2014 almost overwhelmed us with options for this year’s Best Of list. Some videos gave birth to CGI alter-egos, some served up high-voltage scene profiles, some pushed standards for animated art direction to new heights, and others just confusing the hell out of us, but surely all for the better.
Keep reading for our 20 most beloved music videos of 2014.
Arca – "Thievery"
This year, all eyes on the Internet turned to Venezuelan producer Arca’s awaited debut album on Mute, Xen, and to his trusty collaborator, Jesse Kanda. These two have a body of work together that will surely become legendary, warping and bending perception in terms of music and visuals. The music video for “Thievery” was the introduction, along with the album cover, to the concept behind Xen. Alejandro Ghersi presents his alter ego, and Kanda gives them an appearance, non-gender specific, but leaning towards the female figure. On the video, we watch Xen contort and move their enormous booty–both sexy and grotesque at the same time, and their beauty lying in the mixed feeling Xen generates in the viewers. Arca is definitely 2014’s MVP. –Cheky
Silverio – "Salón de Belleza"
All hail His Imperial Majesty, Silverio. The Mexican artist has a knack for making music videos that have little to no relation to the title of the track, or really any aspect of the track that’s being visualized (bless you, “Perro” video), and it’s all for the better. The video for “Salón de Belleza” features zero artifacts relate to any such place, but instead takes us into an absurdist rendering of Silverio’s death and afterlife underworld. I’m still not sure how many of the elements in this video connect–he’s singing on a canoe in the middle of a lake? And then the electrocaverno don himself dies while he falls out of the door of a plane? And then he’s being spanked by a woman in devil horns? Even after several plays, I still can’t really tell what’s happening, but it doesn’t make me love this video any less. –Sara Skolnick
Andrea Balency – "You've Never Been Alone"
Sex is commonly used as a way to lure people into watching and receiving whatever messages we want to bring to the table. On “You’ve Never Been Alone,” sex takes the backseat to let Andrea Balency’s soothing melodies take over the spotlight. Her music is present in the moment, offering an unexpected level of intimacy between three odd couples who walk around naked for the camera, play around, make out, and end up apart. Voyeurism has never been so sweet. –Gabriela Aguirre
Helado Negro – "Invisible Heartbeat"
“Invisible Heart” is the latest single off Helado Negro’s 2014 album Double Youth, his fourth release under this moniker. The track undoubtedly feels like the work of Roberto Carlos Lange, and its music video, a weird little gem, matches it perfectly, although it might not be specifically related to the lyrics. Here, we find Lange looking fly, softly crooning his words in a surreal setting. Kids in face paint, a little girl with a welding mask, a dancing granny, and one of his now-signature tinsel dancers, appear confined in a small living room, while beautiful visual effects color the video as the song progresses. –Cheky
Ibeyi – "River"
One of 2014’s nicest discoveries is the French-Cuban duo Ibeyi and their debut EP on XL Recordings, called Oya. Their song “River” is a refreshing mixture of the sound of the original divas, hip-hop beats, and modern production. It even features an unexpected and interesting outro sung in yoruba, the Afro-Cuban language. The Ed Morris-directed video is a continuous shot of the Díaz twin sisters, dressed in white, in a baptism ritual. They only emerge from the water to deliver their lines, and they remarkably remain underwater for the rest of the time. As they sing lyrics about being purified by the liquid, the video is a great and fitting representation of the song. –Cheky
424 – "Al Hueco"
Usually I’m not one for narrative videos, but “Al Hueco” makes a case for their existence in 2014. Not only does it have a story that unfolds before your eyes, it actually is a visually stunning document that adds to the overall feeling to the song…or is the song the perfect musical accompaniment for the video? Based on various Reneé Magritte paintings, it shows the artist’s influence on the visual medium of the past 40 years, as some of the moments in the video reminded me of Storm Thorgerson’s work with Pink Floyd and other artists. It’s not that it looks retro, it actually looks as timeless and seamless as one can get. The technology is up there to bring this dream/nightmare to life. The imagery, film sequences, and use of color (and lack thereof in some parts) give the clip’s surrealism a lively soul. –Marcos Hassan
La Vida Bohème – "Flamingo"
Recently I got to see a side by side comparison of a Betty Boop cartoon alongside its inspiration, a film of big band icon Cab Calloway dancing the screen away. Rewatching the clip for “Flamingo,” I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s not like the animation isn’t superb (it’s amazing, as true to the original form as your can get with the help of current technology), it’s that it actually inhabits the spirit of the original cartoons by Walt Disney, Merry Melodies, etc. La Vida Bohème and director Carl Zitelmann injected the sequences with the musicality of the old timey shorts to give us something really special. Ostensibly gothic/cute without resorting to cliches, everything’s so detailed that it should be watched more than once to grasp at everything present here. The narrative is dreamlike/psychedelic, which deserves kudos for making that happen in mostly in black and white. In the end, “Flamingo” is a journey to a joyful destination no matter what the road ahead might have in store for us, and that is something we can all relate to. –Marcos Hassan
Los Punsetes – "Me Gusta Que Me Pegues"
Throughout the year, and as far as I can remember, there hasn’t been a video that has captured the essence of a band so well without resorting to showing them literally. The clip for “Me Gusta Que Me Pegues” features many of the elements that make Los Punsetes such a magnificent band (pleasurable melodies, spiky instrumentals, indifferent facial expressions), and gives them a visual equivalent. At first glance, it seem like the Piñata Man is the villain of the story but in reality, everyone is out to get everyone no matter what, no one is safe or above judgement, and while few could think of the hijinx present as mere pranking, its always shown with a crooked smile and a screen full of colorful scenes. When the Piñata Man gets his comeuppance, the ending is sweet but gory, or at least it’s the impression they give us. –Marcos Hassan
Buraka Som Sistema – “Vuvuzela”
Though Buraka Som Sistema been on our radar for awhile now, they really took things up some kinda notch this year when they released their full-length Buraka worldwide on Universal. Though they pull influences from all over the map–from tarraxinha to changa tuki to zouk–”Vuvuzela” takes us back to where it all started for them: Lisbon. The stomping, wall-shaking track gets the video treatment, giving us a sense of the frantic breaking the kuduro sound and pounding hornline inspires from a crew of masked dancers. They may be on the road non-stop, but this video shows that they’re still as connected as ever to their home scene, where they still hold down their Enchufada label and Hard Ass Session club night at Lux. –Sara Skolnick
Buscabulla – "Caer"
Brooklyn’s duo of designer/singer Raquel Berrios and multi-instrumentalist Luis Alfredo Del Valle shyly made their way to Internet notoriety this 2014 mostly thanks to their recent eponymous sophisticated Caribbean take on Cuban psych and sexy electronic music. They really went out there and reached higher creative levels through the work of Alan Del Rio Ortiz, the NY director and friend of Dev Hynes–who produced their debut EP–who was responsible for making a video that successfully shares and captures the beauty of Buscabulla’s first single via Parisian label Kitsuné, “Caer.” Reminiscent of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished film L’enfer, the video features the lovely couple in all of their splendor. –Eric Gamboa
Pional – “It’s All Over”
Spain’s wonderchild Pional had a magnificent year, and is still looking at an upward trajectory in the global electronic music scene. His blazing video “It’s All Over” pays homage to “La Ruta Bakalao,” a one-of-a-kind clubbing movement born in Valencia during the ’80’s that lasted more than a decade, fueled by drugs, decadence, newfound freedom from the Franco years, and all kinds of loud music. The mythical Saler Highway is recreated in a masterful way with watercolors and handmade drawings of people dancing carelessly, and a tragic accident not too far away from the party. The video plays with lights and shadows, and the circumstances that ended up self-destroying a golden era of Iberian debauchery. –Gabriela Aguirre
Kali Uchis – "Know What I Want"
This girl is a real keeper no matter how you look at it. Not only does she know how to sing, move, and nail that Cholombian princess style like no other, but she’s also great at directing and starring in her very own ghetto-girly videos. “Know What I Want” is all about getting caught and dumped in the worst case scenario–if you’re the smart-ass-wanna-be type of guy, that is. So, if you aren’t the dumpee, you might as well go ahead and add this vid to your favorites playlist too because it’s all about staying sexy, bad ass, and keeping it the cool at all times while torturing that asshole in your life for one last time. –Eric Gamboa
Fuckaine – "Hooray"
