Two years after the world unexpectedly shut down, the period of isolation has proven that people need music more than ever before. As music festivals and tour announcements powered through our changing world, there had to be a healthy supply of music to meet such a powerful demand. 2022 delivered.
While someone (ahem: Beyoncé) didn’t bless us with visuals this year, that doesn’t mean there was a shortage of videos to hold us over. FKA Twigs channeled cozy lo-fi vibes to go along with a current nostalgia kick taking over almost every industry. Taylor Swift, as usual, gave fans the complete Midnights experience and ruffled some feathers along the way. Other musicians, such as Kendrick Lamar and Björk, dazzled with brilliant cinematography and concepts.
While so much music came out this year, there’s only so much that can be represented across countless year-end lists. PAPER continues to be a source of the new, the alternative, the strange and the groundbreaking. Check out our staff picks for music videos of the year below.
Related | PAPER's Favorite Albums of 2022
Demi Lovato — "Substance"
After wrestling with expectations to make music for the charts, Demi Lovato returned to their pop-punk roots for her 2022 album, Holy Fvck — and she sounds more comfortable than ever in its symphony of angsty electric guitars. Buzz single “Substance” introduced the new era with a SSION-directed music video that played up the genre’s reputation for chaos without cause. People are pied in the face, Demi shakes up a boardroom of stuffy old men and an ’80s anti-drug campaign gets revived for a new generation of rebels. To cap off the explosion of pop culture references, Paris Hilton herself makes a surprise appearance on the back of a motorcycle amidst paparazzi flashes.
— Justin Moran, Editor-in-Chief
Tove Lo — "No One Dies From Love"
My summer anthem’s video treatment is pure art. AI robots, sexy workout choreo, ‘70s utopia visuals? I love a concept! If your soul also got ripped out seeing Annie 3000 with a cake just standing there as Tove finds someone else — then we are the same.
— Mario Abad, Fashion Editor
Related | Tove Lo: No Sleep, Just Rendezvous
Björk — "Atopos"
In the months since the announcement of her latest album, Björk has released three of the most stunning music videos of the year, and choosing just between those (not to mention all the other excellent videos from the year) is quite a task. But “Atopos,” the first release of the set, ushered in this new Björk era with unsubdued, oboe-heavy joy, an ideal entrance into the world of Fossora. The sassy finger-wag will get me every time.
— Matt Wille, Managing Editor
ZelooperZ — "Each and Every Moment"
Zelooperz is pure magic. Like an alien crash-landing on Earth, the Detroit native raps like he has no frame of reference, carving out his own niche and making himself one of the most fascinating and brilliant rappers of the past decade. 2022 was a particularly successful year for the Bruiser Brigade member, and while he didn’t drop a full project, he blessed the fans with some delightfully weird visuals. “Each and Every Moment” proves another heart-pounding Zelooperz joint, as he dances over a booming beat that would fit well in a high-speed car chase, and the Cylent-directed video only adds to his auditory paranoia. His head grows out of a flower pot and he soars through the sky like the most swagged-out superhero to ever exist. He even dons a lab coat to dissect some brains and pays homage to The Big Comfy Couch’s iconic body clock. Zelooperz doesn’t have to make complete sense, and that’s what makes him special. Let your brain fill in the rest.
— Jade Gomez, News Editor
Vegyn & Danny L. Harle — "Britnaeys new baby (125 BPM)"
In a soft focus and slow frame rate, Joshua Gordon captures a moment of personal intimacy without falling victim to voyuerism. On the foggy rooftop of an undisclosed city, it-girl Ebon Trower giggles and spins, practicing her vogue hands and death drops in a soft pink Juicy Couture sweatsuit. With glitchy elegance, she tiptoes across the roof’s loose wires and dust-covered puddles, picking herself up and dusting herself off along the way.
Movement and music working in tandem, “Britnaeys new baby” is tentative and kind, soft and expressive. Trower’s wavering hands convey the bravery in vulnerability and imbue a dreary day with sweet, simple magic. Before the video’s abrupt end, Trower turns to the camera for the first time, flashing a smile as if to a lover in a crowded room.
After my first time watching this video, all I could think was “this is the sweetest thing,” turning its sentiment over mentally for days (if I’m honest, months) thereafter. I still think of this video and that phrase under the low-hanging embrace of the sun behind a foggy sky.
