- Insider ranked this year’s 36 best music videos so far.
- “Mother’s Daughter” by Miley Cyrus took the top spot.
- It was followed by Halsey’s “Nightmare” and the Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” in the top three.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In recent years, music videos have seen a significant revival — including, but not limited to, Lady Gaga’s theatrics, Sia’s visual partnership with Maddie Ziegler, “This Is America” by Childish Gambino (last year’s crown jewel), and, well, anything Beyoncé does.
Though we’re just eight months in, 2019 has proved no different.
Keep reading to see our 36 favorite music videos from this year so far, ranked in ascending order.
36. “Orange Trees” by Marina
Marina Diamandis — known professionally as Marina and previously by the stage name Marina and the Diamonds — radiates summertime happiness joy in the video for “Orange Trees.” From the glittering ocean shots to her playful makeup looks, the clip is aggressively pleasant from start to finish.
35. “A Lot” by 21 Savage featuring J. Cole
At its most basic level, “A Lot” celebrates the complexities of family, especially in black communities. It’s an ode to the joyful moments and the deep abiding love, but also the struggles and baggage.
Although the colorful visuals for Khalid’s “Talk” don’t totally align with the song’s anxious theme, it can easily be read as an homage to Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” which is one of the best comparisons for a modern music video.
32. “Unemployed” by Tierra Whack
Tierra Whack is one of the most fascinating rappers at work today, and her “Unemployed” video capitalizes on that unique, existential, slightly bewildering persona.
“‘Unemployed’ is another slice of Whack’s brain, a cracked imagining of a kitchen where the food is very, very frightened,” Billboard’s Ross Scarano writes. “There’s a bit of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at work here, but make no mistake, this is still Tierra’s show — which makes us the captive audience.”
30. “Land of the Free” by The Killers
29. “Kids Turned Out Fine” by A$AP Rocky
“Kids Turned Out Fine” is ostensibly an acid trip, but each scene also underscores the song’s themes of acceptance, growth, and diversity of experiences.
28. “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves underscores “Rainbow’s” message of hope, peace, and quiet strength in the video, which features a series of people depicted with common struggles: Motherhood, alcoholism, navigating gender identity, and family conflict.
“Musgraves is a comforting presence through each episode, more felt than seen,” Rolling Stone’s Jon Freeman writes. “In the end, the song’s message of resilience and hope prevails — each story line is granted a moment of calm and peace that matches with Musgraves’ own resolution, ‘It’ll all be alright.'”
27. “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
26. “Lover” by Taylor Swift
Like all of Taylor Swift’s best videos, this one pays off more if you pay closer attention. “Lover” is like a reward for dedicated fans, as there are delicious callbacks to a variety of lyrics from previous (and probably future) albums: the snow globe scenery references the “1989” deep cut “You Are in Love,” while a party scene recalls the “Reputation” album closer “New Year’s Day.”
25. “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” by Ariana Grande
24. “More Than That” by Lauren Jauregui
Lauren Jauregui’s ethereal “More Than That” combines two classic depictions of women by men — artistic interpretations of the goddess Aphrodite and the rap video strip club trope — but flips the gaze.
“Aphrodite is the ultimate celebration of femininity and beauty and sexuality in an empowering way,” the video’s director, Lauren Dunn, told MTV News.
“Ultimately, it’s just a celebration of women’s power and beauty, in every form. Every body type, every color,” she continued. “Because that’s where real beauty lies, is diversity. Lauren’s life mantra is celebrating women, and we just wanted to literally see these women in a new light.”
23. “Bounce Back” by Little Mix
While lacking a cohesive narrative, “Almeda” is a perfect example of Solange’s knack for striking, elegant visuals that draw on everything from blackness and femininity to fashion and architecture.
21. “Glad He’s Gone” by Tove Lo
Tove Lo proves that she’s the friend you’d want to call after a breakup in “Glad He’s Gone.” As she braves the wilderness — and even the prison system, briefly — the video combines an achingly funny story line with stunning cinematography.
20. “Girl” by Maren Morris
“Maren Morris beautifully highlights the struggles of being a woman in ‘Girl’ from her album of the same title,” Marie Claire’s Rachel Epstein writes. “She reflects on her own insecurities as a singer and songwriter while showing the raw, real-life physical and mental struggles we face as women. It deserves all the stars.”
19. “How Do You Sleep?” by Sam Smith
17. “Chatroom” by Charly Bliss
Charly Bliss’ lead singer, Eva Hendricks, said she wrote “Chatroom” as a way of processing her sexual assault. The video expertly translates that experience into a mysteriously cult-ish atmosphere, in which a group of women worship a man.
