Another year is coming to an end, which is the perfect time to look back at some of the best music videos 2021 has had to offer. Music videos have forever captured our attention. Ever since MTV hit the airwaves and artists tapped into their music’s visuals like never before, it’s been almost mandatory to put out a video that can perfectly channel a hit single’s aesthetic. Today, it’s really not too different — except you no longer have to turn on the TV to watch a music video. Nowadays, you can just pop open your computer and scroll on over to YouTube to catch your favorite artists bringing their hit songs to life.
Music videos can either solidify what you thought the song was about or totally shatter your meaning to the song. This year welcomed a ton of great music. In January, we kicked off with banger “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo and came to see Taylor Swift earn the right to her own music which led to the epic 10-minute version and a short film of “All Too Well.” Oh, and this year also welcome some great post-divorce albums like Kacey Musgraves’ Star-Crossed.
To celebrate a year filled with amazing music and accompanying videos, here are the year’s best music videos across all genres.
16. “Fallen Fruit” by Lorde
In dark contrast to Lorde’s “Solar Power” music video that portrayed sunny skies, bright blue waters, and natural beach-y vibes, “Fallen Fruit” acts as a follow up to the story, showing how humankind can impact the environment for the worse. The peaceful beach viewers seen in “Solar Power” is now gone and is littered with boats, disposed foods left by humans, and burnt villages. Lorde walks day and night through the abandoned and used land and hops into a car to start anew. In a statement released with the video, the singer said, “Humans doing as they do, getting greedy, treating the land with disrespect and stripping it of its beauty. There'll always be another pristine place to start again, right?”
15. “Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)” by Elle King and Miranda Lambert
Elle King and Miranda Lambert are in character for their “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home) music video as the pair can be seen dressed in pastel suits, big bridal gowns, and puffed-sleeved bridesmaid dresses. King said she wrote the song during a time in her life when she was consuming alcohol more often so when it came to creating the music video the goal was to “take the pressure off both her and Lambert.
14. “Meet Me At Our Spot” (Live Performance) by THE ANXIETY, Tyler Cole, and Willow
There is something so special about watching live performances of your favorite songs. And the live performance music video of “Meet Me At Our Spot” is one that makes you feel like you are actually at a concert. Although simple in its delivery, the music video is a total vibe and gives edgy and indie a new meaning with Willow’s punk rock outfit and underground scenery.
13. “Family” by Badflower
Honest, raw, and emotional are some of the words that can be used to describe Badflower’s “Family” music video. Frontman Josh Katz completely opens up on his feelings towards his family. As he sings, “I don't deserve this family/You're better off without me,” Katz’s background plays old family videos of happy, joyous memories the contrast to his current feelings of being “the hated one.” The music video is perhaps one of the most honest and bare performances of the year.
12. “Up” by Cardi B
Cardi B always brings her A-game when it comes to her wardrobe, dancing, and visuals. And in her “Up” music video, she doesn’t hold back at all. Viewers can see her wearing a wig composed of Barbie doll heads who sing parts of the song with Cardi. And who could forget the plastic two-piece, headband, and glasses she’s wearing while sitting on a clear glass table? No one. That’s exactly why “Up” is one of the best music videos of the year.
11. “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish brings to life the true essence of a girls’ night in with her “Lost Cause” music video. Eilish lets off steam with her girlfriends as she gets real about being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t put in the effort — a “Lost Cause.” And there’s no better way to dish out the details than with a group of your best friends as y’all lounge around in pajamas, eat sweets, and play games.
10. “MAMMAMIA” by Måneskin
The Italian band kickstarted their career after winning Eurovision earlier this year and were nominated for Favorite Trending Song at the American Music Awards for “Beggin.” Måneskin dropped “MAMMAMIA” in October and accompanied the release with a fun, violent, epilepsy-warning video. The music video walks viewers through the various murders frontman Damiano David endures at the hands of each of his band members. Bassist Victoria de Angelis opens the video alongside guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio and states, “He’s so f*cking annoying.” And so entails the night of events of each band member “murdering” their frontman.
9. “Simple Times” by Kacey Musgraves
In Kacey Musgraves’ “Simple Times,” she gives off Mean Girls meets Clueless vibes as she and her girl-gang, featuring You star Victoria Pedretti, rapper Princess Nokia, and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Symone, walk through a mall wearing matching outfits and colors. The video feels more like a short film than a traditional music video, and that’s because it is. “Simple Times” is taken from the singer’s Paramount Plus’ movie Star-Crossed: The Film. In her February issue of Rolling Stone, Musgraves explained Star-Crossed walks listeners through her divorce in three parts. This is probably why we see the girl-gang rob a bridal shop in the music video.
8. “Have Mercy” by Chlöe
Chlöe doesn’t hold back in her “Have Mercy” music video, where we see her claim her confidence as she portrays Medusa and can’t keep the boys away from her. In an Oct. 15 interview with Genius, the singer explained she wrote the song at a time when people were criticizing her for “showing her body” for male attention. The music video shows the singer reclaiming this narrative, proving that she knows her worth and talent — singing, dancing, and crafting unforgettable art, to name a few.
7. “Thot Sh*t” by Megan Thee Stallion
Arriving just seven months after the release of her debut album, Good News, Megan Thee Stallion dropped “Thot Sh*t,” a music video all about putting people in their place, particularly a Los Angeles congressman who “accidentally” came across the rapper’s other provocative song “WAP” and did not approve. So, the “Thot Sh*t” music video shows the Houston rapper responding to the critique by twerking on the pretend congressman’s desk and dinner table, hitting him with a garbage truck, and, oh yeah, surgically reshaping his mouth into a vaginal shape.
6. “Streets” by Doja Cat
Per usual, Doja Cat’s “Streets” was trending on TikTok well before the release of the music video. In fact, “Streets” inspired the viral silhouette TikTok challenge where users start the video off in a relaxed state, but as soon as the “Streets” beat drops the video transitions to a red filter with the user appearing in an intimate pose. Leave it to Doja Cat to take the challenge into her own hands and participate in the challenge as well. Just less than 30-seconds into the music video, we hear the beat drop and see Doja Cat appear behind a red filter — referencing the challenge. Nobody can make trend blow up like Doja Cat.
5. “Butter” by BTS
K-pop band BTS has had a huge year, from the release of their Coldplay collab “My Universe” to their hit song “Butter,” it’s no wonder the band has announced an extended break for the time being. Like any BTS music video, “Butter” is jam-packed with choreography that the band members nail perfectly. Perhaps the reason for the hype around the single is the meaning behind the lyrics, which is essentially all about how the band members are so charming and make everyone melt like butter. And after winning Artist of the Year at the 2021 American Music Awards, I’d say that sounds about right.
4. "Don't Go Yet" by Camila Cabello
Camila Cabello’s “Don’t Go Yet” is filled with bright, bold colors, sharp choreography, and extravagant outfits. The music video is set up for a fun time and highlights Cabello’s Latin roots. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, the singer said she wanted the song to reflect a family affair where she can be free. And by the looks of the music video, she accomplished just that.
3. Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" Lil Nas X
Inspired from the 2017 film Call Me by Your Name, Lil Nas X released “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" which is about the singer’s true love life. The music video shows viewers a world where everyone is accepted for who they are and no one is to be banished for how they live their life. Lil Nas X is dressed in all types of get-ups for the video, but perhaps the one outfit which turned heads most was his black thigh-high kinky boots paired with Calvin Klein underwear while sliding down a stripper pole to hell. The image gained so much attention that it earned itself a meme that you couldn’t avoid seeing on Twitter.
2. "Good 4 U" by Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo had a huge year with the release of her debut album Sour. Although the entire album is a bop, “Good 4 U” stood out due to its raw lyrics and mesmerizing music video. Mostly because Rodrigo pays tribute to various Y2K staples like the cheerleading outfit that is a replica of the outfits in 2001’s The Princess Diaries. And let’s not forget the subtle references to the 2009 horror film Jennifer’s Body when Rodrigo puts on the long black gloves and can be seen in a body of water with glowing red eyes.
1. “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift
As if any other music video could be number one. Taylor Swift put everyone in a frenzy when she dropped the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” a song that was originally released on her 2012 album Red. The song is allegedly about her three-month relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal in 2010, and despite 11 years passing since their split, Swift did anything but hold back. The video dives headfirst into the rumors by casting Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink to play, who we think, are versions of Gyllenhaal and Swift given the actor’s age differences coincides with those of Gyllenhaal and Swift in 2010. The video drops many easter eggs hinting at their relationship like the infamous scarf, O’Brien’s wardrobe in the short film, and the setting of a fall weekend in upstate New York.