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The top 20 music videos of 2014

Beyoncé went DIY, Raury's rainbow vision, Blood Orange's nifty collab with Gia Coppola... and not forgetting FKA twigs


Spray-painted gold and towering above a legion of miniature doppelgangers, FKA Twigs channels Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned (2002) and cuts a striking figure as a seductive goddess in the video for her LP1 lead track. “Motherfucker, get your mouth open, you know you’re mine” she sings in breathy, lustrous tones as the metallic dancing figures lap at the liquid pouring from her fingers. “Weird things can be sexy,” she has said of the video. “It’s this vision of me feeding myself, milking myself. I was naked, painted in gold, doing krump dance moves. It's bizarre, but hot in a very weird way.”


After being captivated by 11-year old Dance Moms star Maddie Zeigler and choreographer Ryan Heffington’s innovative performance installation KTCHN, Sia scouted both of them for this beautifully dark and soaring music video. “I thought it would be really fucking cool to have this little child imparting this adult experience,” the singer told Dazed earlier this year, adding that the video is “about the desperation of the avoidance of uncomfortable feelings.” The award-winning video features Maddie leaping, twirling and crawling around a grim, deserted department – her springing, bending limbs and platinum wig in sharp contrast to the peeling walls and fading carpet.


Gel pens, puffer jackets and earmarked copies of The Face… if you’re too young to remember the nineties, look no further than this nostalgia-coated VHS-style video from London trio JUCE. Played out like a schoolyard drama in a shower of emoticons and paranoid diary entries, they manage to make those hormone-fuelled years look effortlessly stylish (rather than an era of pedal pushers and You’ve Been Framed reruns). That, as well as the silhouetted ESG-esque choreography, elevates this video to one of the best of the year.


There’s something sexy about the way Mike Hadras – aka Perfume Genius – struts down a boardroom table like it’s a runway in this video; the suit-wearing, prawn-chomping men looking feebler by the second in the face of his boiler suit, heels and slicked back hair. This surreal and stylish clip embodies the power of queer identity, in a way that’s both moving and brilliantly mischievous. It also features a one-legged Elvis impersonator, some piglets in a lift, and a computer-screen-smashing-session.


Filmed in the milky sun of a crisp spring morning, this video from Atlanta’s Raury is joyous and wonderfully liberating. In a unique blend of gospel chanting, toe-tapping folk rhythms and melodic pop choruses, the future-funk singer conjures up a romantic ode to the reckless and seemingly endless days of youth. It's a vibe that's beautifully reflected throughout the video, from the moment he awakes amongst birdsong on the roof, to the evening spent dancing with friends around a billowing bonfire.


DIY Hip Hop collective Last Night in Paris’s dreamy, pulsing track “PURE” is a lesson in aesthetic innovation, thanks to Karim Huu Do's direction which merges visually-familiar events with the absurd, atmospheric qualities of a drug-hazed dream. “I like that the new generations are not stuck in boxes any more, like we used to be when I was a teenager,” Karim told us when interviewed as part of the Dazed 100. “Now there is fusion in everything and it's actually more natural. I like it. It’s less judgmental in a way, and more open to polymorphic people.” And this fluidity helped it on the way to scoop the Best Urban Video trophy at the recent UKMVAs.


This beat-driven clip from MIA & The Partysquad is skewed with the Sri Lankan rapper's fiercely eclectic style (she directed it herself) and characteristic prowess. In a shower of politicised gun imagery and LED-lit collage-like flashes (where the words “This is 1984” are scrawled in a neon blaze), MIA proves once again why she’s been on top of the game for ten years. It’s worth watching for the last 30 seconds alone, when the whole thing morphs into some kind of psychedelic dystopia, set amongst high-rise council estate towers.


This multi-coloured, electro-rap musical creation from 19-year-old Vegas child Shamir pops like bubble gum and rings like a brilliantly bratty schoolyard chant. With the video's multitude of candy-coloured props including a whip, a Fisher Price phone, a spinning disco ball and a globe that shatters into a Barbie-pink powder explosion, it’s deliciously naughty but nice, making for one of the best music videos to have been shot out of 2014.


Wet’s beautifully intimate, lo-fi visual for their luminous pop track “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” embodies the sweet liberation that follows the grief of a toxic romance, like the evening that trails a hangover or the sudden parting of a thick fog. The New York trio collaborated with Beauty Today for this video, a female-led zine that “perverts conventions of sexuality and gender” and presents “nude photography, erotic fiction and illustrations” (which probably accounts for the DIY cut-out style of the clip, as well as singer Kelly Zutrau's predilection for laying around naked in the grass).


Featuring a darkly glamorous, leather-clad Sky Ferreira and a legion of muscular dancers draped around a black convertible, Grant Singer's video for “I Blame Myself” channels the rap videos of the late 90’s and the Michael Jackson videos of the late 80’s. It’s aggressively seductive, unapologetically old skool and super playful.


Dev Hynes sports socks-with-sandals and a Colgate-white suit in this slick daytime TV, dance-focussed Blood Orange video that channels Lionel Richie circa 1982. Gia Coppola, who directed the hazy, neo-nostalgic clip, said “I’ve always been fascinated with choreography and live television, both of which felt perfect for (this song).” The youngest Coppola can be spotted at the end of the video sharing an elaborate handshake with Hynes, who directed the score for her directorial debut Palo Alto.

BEYONCÉ – “7/11”

If it’s possible, Beyoncé’s videos have gotten steadily better – and more innovative – with each passing year. Operated on a refreshingly low budget, with lo-fi camera techniques (including one creative use of a selfie stick), her “7/11” clip features Bey getting low on a balcony, bouncing down a hallway and twerking at herself in the mirror, all of this in a variety of undies and PJ’s. With turnt beats stitched over auto-tuned vocals with fun, formless lyrics, (“Ooh we be-be freaky deaky/Think me see she pink bikini”) this exceptional visual plays like a fast-paced patchwork of Vines. Oh, and Beyoncé uses her foot as a phone.


Sand, smoke, water and neon strobe lights collide in this brilliantly stylized video from Canadian musician Grimes, who's known for her obscure, elemental videos and pastel-tainted aesthetics. “It’s our take on Dante’s inferno,” Grimes explained of the visual's trippy theatrics, co-directed by Grimes herself and her brother under the moniker Roco-Prime. “The circles of hell reflect more contemporary issues though. We shot a bunch at the Salton Sea, which is basically an apocalyptic wasteland filled with dead fish because of human carelessness.”


Played out like a faux documentary on riotous LA gangs, this politically charged music video for “She Gutta” paints a dystopian vision of drugs, sex and violence, all set against a backdrop of Mykki’s unique hip hop textures and infectious punk formations. Fast-paced clips of mainstream US media are glued together and injected with flashes of burning palm trees, combative anime cartoons and somebody sucking on the tip of a neon ice-lolly. These chaotic, city-smoked visuals, as well as the interplay between queer identity and heterosexual macho stereotypes, make it one of the most inventive and exciting music videos of the year. “I never grew up wanting to be Tupac,” Blanco has said. “I grew up wanting to be Yoko Ono.”


Gems take you on a trip in this hazy, feverish tale of love and heartbreak, where druggish pink light dances off the ripples of a river and a couple sits back-to-back atop a stormy mountain. An original Dazed commission, the breathtakingly cinematic clip was directed by BRTHR (the directorial duo behind videos for Miley Cyrus, Jessie Ware and The Drums), and leads you through a visually stimulating journey that climaxes with the crack of gunfire and the splash of blood on a desert landscape.


As we said earlier this year, there’s no one making videos like Jesse Kanda right now. He’s the visionary behind this mind-fucking video for Venezuelan producer Arca’s slow, spidery electronic track “Thievery”. The futuristic clip features a gender-ambiguous digitally-rendered character dancing away – booty first – in a vision of Arca’s alter-ego. “Alejandro is very multi-sided as a personality, and he can sometimes become what we call Xen, jokingly,” Jesse has said. “It’s this very sassy, confident, very feminine side of him. And it’s like, ‘Ohhh, she’s out,’ we say – mainly when we’re smoking weed, just fucking around.”


In another creation from LA filmmaker Grant Singer, avant-pop tangerine-haired Ariel Pink sings in front of a pastel pink background as various people go about their business in doll-like wigs and clinging, latex masks (one of which is a replica of Ariel's own face). Singer describes the strangely mesmerizing video as following “a day in the life of three men in Los Angeles in their search of meaning and happiness.”


Heavy metal and embroidery collide in this stitched-up music video from London-based doom trio Throne. Taking inspiration from classic band patches, and funded by Kickstarter, singer Nico Livesey teamed up with animator Tom Bunker to pummel an estimated 45 million stitches into denim for this remarkable space-age visual creation, produced by Dazed.


Rarely do Die Antwoord release a music video that doesn’t get featured on a multitude of end-of-year lists. This clip for their hooky, Aphex Twin-sampling “Ugly Boy” is no exception. It features Yo Landi and Ninja in matching, polyester gold tracksuits and random cameos from a one-eyed, cigar smoking Jack Black, a face-painted Cara Delevigne, and burlesque performer Dita Von Teese dancing seductively in nipple tassles. “Dis song was a bit of a mindfuck 2 make…” wrote Ninja in the insert of their album Donker Mag. “Me and Y had been broken up 4 a while… but dis was da 1st time dat Y got in2 a kinda serios relationship wif sum1else, who happnd 2 be an activ gangster from da cape flats… who runs wif a gang called da UGLY AMERICANS.. or UGLY BOYS.”


Two children awake from the dead and dance joyfully in front of an oblivious funeral congregation in this disarming, powerful and strangely beautiful clip from LA beat-maker Flying Lotus and rapper Kendrick Lamar. “The kids (in the video) were surprisingly nonchalant about it, because they don’t have the same weight about death that adults do” explains Tokyo-born director Hiro Murai, who directed the video. “They kept saying that the coffins smelled funny or that they were bored. It was very much a microcosm of the video’s concept itself—the kids didn’t look at death the same way as their parents did.”