2016: Favorite Music Videos From a face-peeling orgy and an overdetermined slumber party to pixelated image-withdrawal and a porridge of majesty & crap

Anonymous, 2016, To Tell Computers, digital oil on canvas, 1020 × 788 px

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series

Kel Valhaal

“Tense Stage”

Director: AUJIK

Unknown Japanese animator AUJIK delves deep within the tunnels of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s intricate Qabala in the warping, petrified video for “Tense Stage.” Burrowing straight to the core of a fabricated dimensional cerebrum, AUJIK discovers a pulsing, vibrant scenery of cheap distortions, cultural artifact, and luscious internal astrology, pulling us to the absolute bottom of the well before revealing impossible doors that lead back to the outside. It’s an ever-flowing, radiating garbage heap, a porridge of majesty and crap that beckons us even as its destination becomes increasingly unknowable. Somehow, by the time we reach the twin halos at the passage’s end, it feels like we’ve learned something terrifying.

Lil Yachty

“1 Night”

Director: Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff

Green screens inevitably equal fun, and when they’re done super right, as in the spazzy aquatic scene scapes of Lil Yachty’s “1 Night” video, it’s silly as bliss. Directed, produced, and edited by Josh Goldenberg and Rahil Ashruff of NYC studio Goldrush, the hyper-saturated visuals are dense with meme-inspired gems, including, but not limited to, a shot of Yachty modeling in Yeezy Season 3, a really cute kitten, some prime use of your favorite nautical emojis, Gerald from Hey Arnold! wearing Yachty braids that then explode into rocket launchers, a split-second shot of a burning boat, cute cameos by manga artist Akira Ito and social media stars Lean Squad, Yachty squatting on a surfboard next to a fake hammerhead shark in full orange wader regalia — I won’t go on, just go indulge.

Tim Presley

“Long Bow”

Director: Guy Kozak

Alive together and nodding. At a modestly attended live event, we mute our enthusiasm to ward against the echo chamber of fleeting attention. Stoic self-awareness is a default position of decorum, but it’s gotten to be its own stupid dance. When the “singer” in this video takes a knee for the breakdown, a ring of camera operators hover over him, and one abruptly flits to the right. The ragged edits and surplus of angles on these uncanny mundane reflexes play like jokey shrugs at existential apoplexy. Like sharp turns from holding out to letting go. We suddenly perceive all manner of congregation for the oversanctified mess that it is, and embrace it anyway. We proceed to just jam on that sound and bite our pursed lip down. We tap our fingers to the rhythm on a splash-prone cup. We firmly perch on enjoying the ride, like a pomeranian on a swing set.


“Era (ft. Kastle, Born In Flamez & Gronos1)”

Director: Rob Jabbaz

A couple months after ruinist futurism duo WWWINGS released their debut LP PHOENIXXX on Planet Mu, their entrenched battlesound met up with Taipei-based Rob Jabbaz’s entrenched battleground. “A story about forgotten equipment” turning on and lashing out against their environment and one another like a sentient MechWarrior uproar, the unkept industrialization from Jabbaz and GXXOST (f.k.a. Lit Internet) and AWRWSW (f.k.a. Lit Daw) is a short film with major-picture intrigue.

Young M.A


Director: a piece by guy x Young M.A

In a hip-hop year dominated by industry titans and schizophrenic fashion-rap, “Ooouuu” rose coolly above the noise to bless us with the Brooklyn rapper’s focused, unassuming vision. The accompanying visual, which for many (myself included) served as an introduction to Young M.A, is consistent with her quiet self-assurance: for the first 45 seconds, M.A and her crew silently eat Chinese takeout, pour champagne, and drink Hennessy. Then the smoky, smasssshhed intro and the quintessential crew love shots: standing on the street corner, vibing in the crib. The video birthed as many visual memes as the track did lyrical ones: Young M.A on the couch, turning to Eli on the right, “Ayo Eli, why they testing me?,” and then to bro on the left, “Like I ain’t got a hitter to the left of me;” the “Headphanie” line, coinciding with the dome-receiving motion performed ‘round the world; M.A’s signature gold front-touting freeze frame, which would eventually become the album art for the digital single and which made the record instantly identifiable in the Apple Music store. The video has a special aura, because you can tell everyone participating knew that something special was happening: the sense of imminent success is palpable, and at 86 million views and counting, this video rose to the top without any industry support or wave-jumping: “These haters on my body/ Shake ‘em off.”

Yung Lean

“Miami Ultras”

Director: Marcus Söderlund


Leany moves his weight in soaked earth. Wilted sprouts of raspy sincerity sprout at his self-dug grave.


Bucket hats and trading cards are shed for the fruits of fertile ground. Flora drips from a formless dress. Fresh blood clings to neatly trimmed follicles. The forest exhales wintry puffs of vapor. Lean’s ego may lie six feet under, but the formerly(?) Sad Boy is something more than alive.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series

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