01. Taylor Swift – You Need To Calm Down
While “You Need to Calm Down” has been fairly criticized for centralizing Swift in the fight for LGBTQ rights, there’s something to be said for the world’s biggest pop star taking such a strong and explicit stand.
The video enlists an army of queer celebrities, from Katy Perry, Laverne Cox and Ellen DeGeneres to the stars of “Queer Eye”— which certainly helps to mitigate the accusations of self-interest — to celebrate same-sex marriage and colorfully condemn homophobia.
02. Beyoncé – SPIRIT (From Disney’s “The Lion King”)
The video was partially intended to promote Disney’s “The Lion King.”
Although “Spirit’s” inextricable connection to Disney’s “The Lion King”may have slightly stunted Beyoncé’s creative expression, she more than made it up with unreasonably high glamour, inimitable choreography, and rich cultural references.
03. Billie Eilish – Bury a friend
“Most conventional pop music videos aim to be dream-like escapes from the natural horrors of the outside world… but then, Billie Eilish doesn’t make conventional pop music,” Billboard’s Stephen Daw writes of the “spine-chilling” video for “Bury a Friend,” which leans heavily on horrific imagery.
“Is it a visual representation of sleep paralysis? Is it a metaphor for the fear of loneliness?” Daw continued. “When you find yourself asking these questions about a music video, you know the artist has clearly done something right.”
04. Miley Cyrus – Mother’s Daughter
It’s extremely difficult to make a music video that’s at once political, artistic, visually dazzling, seductive, scary, and totally inclusive. Think: “Wrecking Ball,” but make it ultra-feminist.
Aside from the genius styling and gorgeous direction, the real triumph of Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter” video is how it highlights a wide variety of people — Little Miss Flint, a woman with a C-section scar, and trans models, for example — who might connect with the song’s message of empowerment and freedom.
The video doesn’t treat its participants as afterthoughts, but rather allows the camera to linger on them and relishes in their presence.
05. Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – Señorita
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello have been steaming up the summer thanks to their chart-topping duet, “Señorita,” not to mention its super-smoldering accompanying video. The pair has also been sparking romance rumors as they’ve been spotted together doing everything from sipping coffee to kissing; Camila even professed her love for Shawn to celebrate his 21st birthday, calling him a “magic human.”
Whether or not they’re actually dating, there’s no doubting the palpable chemistry between Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello in the video for “Señorita.”
06. Jonas Brothers – Sucker
As it’s the Jonas Brothers’ official comeback video, “Sucker” was destined to be beloved by fans, but the band didn’t simply deliver on more shots of Joe looking pained while singing directly to camera. The band didn’t lean on tried-and-true formulas and visuals. They delivered a glamorous, hilarious, delightfully bizarre, and visually stunning fever dream.
The brothers smartly allowed their wives to steal the show. The video gives fans a tantalizing peek into the dynamics of Kevin, Joe, and Nick’s relationships — with Danielle Jonas, Sophie Turner, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, respectively — but in a totally surreal and aspirational setting. With “Sucker,” Jonas became less of a name and more of an empire.
07. Billie Eilish – Bad guy
“Bad Guy” puts Billie Eilish’s undeniable charm on full display. Surrounded by vibrant colors and surreal imagery, the blue-haired pop star is both warm and standoffish, both youthfully joyful and starkly intimidating — not so much sliding between extremes and binaries as she is rejecting them completely.
08. Ariana Grande – 7 rings
“7 Rings” earmarked a triumphant new direction for Ariana Grande. After the unmitigated success of “Thank U, Next,” she strutted into a pink trap house doused in crystals and champagne to unabashedly congratulate herself. And rather than coming across as spoiled and rude, “7 Rings” feels earned — though detractors have made some valid points about its reliance on black music and culture.
09. BTS – Boy With Luv feat. Halsey
“The concept behind ‘Boy With Luv’ is simple: coat BTS and Halsey in pastel colors and have them dance everywhere,” Billboard’s Kirsten Spruch writes. “It’s exactly what fans, and the rest of the world, want right now — joy so pure it has the power to turn your entire day around. Maybe that’s why it became the most-viewed 24-hour debut in YouTube history.”
10. Sam Smith – How Do You Sleep?
Sam Smith said in a statement about “How Do You Sleep?” that it feels “so free,” and it certainly shows in this clip. Coming on the heels of his recent revelations about gender, sexuality, and masculinity. Smith appears to shed all insecurities as he shimmies along with choreography by Parris Goebel (who also choreographed Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” videos, including “Sorry”).