Opening with a touching monologue from the mother of late rapper Mac Dre, “The Motto” made YOLO (“You Only Live Once”) a mantra and rallying cry for seemingly everyone on the planet for about three weeks (Zac Efron even got it tattooed on his hand). The video makes a case for living life to the fullest, which for the YMCMB crew means late-night cruising in sports cars, mean mugging with E-40 and rapping about swimming from a woman’s (ahem) front to back.
British electro-pop chanteuse Ellie Goulding didn’t conquer America in a day. Her Billboard Pop Chart victory was won over a 15-month campaign thanks to the otherworldly beauty of “Lights.” But how do you shake your moneymaker to a subdued dance track? In the music video, Goulding herself demonstrates the proper technique for moving your hips to a pop song that’s as much a folk ballad as a club rager. Try to watch it and not fall in love with her slick moves.
New York indie rockers fun. brought the big guns to this party. A-list video director Marc Klasfeld (Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night," Jay-Z's "Girls, Girls, Girls") shot an epic slo-mo flash mob food fight complete with flying plants, a Janelle Monae cameo, and a katana-wielding kid living out a live-action Fruit Ninja fantasy.
“Somebody That I Used to Know” is not only one of the best videos of the year, it’s arguably one of the best vids of all time. If you are capable of watching Gotye and Kimbra without feeling sucker-punched by their intense chemistry and the song's tale of love and loss, you might be a robot. The moment New Zealand’s pop princess Kimbra turns her head to answer her former love’s claims, you know this is no one-sided affair. Also...some of us find Gotye's hipbones hot. (Don't judge!)
World, why are you so cruel?! Life is just not fair for Gym Class Heroes' Travie McCoy and on-screen lover Neon Hitch in their video for "Ass Back Home." The surprisingly touching video from the New York-based rock/hip hop outfit delves into the loneliness of being on the road. And you know it's true loneliness when your adorable French Bulldog can't even pull you out of your funk.
In the best use of panning-through-adjacent rooms since Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” J. Cole and Missy Elliott rap/sing about love and imperfections in Elliott’s first video appearance in years. Colin Tilley (Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now,” 50 Cent’s “Girls Go Wild”) juxtaposes images of dead fish and voluptuous women hopping off boats with the duo in quasi-futuristic gear—Missy’s studded leather the obvious highlight —among yellow beams of light. The video, shot in Los Angeles, was the fourth one for Cole off his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story.
Watching Canadian heartthrob Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” for the first time is like realizing your best friend’s kid brother has suddenly become totally hot and totally legal. With the help of Motor City rapper Big Sean, Biebs sheds his tween skin, stating to the world (and Michael Madsen) that he is, and always will be, a supremely talented force to be reckoned with. Justin Timberlake, while you were sleeping, another stone fox moved into town.
"Mercy" was the best and biggest rap song of the summer. The Cruel Summer standout track is a sort of pop masterpiece, with a hypnotic beat and a star-making verse by Atlanta-rapper 2 Chainz. As good as the song is, the video is somehow better. Filmed in what seems like one continuous shot, the clip, directed by Australian director Nabil Elderkin (he also directed Frank Ocean's mindmelting "Pyramids"), features all sorts of visual gimmickry: rappers appear behind themselves (look there's Big Sean in a turban! And there he is again, at the same time!). The cinematographic trickery is all the more effective because it looks so simple.
"Girl, we've all been there. You deserve better than that two-timing douchebag!" This is the inner dialogue that accompanies the video for "Broken Hearted" by Karmin, the pop darlings of YouTube fame. Unlike real-life where she's happily engaged to the second-half of the duo, our leading lady is stuck waiting around for a call, or text, or anything, damn it! After watching this video, you'll be able to identify more with this white girl who can rap the sh-t out of some Chris Brown.
A post-Russell-Brand-divorce anthem of self-worth, "Part of Me" stars Perry playing a simpleton (driving a Volvo!) with a philandering boyfriend, who she dumps in dramatic fashion at his office. Then, of course, she cuts off her locks and joins the Few, the Proud, the Marines. Next she’s at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA, for boot camp (Demi has nothing on her!) and heading into combat on a helicopter, surrounded by real actual service men and women (no actors here!). So what do we learn? 1) Perry looks hot in camouflage 2) Green and brown face paint can double as makeup and 3) Never, ever mess with Katy when she’s brandishing an assault rifle fixed with a bayonet.
The original American Idol is back to her empowering ways! “Stronger” is an anthem for the ages and the video's choreographed dance moves became a meme for the masses. When the Texas native sings the refrain -- "What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger" -- it’s hard not to believe her. It’s Kelly Clarkson, she’s been there. She knows. And suddenly the days daunting tasks seem totally crushable and your ex totally forgettable…all together now, so long sucker!
It’s the video that helped Linkin Park become the first rock band to break one billion YouTube and Vevo views. Directed by LP DJ Joe Hahn, “Burn It Down” takes the classic live performance treatment into the future. The Los Angeles metal band look like they’re ripping through the Living Things single on the mothership from The Matrix. Surrounded by tangles of wires, cables and data-stream-like-things, the band members can stop time and seem to light up, like their DNA is electric (or something). Oh, just watch. Maybe you'll be viewer 1,000,000,001.
No auto-tune. No shiny toys. And no manufactured, photoshopped sex appeal. Yet the pop world can't take their eyes off these four British dudes dressed like they could be Leo's buds in Titanic. Their video for "I Will Wait," the first single off new album, Babel, is another nod to their raw and honest approach. Recorded live, in one take, in a venue that's so organic its walls are literally made of rock - it's a foot stomping, good old fashioned middle-finger-to-the-norm sing-along.
Neon Trees pay tribute to the grindhouse movies and drive-in theaters of yesteryear in “Everybody Talks.” The music video marvelously fuses the catchy pop song to the band's electrifying rock personality and performance style. Now, if only the movie playing in the music video, Zombie Bikers From Hell, was a real film.
Ne-Yo's going to love you until you learn to love yourself, and that apparently includes a dubstep breakdown and some seriously fancy footwork. We had no idea the Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter had moves like this. More importantly, why were you hiding that six-pack from us, Ne-Yo?
Directed by Anthony Mandler, who previously helmed Rihanna's "Man Down" and multiple videos for Drake, Nicki Minaj’s "Starships" opens with people more beautiful than us lounging in exotic places we'll never visit. Like some reverse Island of Dr. Moreau, everyone on our video island is flawless, with a bikini-clad Nicki arriving and turning the entire island into a giant, hedonistic, paint- and fire-filled beach party. And, keeping in line with the song title and all, aliens show up. ‘Cause that’s just how Minaj rolls these days.
In No Doubt’s Sophie Muller-helmed clip for “Settle Down” (her 9th for the band) Gwen & the boys get behind the wheels of 18-wheelers. Muller told Rolling Stone, “they are all driving to meet after having had their separate lives over the last 10 years” and the reunion includes moshing in the back of a semi, line-dancing and a super-cute group reunion hug. Best moment? When one of Gwen’s Harajuku Girls (remember them?) peeks out with a look on her face like, “Where the hell am I?”
Missing the Lord of the Rings? Want another mythological phantasmagoria packed with toothy monsters, gentle guiding spirits, and small people on a quest? Yeah, we do too. This aptly-named Icelandic sextet's Edward Sharp horns and Arcade Fire accordion sound got the indie-folk world buzzing, but the video for "Little Talks" lit up imaginations everywhere.
The world will never tire of its boy bands. Case in point: One Direction's delightfully saccharin debut video, featuring all five boys frolicking on the beach, has over 250 million YouTube views. The single spent 13 consecutive weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 top ten.
For her first video since 2010's "Glitter in the Air," P!nk skillfully plans her comeback as she exacts revenge at the end of her black-and-white film noir -- she covers everyone in pink paint at her ex's wedding while she rides off into the distance with a new (and hotter) dude. P!nk FTW, as always.
The Korean party banger America never knew it needed. “Gangnam Style” seemed like just another viral video craze at first, but the K-pop track soon defied all expectations by exploding into a genuine mainstream phenomenon and No. 2 chart hit. That success has plenty to do with the video itself, a send-up of materialistic snobs that requires no translation to be legitimately hilarious. Well, that and the whole horse dance thing. That inspired absurdity certainly didn’t hurt.
The fifth single from Talk that Talk finds Rihanna getting deeper into the choreography and costumes than ever before. The elaborate video, directed by Dave Meyers (Justin Bieber’s “Somebody to Love,” Katy Perry’s “Firework”), places RiRi in various locales (and states of dress), including a hut in Africa and desert in Egypt. Our favorite part? Rihanna, in full house diva belting mode, getting all multiple-limbed like some Hindu goddess.
This ain't your mama's Taylor Swift. For the first single off of her fourth studio album Red, a much sassier T. Swift ditched the Kleenex for a celebratory dance party in honor of her latest breakup. Directed by Declan Whitebloom (who also directed her "Mean" and "Ours" videos), "Never Ever" was impressively shot in one take.
For those who appreciate their boy bands a little more experienced, The Wanted's hedonistic second video from their album Battleground is here for you. Featuring one of the catchiest synth hooks we've ever heard and several shirtless scenes, it's no wonder the Ibiza-shot video has garnered more than 56 million YouTube views.
If you haven't contributed to one of the 60 million views of Train's "Drive By," get your Snuggie and wine (preferably the charity-benefitting kind sold by Train) in hand before you press play. Like many Lifetime movies (and other Train videos) before it, you'll tell you're friends that you're so above the cheesy romance, but deep down you're waiting for a Pat Monahan to come into your life and sweep you off your feet and into a pile of stomped grapes.
R&B lothario Trey Songz is usually the one who sends girls into convulsive fits, but in the Benny Boom-directed video for “Heart Attack,” Mr. Songz lays on a stretcher getting the defibrillator after a car accident with on-screen girlfriend Kelly Rowland. Recorded as a flashback, the video, shot over Easter weekend, details the ups and downs of Trey and Kelly’s relationship. Main takeaway? Don’t fight and drive or you’ll end up shirtless and singing. Lesson learned.
Cash Money’s Tyga is one of the freshest names in the game and “Rack City” is one of the catchiest joints around. It’s nearly impossible to hear the California native's jam (even a small snippet) and not repeat the chorus for the next three days. The lyrics get stuck in your head, infiltrating your conversation. Sh-t, even reading the song title starts a little something in yo’ head. Admit it, you totally just started repeating "rack city b-tch, rack, rack city b-tch…"
For the Max Martin-produced hit “Scream,” Usher turned to directing duo BBGUN (Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight,” The Roots’ “How I Got Over”). The ambitious clip mixes Usher’s trademark dance moves with footage from his one-night-only appearance in Fuerza Bruta -- a 360-degree, postmodern theater show in New York City combining dance, acrobatics and aerial stunts.