Memorable rock (and other) videos from 2016

Music videos are still as powerful a medium as ever, as was seen many times throughout 2016. The year brought a bit of everything when it came to music videos — there was hilarity, creativity, absurdity, extreme weirdness, awkwardness, and awesomeness. There were powerful political and social statements and sad goodbyes.

After perusing some of the year-end best-of lists (and adding in a few of my own), here’s a collection of some of the year’s more memorable rock videos, as well as a few from outside the world of rock that won’t soon be forgotten.

David Bowie’s final farewell – David Bowie’s final album and videos reminded us what we’ve been aware of for decades — the man was simply on a different and one step ahead of everyone else artistically. Rich Karfilis wrote back in January about Bowie’s video for “Lazarus,” a video and song that as he put it saw Bowie turn his own death into a work of art. There was really no more fitting of a farewell.

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PUP – “DVP” and “Sleep in the Heat” – It was a big year for PUP, who hit the mark both with their album The Dream Is Over and their videos. “Sleep in the Heat,” a tale that features young actor Finn Wolfhard of the popular show Stranger Things, drew the most critical acclaim, but my personal favorite by a mile is the brilliant old-school video game tribute int he video for “DVP.” You kind of had to grow up in that era and play the games in the video, but if you did, it’s special.

High on Fire – The Black Plot (NSFW) – I’m not exactly sure completely what’s going on here, but as Stereogum put it, this might be “the most metal shit that human eyes had ever seen” — a crazy, whacked-out animated trip with a warrior slicing demons to bits and some weird old naked witch lady thing.

Slayer – You Against You (NSFW) – Speaking of metal and slicing people to bits, Slayer does it here too, only with real people. Be warned this one’s a wee bit gory — people getting stabbed in the crotch, shot through the throat, that type of stuff. It’s over the top, but in the end it succeeds in telling its tale and stops short in my opinion of crossing over into mindless gratuitousness (the gore is kinda phony-looking to me anyway).

Radiohead – Daydreaming – Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) this video does kind of play like an aimless, wandering dream. It’s well done, which is far from surprising given the talent at hand.

Mudcrutch – I Forgive It All – Another video with heavy hitters behind it — Anthony Hopkins stars, Sean Penn and Samuel Bayer direct — this tells the tale of an old man taking an emotional trip through what seems to be the streets of his youth. Anthony Hopkins gives a strong performance.

Mount Moriah – PrecitaProps to Stereogum for including this in their year-end list, otherwise I would have totally forgotten about it. I wrote a bit about Mount Moriah earlier in the year as I enjoyed their 2016 release How to Dance. This video, which tells the slow-motion tale of a robbery, doesn’t even have 10,000 views — it certainly deserves more.

Good, or bad?

Are these videos cool or not? I kind of can’t decide, but this is why I use the word “memorable” as it can include things that are memorable for good or bad reasons.

White Lung’s video for “Dead Weight” comes with a warning that says it might cause seizures. That’s a bit of an understatement as the video is so hyperactive it feels like it was almost trying to make them happen. So don’t watch if that’s a concern. I feel this video is more memorable in a bad way.

I really dig “Doing it to Death” by The Kills — easily one of my fave rock tracks from this year. The video though? I dunno… the whole graveyard/funeral thing fits with the song title of course, but headless suits and stuff… not sure it works for me.


Rock of course is just unfortunately a small part of the musical spectrum these days, so I kind of feel I can’t finish this piece without at least mentioning a few of the other videos from other genres that caught my attention.

Kaytranda – “Lite Spots” – A fun, happy video that tells the tale of a robot’s journey through learning to dance.

Banks – “Fuck With Myself” – Another one of my favorite songs from 2016, but the video is in “I Dunno” territory. The song’s meaning is supposed to be more ambiguous and open to interpretation than the title suggests, although in the video she seems to plainly be loving her some her.

Miike Snow – “Genghis Khan” – This video is a unique twist on the relationship between Bond-like hero and Bond-like villain as halfway through it all, the men fall for each other and start a family, but there’s a jealous woman waiting in the end…

Kanye West – “Fade” (NSFW) – The world found out this year how badass Teyana Taylor is, thanks in large part to this video. The premise is simple enough as Taylor dances Flashdance-style through her gym workout, then for some reason starts getting it on in the shower with her husband, basketball player Iman Shumpert, and then I have no idea what the hell the end is supposed to be about. I like the video though. There of course was also the naked dummies of “Famous,” which was no doubt a unique video experience, but also something where once is enough IMHO.

DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels – “Nobody Speak” (NSFW) – A statement about the current state of affairs in world politics as politicians escalate tensions while voicing RTJ’s rap lyrics before eventually coming to blows, punctuated at the end with the symbolism of the working woman who looks on with disgust. This particular copy of the video blurs out the countries the men are representing — the man in the red tie is from the U.S. and the man in the blue tie is from the U.K.; I don’t know why they did that but I think it’s actually more effective that way. Not every Rocknutter will like the song, but the video is sure effective.

Jamie XX – “Gosh” – This video is a visual feast, filmed in Hangzhou, China but made to look like Paris. Some really great shots, scenes and images in this one.

Other video best-of lists:

* Stereogum
* Yahoo
* Rolling Stone
* Billboard
* Pitchfork
* Pigeons and Planes

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