Each month, we run down the most memorable clips and celebrate artists who are breaking ground with their visuals.
8. FLOHIO: “Unveiled”
Director: Daniel Sannwald
UK rapper FLOHIO takes us to an eerie underworld in the clip for her hard-nosed new single “Unveiled.” Using little more than makeshift cardboard walls as special effects, she raps among a crew of shirtless dudes moshing against each other; tightly framed shots only amplify the claustrophobic tension. The clip’s colors switch between a sickly orange-red and stark black-and-white with the abruptness of an alarm. At one point, FLOHIO even looks like she’s being pulled away from the camera into a box, horror movie-style, giving the song’s sharp rhymes a dose of hair-raising creepiness.
7. Shygirl: “FREAK”
Shygirl’s shrugged-off rapping style and slippery synths come together for electronic music that’s dark, foreboding, and sexy. For “FREAK,” the London artist casts herself as a CGI video girl in an unusual, DayGlo-bright simulation. Her avatar (dressed in a skintight Mugler dress, naturally) is born in pastel pink-and-green slime that starts to shapeshift, growing appendages and turning into blob-like bodies. It quickly becomes hard to tell whether these alien life forms are pleasuring or smothering her—and with Shygirl at the wheel, it’s probably a little bit of both.
6. Jamila Woods: “SULA (Hardcover)”
Director: Fatimah Asghar
For her latest single, Jamila Woods was inspired by Toni Morrison’s 1973 novel Sula, in which the title character’s unapologetic sexuality clashes with her hometown’s strict gender roles. For the video, Woods linked up with poet and filmmaker Fatimah Asghar to create a lush interior world in tribute to Morrison and the book. Wearing snakeskin boots and a cream-colored dress, the singer begins by walking down the streets of Chicago before finding a small, fenced-off enclave. In this overgrown oasis, Woods is free to be as sexual and independent as she wants, surrounded by dense greenery and shrines to Black women artists and thinkers. She eventually disrobes entirely, à la Erykah Badu in “Window Seat,” offering up a powerful vision of feeling comfortable in your own skin.
5. Kelly Lee Owens: “Corner of My Sky” [ft. John Cale]
Director: Kasper Häggström
A humble toaster becomes a vessel into the uncanny in Kelly Lee Owens’ “Corner of My Sky” video. Here, the hypnotic centerpiece of Owens’ Inner Song soundtracks the story of a man who tries to make toast for breakfast only to have his bread vanish into the appliance. Played with disbelieving wonder by actor Michael Sheen, the man tries again and again, even buying several more loaves and roping in a hapless deliveryman to confirm his eyes aren’t deceiving him. The eventual reveal is worth the wait.
4. Bree Runway: “Little Nokia”
Director: Ali Kurr
Packed with serrated guitars and punchy hooks, London pop rebel Bree Runway’s fiery single “Little Nokia” is an in-your-face blast of energy aimed at a lying boyfriend. To nail the same vibe for the video, Bree hangs upside down and flaunts a spiked mohawk within the first 20 seconds. She goes on to flash through outfit and wig changes, perform with a group of leather-clad dancers in an arcade, and straddle a giant mechanical bull in the shape of a Nokia cell phone brick. Kiss-offs don’t get much better—or more imaginative—than this.
3. Lady Gaga: “911”
Director: Tarsem Singh
At first glance, Lady Gaga’s video for “911” seems like it easily fits alongside the other sci-fi-minded dispatches from Chromatica. It’s set in a blindingly bright desert, with Gaga and a cast of actors sporting mysterious mesh masks and opulent dresses. Director Tarsem Singh crafts mises en scène that directly reference the 1969 Armenian art film The Colour of Pomegranates alongside other striking classics from Federico Fellini and Alejandro Jodorowsky. But watch long enough and all the head-scratching symbology slips away, revealing a twist ending that should probably come with a trigger warning.
2. SZA: “Hit Different” [ft. Ty Dolla $ign]
Leave it to SZA to turn a junkyard into a sumptuous backdrop for dazzling seven-person choreography. The self-directed clip for “Hit Different,” her first solo single in three years, features staggering wide shots of the singer dancing in front of mountains of crushed cars, singing astride a pommel horse with regal wooden beads in her hair, and lounging atop steep bales of hay. In the most striking moment, SZA is seen sitting among a group of white animals and then vibing in an open field, all while smeared in bright red blood. It’s an unsettling image, Biblical and surreal at once.
1. Rico Nasty: “Own It”
Director: Philippa Price
When it comes to pulling off decadent, eccentric looks, Rico Nasty remains in a league of her own. For the swaggering “Own It,” her best video yet, she struts through a series of eye-popping sets, each one more stylishly freakish than the next. Pushing a stroller of ducklings while wearing acrylics and a neon gimp mask with icicles sticking out of it? Sure. Swaying on a swing set strung up with taxidermied opossums? Of course. Did I mention the dangling eyebrow piercings and inexplicable, oversized feet? Each visual oddity bears out Rico’s over-the-top vision with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, making the video as delightful as it is bizarre.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork