Music videos are a misunderstood form nowadays. Cynicism over lack of airtime on music networks has led some to question the quality of the entire medium. Further confusing the dialog is the fact that music videos are simply advertising tools for records. Some artists attempt to go beyond that and create engaging products, but that is not always the case.
Here are the honorees for Outstanding Achievement in Music Video.
First, an honorable mention: Lady Gaga's "LoveGame." The video is beautifully lit and far more captivating than the mediocre dance track deserves.
"Firefly" by Owl City: It's not the most innovative video, but it accurately captures the style of music and provides some fun visual interest. It's not always about bringing something new to the table. A fun video for a fun song works wonders.
"Say Hey (I Love You)" by Michael Franti and Spearhead: Speaking of fun music videos, I don't think I had a better time watching a music video this year than seeing "Say Hey (I Love You)" by Michael Franti and Spearhead. It's a vibrant celebration of a culture and love. Being a great pop song doesn't hurt, either. I dare you not to dance along with this video. It's too much fun not to.
"I Wanna Rock" by Snoop Dogg: I can always count on two things with Snoop Dogg. 1) He will say his name in his single if the last one didn't do so well. 2) He will put out at least one great music video for each album. "I Wanna Rock" is that video. The dancing is the star of the video. It's refreshing to see real hip-hop dancers doing real hip-hop choreography in a modern rap video. They aren't just gyrating or trying to be smooth. When the gyrating comes in, the girls are killing their choreography. It's hard hitting and matches the music and that's all I can ever ask for in this style. You can also see real tutting and krumping, rarely done right on the modern dance reality shows (with the noted exception of SYTYCD winner Russell - great krumper, and the linked Christmas routine is hilarious).
"Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga: Love or or hate her, I think it's hard to deny that "Bad Romance" is a visually arresting video from Lady Gaga. The narrative is obtuse, the choreography explicit, and the digital manipulation of her face and figure disturbing. It's some bizarre sexual auction set-up by way of a Kate Bush nightmare. I'm obsessed with it.
"Eet" by Regina Spektor: And now for something completely different. This is a lovely video for a lovely song. There is still the expected quirk factor from Regina Spektor with her fanciful typewriter of emotions and pristine landscape. I can't think of how else this song could have been approached as a video. A perfect marriage of image and sound.
"Chasing Pirates" by Norah Jones: Speaking of fantasy, here's Norah Jones sailing a building as a pirate ship through a city. It's strange, but it works. She's cute as a button and the song is solid.
The final honoree: "Substitution" by Silversun Pickups: This is a fun video. The intensity of these actresses over a game of musical chairs is hilarious. Aside from the eye candy, the story matches the song very well and doesn't distract from the "music" aspect of the music video. Ample bonus points were issued for bassist Nikki Monninger keeping the groove in heels. Classy.
And now for our winner. There is a clear standout in the field of music videos this year. Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." The story is great, the style great, the song great, and the acting surprisingly great. I love it. I think the last time I went this nuts over a music video was Bjork's "Pagan Poetry." It's near-flawless in execution.
Truly a standout in a solid year for music videos.