What makes a good music video is up for debate, and it's so, so easy to mess up. There are the natural barriers: Seeing a singer staring into the camera lip-syncing in not just boring, it can be really awkward if not done properly. The other frequently abused music video trope is the live performance, in which a band is filmed playing the song. The only thing is, it's not really a live performance: It's the instrumental version of lip-syncing. So who cares?
Most good music videos find creative ways around these problems, balancing out the awkwardness of the fake performance with something that makes you forget you're watching a fake performance. Some videos succeed by creating a completely different reality from the song, but the best ones act as an extension of the musician's vision and make the viewer reconsider the song in fresh ways. I'll use the music video for "Nobody Speak," the DJ Shadow/Run The Jewels song, as an example.
First of all, is there a better tone-setting line in hip-hop than "Picture this, I'm a bag of dicks / put me to your lips"? It sets up the rest of the song's absurdist boasts ("I will walk into a court while erect / screaming 'Yes, motherfucker! I am guilty, I am death!"). Basically, you can only assume El-P and Killer Mike of RTJ were higher than Snoop Dogg in Colorado when they wrote the song. So for the video, the group sets the scene in a United Nations-style room and enlists two respectable-looking politicians to lip-sync the lyrics. Chaos erupts. It's beautiful.
On the more serious artistic side of the spectrum, Beyonce's Lemonade could basically be seen as one big music video. Ambitious beyond belief, every minute is an eye-popping look at the singer's psyche and roots, haunting and captivating and gorgeous at the same time.
Phoenix musicians produced some a wide array of music videos in 2016. There were whimsical ones, gritty ones, high-production-value ones and ones that were probably shot on iPhones. Making this list wasn't easy — it started with about 50 videos and then was slowly whittled down to the 16 finalists and the 10 honorable mentions that made the final list. There are some familiar names that pop up every year on our lists, but the most surprising thing this year was how many new artists and directors appeared. Pop in some headphones, switch to
16. Dwarf - "Misinformed"
I feel like the somewhat gothic counter-cultural Jane from Daria would have listened to Dwarf. There's a playfulness to the band's music that harkens back to '90s alt-rock, so Jane's preference wouldn't be out of place. The video is a great solution to both budgetary concerns and the awkward problem of having bands lip-sync in front of a camera: Use sock puppets! The candid shots of the sock puppets casually bantering among each other are a nice touch to this cute little video.
15. Genre - "Speak Now"
This video is less than two minutes long, but they're memorable minutes. The band turned Roosevelt Row into an 8-bit side-scrolling 2-D game, during which they eat at Forno 301, pick up some records at Revolver, jump over tent city, and then meet singer Zac Markey's stoned cat at Carly's. They stomp on Sheriff Joe like he's a goomba and make their way towards Crescent Ballroom, where the love of Markey's life is getting married. You know what, just watch the thing.
This is a funny concept. Singer Trevor Hedges sits on a couch. Everyone is doing crazy shit around him while he sits around looking either mildly depressed or somewhat bemused. It's not exactly the most original idea, but it's really effective here. The song is so emo and melancholy at the beginning, and director Cory Davis does a great job of increasing the motion of the people surrounding Hedges as the song builds and progresses. By the time the triumphant guitar hook hits around 1:20, a party has erupted around Hedges, and a smile creeps onto his face. "Beck and Call" might be the catchier song Sundressed released this year, but "Autopilot" is a better music video.
13. No Volcano - "Blackout"
No Volcano's excellent album Dead Horse Power kind of coasted under the radar this year, which is a shame. But this video did not. "Blackout" is a great example of how to make the common music video trope of a "live performance that's not really live" interesting: animation. The Jason Willis-directed video features a very cool, stylized No Volcano performing while spliced between shots of an evil vine wrapping around the skyscrapers of an unnamed city.
12. Fathers Day - "Disney World"
Yes, this video is more than nine minutes long. But every time I watch it, I seem to make it through the whole thing. That's how magnetic Ryan Avery and the members of Fathers Day are in this video. Seeing the band scream and flail as Avery screams "I'm never gonna take my kids to Disney World" doesn't get old. Troy Farah's direction makes this video amusing throughout the entire nine minutes.
11. Sunday At Noon - "Brain Damage"
If Mike Judge made Office Space into a music video for a band that kind of sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, it might look like Jacob Reynolds' video for Sunday At Noon's song "Brain Damage." The video begins with a boss slapping a pile of folders on a beleaguered employee's desk, upping the workload so that he can make it to his "successful supervisor seminar" unimpeded. The supervisor plays mean pranks on his employees, and they get him back by sneaking in and throwing a concert at work. It's a ridiculous concept and very light-hearted in execution, yet very effective.
Visit the next page for the 10 best music videos made in Phoenix this year, as well as the honorable mentions.