the moves that the video is making, I feel the tug of its emotional pull. There are a couple ways to read this video: as a typical “f#*% the police” throwdown with a slice of Occupy-style street battle to bring it up to date, or as a wildly uneven take on urban warfare that both glorifies and demonizes police and protestors alike. Both groups appear perched atop marble and lit by flares. Both groups appear to perpetrate and suffer from acts of awful violence. While I don’t know what to make of it, the video made me think – and made me come back for multiple viewings.