Creepy children have a long, rich history in music videos, so Spain’s Fuckaine and director David Iñurrieta gave this dead-eyed boy center stage in one of the year’s strangest videos, “Hooray.” But the kid’s weirdness is no match for all the actual weird shit that’s going down around him, which all seems to be part of some latent, Catholic fever dream. “Hooray”‘s unsettling, blasphemous visuals paired perfectly with the song’s manicness, a coupling that perhaps invoked a nightmare of your very own. Here’s to sleeping horribly in 2014. –Paola Capó-García
La Mecánica Popular – "Guajiro"
There are cool trippy things just as much as there are bad trippy things. The latter, for example, would be Hunter S. Thompson forcing his way through the Circus Circus hotel & casino in Las Vegas. The former would be those educational segments on Sesame Street done in stop-motion with numbers and letters flying around NYC or inside animated pinball machines with funk music blaring in the background. La Mecánica Popular are definitely a fan of the former as evidenced by the video for “Guajiro.” It’s not as educational, but it’s definitely a fun trip. –Afroxander
Carolina Camacho – "Ninfa de las Aguas"
A nymph doesn’t need anything more than the ocean she lives in to display her voluptuous femininity. Carolina Camacho channels the force, the spirituality, the ethereal, and the uncommon beauty of a magical sea creature through the power of dance. She embraces Caribbean-rooted sounds like no one else these days, making “Ninfa de las Aguas” a true pleasure for the senses. –Gabriela Aguirre
(me llamo) Sebastián – "La Fiesta"
We’ve got some absurd videos on this list, but nothing was more charming, more DIY, more absurdly exciting than (me llamo) Sebastián’s adventure in Beyland. “La Fiesta” is all leotard, all make-shift confetti, all choreography that you need in your life. But more than a “Single Ladies” send up and abundant meme generator, “La Fiesta” confidently eschews traditional gender-confirming tropes in favor of doing whatever the fuck you want to do and feeling damn good while doing it. It performs defiance and empowerment in just a few eights counts. –Paola Capó-García
Elegante & La Imperial – "Puro Comer"
Nothing can go wrong when your prime ingredients are food, sex, and cumbia. After a close colleague first watched this video for the first time, he immediately blogged: “Eating has never been so sexy and visceral. And weird. All at the same time.” He was right. This is “like literally” food porn, but not the one you’re used to drool to. We’ll put it to you this way: sharpening a knife and uncovering a boiling pot have never been so disturbingly erotic. Not that we recall anyway. Take it from Peru’s Daniel Martinetti, who has accomplished one of the most visually enticing videos we’ve seen in a while. –Eric Gamboa
Calle 13 – "Adentro"
A lot has been said already about the apparent contradiction of Residente rapping that he’s “still not rich after releasing five albums” while at the same time he’s destroying his own Maserati for the sake of this video. Also there’s been a lot of online speculation regarding who the receiver of the attacks in the first verse really is (most point towards cheesy reggaetonero Coculluela). One thing that’s true it’s that every time Calle 13 says anything there’s people who find time to dissect it syllable by syllable and call them out on their alleged hypocrisy or demagoguery (if only they employed the same energy to criticize the million other artists who say absolutely nothing…). Despite his new messianic role as the voice of all social injustice issues throughout the continent, Calle 13’s Residente is still a human being with plenty of defects and contradictions, just like everybody else. Unlike most others he doesn’t have a problem admitting his shortcomings and exposing his vulnerabilities out in the open, and he does so in an epic way in “Adentro.” –Juan Data
Mitú – "Domini"
Julián Salazar (who may or may not be a familiar face from Bomba Estéreo) and percussionist Franklin Tejedor dropped a beast of a video for “Domini,” off their sophomore album Balnear. The duo opted out of showing the analog racks (even though, okay, we kinda wanna see them) that weird up the rhythms deep-rooted in the Afro-Caribbean communities of San Basilio de Palenque, where the video was shot. Mitú’s strength is their ability to hold your attention without any dramatic builds of drops–the cathartic tecno de la selva’s texture sustains it and transports you, if you let it. –Sara Skolnick
Ratking – "Canal"
This is one of those videos that needs repeated viewings not just because it’s a cool song (it is!) or a cool video (it also is!), but because DAMN there’s a lot going on in three minute and 14 seconds. The cuts in the video match the frenetic pace of the track with camera angles that are perpetually in motion, thereby breaking a few laws of physics along the way. It’s a mad rush through New York courtesy of Ratking and friends. –Afroxander