— Kenna McCafferty, Writer
Grimes — "Shinigami Eyes"
The manga-inspired “Shinigami Eyes” video is glittering, chromatic, lush and obsessive. In all honesty, the song is... fine... and serves its purpose as the thumping, glitching, synth-churning acoustic backdrop for this expertly produced video. I don’t think Grimes would even mind this assessment, she seems to be straying further from the confinements of “futuristic dance-pop artist” and more toward... something else. This AI cyber-love story and kaleidoscopic masterpiece proves that her process is more far-reaching and space-bound than just music. With cameos from BLACKPINK’s Jennie, Dorian Electra and Ryon Wu and a loosely based Death Note storyline, the “Shinigami Eyes” video is electrifying, meticulously detailed and, of course, super-duper strange.
— Alessandra Schade, Editorial Assistant
Fever Ray — "What They Call Us"
There’s probably nobody that was more ready for Fever Ray’s return than me — and thankfully they did not disappoint. Navigating the dismal depths of a gray office as a dead-eyed drone drowning in paperwork, “What They Call Us” finds the horror in the crushing banality of workplace culture. Tapping into queer anxieties with a mounting sense of paranoia as they ominously asks, “Did you hear what they call us?/ Did you hear what they said?”, the video sees Fever Ray navigate a mundane minefield of heteronormativity they attempts to pass under the radar from her forgettable co-workers. The visual ultimately culminates in a retirement party that looks like it could be the waiting room for purgatory, with visions of a glittery strip club flashing in between shots, a tantalizing taste of hedonism hidden among the monotony. Leave it to Fever Ray to make a 9-to-5 look queer, edgy and subversive.
— Matt Moen, Writer
MAVI — "Doves"
MAVI had one of the best rap albums of the year with his heart-bearing sophomore album, Laughing So Hard It Hurts. The Charlotte, North Carolina rapper reaches out to his past and future in an attempt to heal and prepare for the weight of adulthood. In the emotional Lonewolf-directed video for “Doves,” the stunning visual features so many details that enhance MAVI's heartfelt lyricism. Light shines down into the attic, illuminating the dust that swirls in the air. The wooden floors echo a sense of familiarity from hearing the sound to feeling the splinters. The little boy crawls underneath the dining room table that at one point felt like a massive, secret kingdom. Old wicker chairs have holes that seem like they've always existed. MAVI and Lonewolf capture the familiarity and comfort of childhood innocence, showing that curiosity and wonder don’t always have to be lost within the sands of time.
— Jade Gomez, News Editor
Yung Lean ft. FKA Twigs — "Bliss"
The white horse and the getaway car – “Bliss” was the collab of the year. The song itself stretches a new muscle for both out-of-the-box singers, trying on a punky sound to play up their bratty bridal party. Wedding the distinct visual worlds of Yung Lean and FKA twigs (i.e., Yung Lean in a purple V-neck next to Twigs in a bouffant wedding dress), the music video, directed by UK favorite Aidan Zamiri, is timeless.Camcorder-style videos capture backseat footage while drones swirl overhead, the fast-paced video feeling equal parts Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise. Unclear whether they’re saved, spiraling or an unholy matrimony of the two, “Bliss” reeks of burned rubber and Black Opium, teasing out the space between romance and delirium as Twigs squeals: “Bliss on/ Bliss on/ Bliss on” and tires screech.
(+ Bonus points for the "Dilemma" Excel text reference.)
— Kenna McCafferty, Writer
Yeah Yeah Yeahs (ft. Perfume Genius) — "Spitting Off the Edge of the World"
— James Krolewski, Social Media Editor
Enumclaw — "Jimmy Neutron"
Enumclaw has emerged as one of the best bands of the year. Their slack-jawed indie leanings take upon the rich musical history of their Washington surroundings, armed with honesty and passion. For their long-awaited debut Save The Baby, they also released “Jimmy Neutron” alongside a heart-wrenching video directed by John C. Peterson that shows frontman Aramis Johnson traversing the gorgeous endlessness of Washington’s tree-lined roads, clutching a faceless woman tight like a last goodbye or an emotional reunion, returning to an empty home and coming to terms with a relationship-ending fight. “Every time I get close to you/ I start to panic,” Johnson sings as he surveys the debris of a love too good to be true. With a series of simple vignettes, we see that pain unfold.
— Jade Gomez, News Editor
Photos via Getty
- Tove Lo Grapples With Her Eating Disorder in 'Grapefruit' Music Video ›
- Tove Lo: No Sleep, Just Rendezvous ›
- Tove Lo Pushes Pop To Its Climax ›
- Zelooperz Finds Discomfort in the Familiar on "Whitney Hueston" ›
- Fever Ray and Director Martin Falck Share BTS "Kandy" Photos ›