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The 20 best music videos of 2016

Whilst they might not attract the same attention as the best album covers or adorn the screens of MTV that much any more, music videos are still as inspiring and creative as ever. Mixing 3D and 2D animation, commenting on virtual reality and producing some of the most gorgeous cinematography around, music videos prove that inspiration can stem from just about anywhere. We picked our favourites from the past twelve months, including big pop stars and lesser-known acts.

01. OK Go – The One Moment

OK Go are known for their stand-out music videos, creating innovative ways in which to challenge the norm. Over the years, the band have trained dogs, driven race cars and performed a dance routine on treadmills. This year’s ‘The One Moment’ saw the group turn one moment (which lasted 4.2 seconds) into something that could last for an entire song – and stay in time. You have to see it to believe it.

02. Beyonce – Lemonade Series

Okay, so this is a series of videos but there’s no way that just one could be picked for the list. Premiering on HBO in April, this 60 minute visual project accompanied Beyonce’s latest album ‘Lemonade’. Through gorgeous cinematography and the use of prose and poetry, it’s a seamless, unforgettable project.

03. Michael Nau – Love Survive

A soothing track accompanies this simple but beautifully illustrated music video. Animated and directed by Parallel Teeth – aka Robert Wallace – who works and lives in East London. He describes his style as “poppy live action, hypnotic 2D animation, puppetry, and colourful illustration."

04. Massive Attack - Voodoo Blood

Massive Attack are always on-hand to provide intriguing visual accompianments to their releases. ‘Voodoo Blood’ stars Hollywood actress Rosamund Pike and was actually inspired by ‘Possession’ – a horror film banned in the UK until 1999. The nostalgic colour schemes teamed with the futuristic animation provide a wealth of inspiration. 

05. zZz – Deadend 

This interactive video encourages viewers to participate by drawing as it plays. Designed by San Francisco design studio Moniker along with Studio Puckey, it enables you to decide whether to follow the intstrcutions of a strict employer or not. 

06. Radiohead – Burn the Witch

Radiohead released their much-anticipated new album this year, kicking off proceedings with a stop-motion video for single first single ‘Burn the Witch’. Animator Virpi Kettu has previously stated that the band wanted the video to depict Europe’s refugee crisis. The puppets were created by Bristol-based studio Jacknife.

07. The Avalanches – Subways

Inspired by the New York subway in the 70s, illustrators Mrzyk & Moriceau  reimagined the journey into a surreal yet hilarious vision. The team took influence from Sesame Street style animation, 70s downtown NYC grit, The Last Days of Disco and The Warriors. They also listened to the whole album whilst coming up with their character designs

08. Mai Lan – Technique

Impressive choreography is the focal point of their bizarre but wholly creative music video for Mai Lan’s ‘Technique’. Writing in a statement, Lan said of the video; “it was a lot of fun to do with the crew Panamæra who immediately got into my mood. We invented a choreography with Aziz that illustrated the lyrics and made up some kind of a weird "cult of Technique" inviting you to follow the instructions. It's absurd, fun and dumb but so actual in a way.”

09. Coldplay – Up and Up

Placing the members of the band in otherworldly positions, the video for Up and Up is a visually stunning triumph. Clever green screen tactics create wondrous illusions and piece together a storyline that tackles political turmoil. It was co-directed by Prettybird's Vania Heymann – who worked on the interactive video for Bob Dylan's ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ – and fellow Israeli director Gal Muggia.

10. Red Axes – Sun My Sweet Sun

The video for Red Axes ‘Sun My Sweet Sun’ was produced by Blinkink and Phenomena Labs. Executive producer was Bart Yates and commissioner was Guy Dreifuss, with character design by Jack Sachs and CG by Blinkink Studio. Showcasing virtual reality in a new light, the surreal approach will certainly spark your interest.

Next page: 10 more of the best music videos this year...

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Sammy Maine was a founding member of the Creative Bloq team, working as a Commissioning Editor. Her interests cover graphic design in music and film, illustration and animation. Since departing, Sammy has written for The Guardian, VICE, The Independent & Metro, and currently co-edits the quarterly music journal Gold Flake Paint.