Before our list season dives into the year’s marvellous music, it’s time for one more list celebrating 2021’s most stunning visual splendour. We’re talking the acts that utilised the medium of music videos to its fullest potential with their delightful dance moves, creative concepts, and cinematic storytelling. So, without further ado: lights, camera, action!
10. Orla Gartland – Zombie!
Tackling the issue of toxic masculinity in wonderfully tongue-in-cheek fashion. Donning her finest scout gear, Orla is on the hunt, waiting for the right moment to strike when the guys eventually let down their walls so she can collect their tears. Great concept, and I love Orla’s infectious exuberance.
9. Sophie Morgan – Always
The gorgeous choreography instantly evokes all the glamour and elegance of the golden age of Hollywood. But it’s merely a façade; a memory of halcyon days to cling to as a means of escape from the reality of too many days spent alone. A beautifully bittersweet video that has stayed with me right since the start of the year.
8. Griff – One Night
One of the year’s most promising new stars heads off on her own Peter Pan style adventure to chase down her own shadow. Something about it puts a smile on my face every time. A charming and well executed concept, complete with great choreography and Griff serving up several iconic looks with her ever on-point outfits.
7. Sigrid – Burning Bridges
The underlying concept, of Sigrid in a chase through different locales and running straight through brick walls like a juggernaut, is a winner all on its own. But scattered throughout we also get snippets of some really fascinating visuals, like a train car overgrown with jungle foliage and Sigrid levitating towards a heavenly light surrounded by flower petals.
6. Rag’n’Bone Man – All You Ever Wanted
This video articulates the important yet rarely addressed issue of gentrification in a really inventive and memorable way. The pristine model village is a poor reflection of just how messy real life is, and so we’re offered glimpses into the lives of everyday people and all the character and humanity they add, which is seen as something to gloss over and hide away.
5. Snail Mail – Valentine
A superb visualisation of what it feels like to be drunk on jealousy. How it clouds your judgement, fuels all your most self-destructive tendencies and can ultimately make you see red – although, hopefully not leading to quite the same bloody end as depicted here. Plus, I can’t deny, I do love a good costume drama, and this video wears the aesthetic well.
4. Adele – Easy On Me
Some simply beautiful cinematography at work throughout this video. The wistful setting of the empty house, all her old life packed up in a trailer while a newlywed couple overtake on their way to start their new life, the sheet music scattering across a country road as it’s caught up by the breeze, and the shift from a melancholy monochrome world into one filled with colour.
3. Manchester Orchestra – Bed Head
A moving narrative of a young girl visited by the spirit of her father, bringing her joy and comfort while her mother remains oblivious and fails to give her the attention she needs. It combines the goosebump inducing presence of a poltergeist with a playful power trip reminiscent of Matilda as the house seemingly takes on a life of its own, to both the young girl’s delight and to her mother’s horror.
2. Julien Baker – Hardline
I’m a sucker for stop motion animation and I’m honestly struggling to think of a more impressive and creative example of it being used in a music video. Just thinking about the sheer amount of hard work, patience and attention to detail that must have gone into making it boggles the mind, and the final product ends up being both touching and unnerving in equal measure.
1. Iron Maiden – The Writing On The Wall
Where the hell did this come from? The band have packed so much into this epic animated adventure! The bleak post apocalyptic future, the stunning action set pieces and Eddie’s incredible suiting up sequence in his samurai armour. Full of biblical allegories, most memorable of which naturally being the four horsemen as a biker gang, and of course packed to the brim with references to past records to boot. It’s Iron Maiden thrown into overdrive with anime levels of excess, and I just love it.