The 20 Best Music Videos of 2016

IMAGE Esquire

This year the music video became more powerful than it's ever been in the post-MTV era. Using social platforms like YouTube, music videos have become more ubiquitous than at any point in history. And musicians and directors are working together like never before to create truly incredible works of art through images and sounds.

These are more than just visual accompaniments to music. Consider Frank Ocean's Endless, which was released as a visual album to subvert his record company ahead of Blonde. Beyoncé's Lemonade was dropped as a surprise visual album that stopped the entire world. Radiohead's series of Paul Thomas Anderson-directed videos are a beautiful feat of filmmaking. David Bowie's "Lazarus" is the artist's powerful farewell.

Following an amazing year for music, here are the best music videos of 2016.

20. Kaytranada — "Glowed Up"

The Best Part: Kaytranada holding a cat.

19. D.R.A.M. — "Broccoli"

The Best Part: D.R.A.M. and Yachty's party mobile—AKA just a truck with a them, a piano, and a recorder in it.

18. Mitski — "Your Best American Girl"

The Best Part: We should all make out with our own hand.

17. Rae Sremmurd — "Black Beatles"

The Best Part: The obvious Beatles references and the distinct lack of Mannequin Challenges.

16. Angel Olsen — "Shut Up and Kiss Me"

The Best Part: That wig, though.

15. Schoolboy Q — "That Part"

The Best Part: That part. Haha, no, those weird faceless masks.

14. Lil Yachty — "1 Night"

The Best Part: Try to count every single meme crammed into four minutes and 15 seconds.


13. Kanye West — "Fade"

The Best Part: Never has a music video provided better motivation to go to the gym.

12. Jamie XX — "Gosh"

The Best Part: Music video or dystopian Subaru commercial?

11. Frank Ocean — "Nikes"

The Best Part: It was the first hint that Ocean had more music planned beyond Endless. "I got two versions." He did.

10. Blood Orange — "Augustine"

The Best Part: Besides the overall tone and how it captures the melting pot of cultures in New York City, it's great to watch Julian Casablancas eat wings at 2:27.

9. Solange — "Cranes in the Sky"

The Best Part: Each scene is posed and like an artwork, traveling from stunning backdrop to stunning backdrop like a moving painting.

8. Rihanna — "Work"

The Best Part: When you learn that The Real Jerk is an actual restaurant in Toronto. And also consider all the stunning videos Rihanna released in 2016, which provided a complete cinematic experience—not just a compliment to the song.

7. Grimes — "Kill V. Maim"

The Best Part: No other American pop star has the visual style like Grimes. Here she occupies a fascinating blend of cyberpunk, anime, and bloodbath rave aesthetic.

6. Kendrick Lamar — "God is Gangsta"

The Best Part: The latest in Kendrick's series of visionary, unparalleled music videos that tell the story behind the most captivating hip-hop album of the decade. In this one, it's obvious that Kendrick—staring at the camera, rapping in pain—can act, too.

5. Chance the Rapper — "Angels"

The Best Part: There's this innocent glee in all of Chance's music. "Angels" is like stepping into someone's imagination. "There's too many young angels on the South Side," he sings in the video, in which Chance daydreams about what his city would be like without the gun violence.

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4. Kanye West — "Famous," Official/Unofficial

The Best Part: Kanye West is obsessed with fame as much as he's obsessed with famous people obsessed with fame. If anything, his career for the last decade has been an exploration of this—along with whatever else he can get away with. He does both here, for better or worse.

3. Radiohead — "Daydreaming"

The Best Part: Using camera tricks and editing to make this seem like a single tracking shot, famed director Paul Thomas Anderson has Thom Yorke wandering through bright beaches, laundromats, and lonely houses with all the jumps in logic of a lucid dream.

2. David Bowie — "Lazarus"

The Best Part: Two days before his death on January 10, David Bowie released the "Lazarus" video as a farewell to fans. Like so much of the art he left behind, "Lazarus" and Blackstar combine to be his final powerful statement.

1. Beyonce — Lemonade

The Best Part: All of it. The whole thing. In terms of artistic vision, nothing else came close to Beyoncé's visual album.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Matt Miller
Matt Miller is the Associate Culture Editor for
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