Anyone who thinks we're not living in another golden age of music videos hasn't spent enough late-night hours surfing YouTube in search of New Zealand electro-pop and Russian techno. Sure, the big budgets of MTV's heyday are mostly a thing of the past, but that hasn't stopped a new generation of musicians and directors from using their boundless creativity (and today's readily available digital filmmaking gear) to produce kinetic, eye-popping clips that rival anything Spike Jonze or David Fincher shot back in the day.
Here are 10 crazy, mind-blowing music videos from 2014 that represent that new creativity to its fullest. Some might scare the daylights out of you; some will just make you laugh out loud. Some are brilliant; a few are kinda terrible. Either way, you won't be able to stop watching them.
10. Die Antwoord, “Ugly Boy”
South African electro-rap duo Die Antwoord's videos are nearly always compulsively watchable, and “Ugly Boy,” directed by Antwoord frontman Ninja, is one of their best. You'll recognize several of the clip's many cameos, including Marilyn Manson, Jack Black, Flea and Dita Von Teese, but it might take you a second to figure out the best one: Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, wearing a white “Hello My Name Is God” tracksuit and what may or may not be a black-faced Aphex Twin mask. Homage or piss-take? As is often the case with Die Antwoord, it's hard to tell.
9. Friendly Rich, “Sausage Samba”
Canadian musician Friendly Rich's delirious ode to charcuterie (“Pigs are bacon, cows are veal, tenderloin is lean!”) gets an even more delirious video treatment courtesy of director and compositing genius Nick denBoer. You may never be able to watch an episode of The Next Generation again without craving a phallic chunk of grilled meat.
8. Hervé x Zebra Katz, “Tear the House Up”
As one of the first breakout stars of New York's LGBT hip-hop scene, Zebra Katz has left a long string of visually arresting music videos in his wake. But for sheer eye-candy explosiveness, nothing tops “Tear the House Up,” a parade of stunningly coordinated costumes and visuals directed by Ghost+Cow and set to an unstoppable beat by British producer Joshua 'Hervé' Harvey. A lesser talent would disappear against such kaleidoscopic backdrops, but Katz turns the clip into his playground, proving once again that he's a superstar in the making.
7. Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (NSFW)
If all this video featured was a pot-smoking Miley butchering The Beatles' psychedelic classic, it might still make our list. But it also features, in no particular order: a guy in a Santa suit with macaroni glued to his face; a gratuitously naked blonde chick; lips with eyelashes (liplashes?); and Moby doing his best B-movie arch-villain overacting. In the midst of all the chaos, Miley Cyrus becomes an almost soothing presence, which might be the weirdest part of all.
6. Little Big, “With Russia From Love”
Little Big are often described as the Russian version of Die Antwoord, and with good reason — their music features the same aggro, over-the-top mix of hip-hop and hardcore EDM, and their videos are a similarly mind-bending mishmash of sexy, sleazy and surreal. This two-minute clip for the title track from their debut album is all tracksuits, AK-47s and farm animals, plus a foxy midget riding a unicorn because hey, for all we know, they have lots of those in Russia, too.
5. Doprah, “Stranger People”
This New Zealand electro-pop duo teamed up with the directorial team Thunderlips to create a clip that is at once a cheeky homage to Japanese idol pop videos and an unsettling critique of how the imagery in such videos feeds the fantasies of young men raised on anime, porn and gamer culture. In the year of #YesAllWomen, it's a particularly eye-catching, subversive way to question how women are portrayed not just in J-pop, but in popular culture around the globe.
4. Cyriak, “Malfunction”
Cyriak is a British animator who writes off-kilter, carnivalesque electronic music to accompany his surreal videos, of which “Malfunction” is arguably his trippiest yet. Using some found footage of everyday, humdrum life in what appears to be '60s England, Cyriak creates an endless loop of ever-escalating visual insanity, until a suburban kitchen and supermarket become monster-inhabited circles of hell worthy of Brueghel and Bosch. You won't know whether to laugh or scream. OK, you'll probably laugh.
3. DJ Snake and Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What”
Co-directed by The Daniels — one of whom, Daniel Kwan, stars as the man possessed by his party-hardy penis — the video for “Turn Down for What” both perfectly captures and slyly satirizes the energy of DJ Snake's stupidly undeniable club anthem. Yes, it's basically one long dick joke, but it's an incredibly detailed, finely crafted dick joke, filled with characters who come to life instantly thanks to their perfectly frumpy wardrobes and cluttered apartments. Only Key & Peele's famous dubstep sketch has done a better job in recent memory of simultaneously celebrating and skewering EDM at its most absurdly over the top.
2. Poo2Loo, “Poo Party”
In India, nearly 600 million people shit in the streets every day. The solution to this public health crisis? More toilets, you say? Hell, no! Let's hire the guy who did the music for Life of Pi to write a catchy PSA about responsible pooping, and shoot an adorable animated video starring dance turd piles to accompany it. Problem solved!
1. Wang Rong Rollin, “Chick Chick”
Like cronuts and Snapchat, Chinese pop star Wang Rong Rollin went overnight from being something we'd never heard of to something we couldn't live without. Sexy Asian girls dressed up like chickens and clucking high-energy dance-pop? Sign us up!