Ever since OK Go revitalized the music video with their dance of the treadmills, it's become a race to see who will become the next viral rock stars. Most of this year's most intriguing offerings (with a couple exceptions) achieved their greatness through visual innovation, whether via awesome computer-generated special effects or lo-tech trompe l'oeil trickery. Here are Spinner's Top 10 Music Videos of 2010.
10. 'Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass,' !!!
It's a house party gone askew -- both adorable and lewd at the same time. Warp Films' 23-year-old director Saman Keshavarz helmed the frenetic video, which resembles a '70s Hollywood porn set if everyone was a music nerd and into gardening. !!! lead singer Nic Offer pursues a pretty gal through labyrinthine halls and paper doorways. There's a quick dip in the pool, some excellent dweeby dancing and, of course, a couple of very randy flowers.
9. 'Check It Out,' Nicki Minaj and Will.i.am
Damn, that Will.i.am can craft a catchy tune. This irresistible pop trifle is flashy and futuristic in that vaguely Asian pop style that's so commonly fetishized in American music vids. Meanwhile, clever technical wizardry hurtles multiple dancers through space. But it's Nicki Minaj's unique starpower that really makes this video stand out. Making faces and doing the Robot in her day-glo wigs and spacey ensembles, she's the freshest thing in hip-hop today.
8. 'Kill Your Co-Workers,' Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus' low-poly animated video was created by a guy named Beeple (born Mike Winklemann) and features a parade of robots walking through the streets and killing people along the way (who all seem to take it quite good-naturedly). It's gorgeous in an old-school, hand-drawn sort of way, and the style matches 'Kill Your Co-Workers' sprightly, off-kilter blips and bleeps perfectly. Mass slaughter has never been so cute.
7. 'Telephone,' Lady Gaga and Beyoncé
Despite the rampant product placement, this big-budget confection is stunning -- all brilliant colour and crisp cinematography. Plus, it's a match made in pop star heaven: Lady Gaga cavorts through her jailhouse fantasy like an oversexed cyborg, and Beyoncé is pleasingly edgy for a change. It's a decadent mix of high camp and high art, reminiscent of the multi-million-dollar productions that have (almost) become a thing of the past.
6. 'Difficult,' Uffie
This clip by tres cool French production outfit AB/CD/CD is reminiscent of Kylie Minogue's doppelgänger masterpiece 'Come Into My World.' It's set in one section of a high school hallway that Uffie seems fated to enter again and again. But as the pint-sized rapper/singer strides through repeatedly, the action inside changes in numerous witty ways. Sometimes it's just a hairstyle, and sometimes it's gravity that takes a beating.
5. 'Cold War,' Janelle Monae
Sometimes less is more. The success of this video hangs entirely on the quirky R&B diva's expressive face, which is shot in close-up, all in one magnetic take. Evoking Sinead O'Connor's classic 'Nothing Compares 2 U' and D'Angelo's 'Untitled,' it's refreshing to see an artist like Janelle Monae get so worked up about her own song that she can't control her emotions.
4. 'The Suburbs,' Arcade Fire
Your favorite Montreal indie rockers are on a roll. Arcade Fire reinvented the music video earlier this year with the nostalgic interactive experience 'We Used To Wait/The Wilderness Downtown,' and now they've teamed up with music video auteur Spike Jonze to create a more disturbing portrait of youth in suburbia. This apocalyptic vision combines lazy bike-riding days with police presence and brutal beatdowns.
3. 'Power,' Kanye West
His mini-movie for 'Runaway' may be getting all the attention right now, but this brief and dazzling clip was the first kick-ass indication that Kanye was back and ready to rumble. The song soars, and the video, directed by Marco Brambilla, features a tableau of robed figures, styled like mythical goddesses, hovering around a glowing-eyed Kanye, who wears a pendant of Horus around his neck. Let's hope 2011 brings an expanded version.
2. 'This Too Shall Pass,' OK Go
The new godfathers of the viral music video, OK Go consistently create clips that dazzle and delight, requiring repeat viewings and mandatory re-tweeting. Here, the band enlists L.A. engineering collective Synn Labs to create an intricate Rube Goldberg-style machine. Shot with one camera in one take, it's a rare instance where art, physics and humour combine to create a straight-up brilliant viewing experience.
1. 'Americanarama,' Hollerado
The striking clip seems lo-tech at first: the band members play their instruments in front of a team of people in 'Celebrity Squares' format. But by using a bunch of coloured cards, perspective tricks and super speed, they achieve spectacular "How'd they do that?" special effects in one long take. Did anyone know who Hollerado were before this viral smash? Maybe not, but that is exactly what the future of the music video medium is all about.