“What I really love about the concept of the video is that it really illuminates the lyrics of the song in an ingenious way: It still communicates these big ideas of mind control, and manipulation, and misogyny, and abuse without being totally literal,” Hendricks told Jezebel. “It’s adjacent to the subject matter, it’s related to it, but it’s not a literal interpretation.”
16. “You Need to Calm Down” by Taylor Swift
14. “Cellophane” by FKA Twigs
“Cellophane” is as impressive as it is captivating. As any FKA Twigs fan knows, the singer had been honing her pole-dancing skills for months. So at the very least, this video is fascinating to watch, underscoring the mind-boggling athleticism it requires — but it also transforms her performance into something much deeper, exploring the tension between vulnerability and strength.
13. “Boy With Luv” by BTS featuring Halsey
“The concept behind ‘Boy With Luv’ is simple: coat BTS and Halsey in pastel colors and have them dance everywhere,” Billboard’s Kirsten Spruch writes. “It’s exactly what fans, and the rest of the world, want right now — joy so pure it has the power to turn your entire day around. Maybe that’s why it became the most-viewed 24-hour debut in YouTube history.”
12. “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish
“Bad Guy” puts Billie Eilish’s undeniable charm on full display. Surrounded by vibrant colors and surreal imagery, the blue-haired pop star is both warm and standoffish, both youthfully joyful and starkly intimidating — not so much sliding between extremes and binaries as she is rejecting them completely.
11. “Earfquake” by Tyler, The Creator
Come for the excellent song, stay for the delirious Tracee Ellis Ross cameo — as well as Tyler, The Creator’s complete disregard for narrow definitions of masculinity and rap video clichés. His growth as a producer, songwriter, and visual artist has never been more apparent as when he’s sliding around on a fake stage in a platinum blonde wig.
7. “Gone” by Charli XCX featuring Christine and the Queens
It’s almost tragic that Charli XCX featuring Christine and the Queens aren’t in a two-person band together. Playing off each other’s looks and convulsions, they create an electric and spellbinding energy that carries throughout the “Gone” video and keeps its viewer absorbed until the very end, despite the minimalist setting and spontaneous choreography.
6. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
5. “Motivation” by Normani
4. “Bury a Friend” by Billie Eilish
“Most conventional pop music videos aim to be dream-like escapes from the natural horrors of the outside world… but then, Billie Eilish doesn’t make conventional pop music,” Billboard’s Stephen Daw writes of the “spine-chilling” video for “Bury a Friend,” which leans heavily on horrific imagery.
“Is it a visual representation of sleep paralysis? Is it a metaphor for the fear of loneliness?” Daw continued. “When you find yourself asking these questions about a music video, you know the artist has clearly done something right.”
3. “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers
As it’s the Jonas Brothers’ official comeback video, “Sucker” was destined to be beloved by fans, but the band didn’t simply deliver on more shots of Joe looking pained while singing directly to camera (although that motif is here, to be fair).
No, the band didn’t lean on tried-and-true formulas and visuals. They delivered a glamorous, hilarious, delightfully bizarre, and visually stunning fever dream.
The brothers smartly allowed their wives to steal the show. The video gives fans a tantalizing peek into the dynamics of Kevin, Joe, and Nick’s relationships — with Danielle Jonas, Sophie Turner, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, respectively — but in a totally surreal and aspirational setting. With “Sucker,” Jonas became less of a name and more of an empire.
Halsey has always created vivid, detailed music videos stuffed with metaphorical meanings, but “Nightmare” takes it to the next level.
What is easily her most relevant piece of work to date, “Nightmare” chews up forced female archetypes, swallows them, and spits them back at the audience. Surrounded by an all-female cast (and, behind the scenes, an all-female production team), Halsey bounces between personas, refusing to be defined, and embodies the righteous feminine anger that largely defines this current cultural moment.
“She really wanted to show how multifaceted women are,” director Hannah Lux Davis told MTV News. “We could be fighting in the street for sport and we could be in lingerie, really sexy and feminine and clean. That was the biggest thing that she wanted to say — just showcasing all different sides of what a woman is, and how every side is just f—ing awesome.”
1. “Mother’s Daughter” by Miley Cyrus
It’s extremely difficult to make a music video that’s at once political, artistic, visually dazzling, seductive, scary, and totally inclusive. Think: “Wrecking Ball,” but make it ultra-feminist.
Aside from the genius styling and gorgeous direction, the real triumph of Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter” video is how it highlights a wide variety of people — Little Miss Flint, a woman with a C-section scar, and trans models, for example — who might connect with the song’s message of empowerment and freedom.
The video doesn’t treat its participants as afterthoughts, but rather allows the camera to linger on them and relishes in their presence. Cyrus also made a point to highlight each person’s experience on her Instagram, posting captions in each person’s own words to explain why inclusive imagery like “Mother’s Daughter” is important.