Each month, we run down the most memorable clips and celebrate artists who are breaking ground with their visuals.
7. Cookiee Kawaii: “Vibe (If I Back It Up)”
Directors: Frank Borin and Ivanna Borin
Jersey club artist Cookiee Kawaii’s TikTok banger gets a video that channel-surfs through her cinematic psyche: She gets trapped in a phone booth by a Hitchockian murder of crows, brandishes a lasso in a footwork-heavy Western segment, and blasts enemies to dust on a Star Trek-inspired space mission. That’s all before she grows a few extra pairs of legs, with blue platform heels to match. Cookiee’s confidence and style sell each roving concept, turning green screens into hallucinatory visual playgrounds.
6. Sufjan Stevens: “Video Game”
Director: Nicole Ginelli
Sufjan Stevens’ new synth-pop single is a far cry from the stark acoustics of his last solo album, 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. To match its radiance, he and director Nicole Ginelli cast TikTok dancer Jalaiah Harmon, who brings the track to life through her choreography. (Disclosure: Ginelli used to work as a designer at Pitchfork.) The “Renegade” originator maneuvers through new routines in front of psychedelic 3D backdrops filled with circuit boards and morphing shapes, providing a graceful depiction of the song’s message about staying true to yourself while being squeezed by the vise-like grip of digital life.
5. Aminé: “Compensating” [ft. Young Thug]
Directors: Adam Daniel and Jack Begert
Aminé has a rep for joyful, funny music videos, whether he’s surrounded by suds and dancers at a car wash or rapping as he dangles from the side of a cliff. In the eye-popping clip for “Compensating,” from his new album Limbo, he and his friends live a life of leisure in a sprawling mansion. Aminé plays a surreal game of tennis with his face superimposed on the ball, attends an auction for a painting of himself, and lounges comfortably in a pink marble bathtub. With everyone dripped in preppy pastel outfits, the crew eventually piles together in front of a fish-eye lens to dance and mug for the camera, creating a portrait of unfettered bliss and indulgence. At least someone’s having fun in quarantine.
4. 645AR: “Sum Bout U” [ft. FKA twigs]
Director: Aidan Zamiri
“Sum Bout U” is one of the more unexpected collabs of the summer, with squeaky-voiced rapper 645AR teaming up with FKA twigs for a keening duet that’s as alien as it is sexy. For the OnlyFans-riffing video, 645AR is glued to his computer and obsessed with a cosplaying camgirl played by twigs. She slinks through different browser windows in anime-inspired latex costumes and body-contorting choreography, increasingly upping her price. The playful concept was twigs’ idea, and the singer even started a fundraiser for sex workers impacted by COVID-19 the same day the video dropped.
3. Orville Peck: “Legends Never Die” [ft. Shania Twain]
Director: Cameron Duddy
Masked country crooner Orville Peck’s Show Pony EP winningly balances tongue-in-cheek camp with aching earnestness. In his clip for the record’s showstopping duet with Shania Twain, he ratchets up his camp side: The pair take the stage at a drive-in movie theater with an audience full of drag queens and queer artists, some of them even strumming along on guitar in their cars (with none other than John Waters as the radio DJ). The outfits are the main draw here, with Peck sporting a rainbow-hued jacket and chaps, and Twain in a leopard-print catsuit that calls back to one of her most iconic ’90s looks. When the two hop on a motorcycle together, Twain looks elated to pass the torch to another rule-breaking country star.
2. FKA twigs: “sad day”
Director: Hiro Murai
While touring behind 2019’s MAGDALENE, FKA twigs performed the martial art of wushu, which involves a jian sword and incredible self-control. She puts those skills to use in the video to the album’s crushing centerpiece, “sad day,” helmed by “This Is America” and Atlanta director Hiro Murai. The short film captures a clash between twigs and a man sitting in a café—their connection is left unspoken, but as the two launch into a sword fight that crashes out onto the streets and rooftops, it’s obvious something much more intense is going on. All of twigs’ videos for MAGDALENE have been cinematic and emotionally wrenching, but here she and Murai craft a surprising spin on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that perfectly fits the song’s cutting depiction of a breakup.
1. Cardi B: “WAP” [ft. Megan Thee Stallion]
Director: Colin Tilley
Released into a world where six feet of distance between bodies is the new normal, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s kinky ode to good pussy was primed to shake the table. Both a vibrant reminder of the pleasures of sex and a welcome addition to the pantheon of raunchy rap songs by women, “WAP” hits twice as hard with an Alice in Wonderland-meets-Willy Wonka fantasia of a video that is easily one of the best of the year. Is there any purer joy than watching Cardi and Megan tiptoe around a candy-colored sex mansion filled with leopards, tigers, snakes, and Normani? All the stops are pulled out: a massive statue of the rappers in Lil’ Kim’s infamous squat, towering B.A.P.S.-inspired hairstyles, plus splashing choreography set in an indoor pool. It’s a vibrant display of self-empowerment that could only come from two of rap’s most brazenly sex-positive voices.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork