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The 18 Best Music Videos of 2016 (So Far): From Rihanna To Twenty One Pilots

See our picks for the most memorable visuals that made an impact over the past six months, including Rihanna, Halsey & more

1 / 18

Twenty One Pilots, "Heathens"

Twenty One Pilots, the dynamic duo of frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, they just seem like really sweet guys. They were raised in an Ohio suburb in really religious families; it's a total wonder and delight they grew up to be such complete weirdos. They truly let their freak flags wave in the visual for "Heathens," a song written for Suicide Squad but one they manage to make completely their own. Watch it above and see what we mean. After that, take this quiz to see which member suits you.Maria Sherman

2 / 18

Rihanna, "Work"

Instead giving us a standard video for "Work," Rihanna decided to make things interesting by dropping a two-in-one. In the first clip, helmed by Director X, the singer took it back to the mid-'00s when dancehall artists like Elephant Man and Sean Paul were running the scene. Rih brings her Bad Gal persona to life as she grinds on Drake in a steamy bashment setting. The second video (shot by Tim Erem) is less sweaty, still sexy and a lot more intimate. The two artists, who have been teasing their fling for years, are seen winking, grooving and flirting with each other under flourescent lights. Whichever one you prefer, they both prove that sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to go.Bianca Gracie

3 / 18

Melanie Martinez, "Cry Baby"

Melanie Martinez toes the line between cute and creepy in her "Cry Baby" video, which dropped in March. With a bad mom who loves to drink and a baby who can't help but cry, the plot of the vid is about a parental relationship gone bad. The key with Martinez's visuals is that, yes, there are lots of colors, but they're all subdued to a grayed pastel, showing that something's off kilter in her eerie story. The coolest part of the video takes the "crying" aspect very literally and drowns her in tears as her nursery fills up with water.—Emilee Lindner

4 / 18

Shura, "What's It Gonna Be?"

U.K. newcomer Shura has created a lane for herself that involves a brilliant twist on '80s New Wave and a relatable "uncool" coolness, which translates in her music videos. "What's It Gonna Be?" is her best one yet, as it depicts blissful (and sexually fluid) teenage love. It plays on iconic '80s John Hughes films, with Shura and her twin brother helping each other obtain their relative crush's attention. The video shows stereotypical high school characters like The Jock, The Popular Girl and The Dork. But the beauty of it all is that, toward the end of the video, they don't end up being with the person you'd expect. How's that for breaking societal standards?—Bianca Gracie

5 / 18

Kendrick Lamar, "God is Gangsta"

K-Dot celebrated New Year's with a twitchy, seven-minute baptism-by-booze, a spooky visual that encapsulated To Pimp a Butterfly's pained "u" and the melodic "For Sale." The bar was already almost unreachably high with the videos for "King Kunta," "Alright," "For Free? (Interlude)" and "These Walls," but "God Is Gangsta" reached it with ease. Can we get To Pimp a Butterfly: The Movie already?Zach Dionne

6 / 18

Usher ft. Nas & Bibi Bourelly, "Chains"

“While racial injustice keeps killing, society keeps looking away,” the intro to the “Chains” video reads; the message is followed by harrowing stories of non-white youths taken from this world far too soon. Instead of highlighting the style of “Chains,” Usher smartly showcased its substance, and spoke for those who cannot.Jason Lipshutz

7 / 18

Halsey, "Colors"

All of Halsey's videos are visually stunning, but we gotta give bonus points to "Colors." Not only does pop-punk prince and Teen Wolf heartthrob Tyler Posey star in the clip, but there's a surprise twist which will have you questioning the song's narrative arc. It's rare for an artist to get it this right on this many levels.—Maria Sherman

8 / 18

Beyoncé, "Sorry"

After Beyoncé dropped the life-changing visual to Lemonade in April, "Sorry" became the immediate breakout hit, and soon, the black-and-white video was scooped out to stand on its own. With Serena Williams dancing fiercely and the infamous "Becky with the good hair" line, the clip easily slips into viral territory. But it's not its virality that's so important. "Sorry" represents the apathetic part of Lemonade, in which Bey struggles with her husband's infidelity, falls apart and comes back more whole that ever. "Sorry" emphasizes natural human emotions and puts it all out there: recklessness, revenge, jealousy, helplessness.—Emilee Lindner

9 / 18

D∆WN, "Wake Up"

Most music fans would agree D∆WN has been consistently killing it on the singles front, but you shouldn't be sleeping on her visuals either. Her "Wake Up" video is labeled as "A Fashion Film," but there's way more going on here than cool clothes. The stunning visual feels like a testament to the alt-pop girl's unique artistry as she dons phoenix-like wings in one scene—likely marking a metaphor to her career of reinvention. Furthermore, she showcases her confidence and power while rocking bedazzled bullhorns, showcasing loads of skin while leading an intense dance troupe. D∆WN is only growing more confident and ambitious as an artist and this video is a visual confirmation of that.—Jeff Benjamin

10 / 18

David Bowie, "Lazarus"

Published to YouTube just three days before Bowie’s shocking death“Lazarus” was always going to be an emotional watch after January 10…but the prophetic lyrics, the haunting settings and the sight of David triumphantly rising up from his bed toward the heavens is almost too much for a longtime fan to bear. This is how you end an unparalleled career.—Jason Lipshutz

11 / 18

Grimes, "Kill V. Maim"

The Canadian singer/songwriter/producer/guiding light and directors Claire and Mac Boucher may have thrown every single shred of their imaginations into this one. It's got too many effects and looks and superimposed doodles to possibly keep track of, including a blood-soaked dance party, a floor-pounding sesh in an empty subway station and a car scene that dropped acid after escaping Mad Max: Fury Road. Late in the clip, Grimes sports an all-black angel getup with glittering gold claws, easily the best outfit Beyoncé never got her hands on.—Zach Dionne

12 / 18

Beyoncé, "Formation"

In 2016, us black people are more pissed off and frustrated than ever. Frustrated that we are being killed for simple acts like walking down the street, for receiving backlash when we unapologetically voice our pride as a community, for our culture constantly being white-washed without accreditation and for still not being regarded as equals in society—and Beyoncé heard our cries. In her boldest career move yet, she surprise-released the "Formation" video ahead of her co-headlining Super Bowl halftime show.

Directed by frequent collaborator Melina Matsoukas ("Upgrade U, "Diva", "Pretty Hurts"), the video finds Beyoncé placing all of these things to the forefront. From her being dressed as a 19th-century Southern woman to the inclusion of New Orleans figures like Big Freedia and Messy Mya, the #BlackLivesMatter message was clear. The references to Hurricane Katrina and police brutality made for an even more honest representation on how black people are being treated in America. 

Naturally, Bey's video and Super Bowl performance (which was a nod to the Black Panther movement) led to controversy and even boycotts. But like she says in the video, "You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation."—Bianca Gracie

13 / 18

4Minute, "Hate"

"Hate" will likely be 4Minute's last music video ever as the K-pop phenoms announced their disbandment earlier this year—but at least they're ending on an extremely high note. The Skrillex-produced track is one of the most spastic singles of 2016, but the accompanying music video keeps a consistent color scheme or strong reds, blacks and whites as the girls move from gothic-inspired fashion to comfy jumpers. It's one of the year's strongest visual moments and will certainly make a lasting statement for the act’s ultimately legacy.Jeff Benjamin

14 / 18

Schoolboy Q & Kanye West, "THat Part"

When a hip-hop video formula works, don't fix it! SchoolBoy Q adheres to the standard visual setting for "THat Part," but takes it to a supremely wavy level. A slew of bad bitches twerking in a school bus (and on a pole) is intertwined with Kanye West portraying his best weirdo rich rapper front as he wanders around his empty mansion. The end result deserves endless fire emojis.—Bianca Gracie

15 / 18

Years & Years ft. Tove Lo, "Desire"

Initial reported stories on Years & Years' new "Desire" video with Tove Lo called the visual "sexy," "powerful" and "revolutionary," but if you took your viewing just a step further, you’d realize there was way more being embraced here than just flashy sex. Y&Y's frontman Olly Alexander called out the media for deeming the visual atypical and progressive simply for showcasing queer individuals in the same sexy lighting that heterosexual singers have been for years. If anything, "Desire" stands out for the message it's not trying to make.—Jeff Benjamin

16 / 18

Jennifer Lopez, "Ain't Your Mama"

J.Lo's video for "Ain't Your Mama," an anthem for any woman who's had enough, spans the ages. Lopez takes us on a journey through decades of oppressed females, dressing herself in '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s fashions as she mimes out different frustrating situations. She's empowering others to stand up for themselves and refuse to do anyone's dirty work. And it wouldn't be a Jennifer video without a big dance number, so in the end, J.Lo straps on Rihanna's blue boots and takes her troupe to the streets to groove it out.—Emilee Lindner

17 / 18

Rae Sremmurd, "By Chance"

You might've thought Rae Sremmurd were Getting Serious when you first heard them dial down the rambunctiousness for the excellent "By Chance." The video cleared things up, showing us all exactly how much fun the Mississippi brothers are having with their second act. In 2016, it's not easy to make a great hip-hop video using old-hat hip-hop video tropes, but as soon as you throw in pineapples, goofy dance routines and matching leopard umbrella/jacket ensembles, you've suddenly got an essential viewing experience.—Zach Dionne

18 / 18

Troye Sivan, "Youth"

When, in the middle of the beautifully pansexual party of the “Youth” videoTroye Sivan pulls a baseball cap that reads MAKE AMERICA GAY AGAIN over his face and then lets out a loving chuckle as he removes it, we have a moment that directly battles the toxicity that permeates our everyday lives and 2016 news cycle.—Jason Lipshutz

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