J. Lo "Papi"
A lot of people complained about the rampant, obvious product placement in her latest video. Ultimately, though, who cares when it probably paid for a video as fun and carefree as "Papi". The premise is simple yet, in a mere four minutes, plays out like the silly, classic J. Lo romcom we expect from her. And nothing else in 2011 reminded us why we loved J. Lo in the first place quite like the "Papi" video.
Rebecca Black "Friday"
The fact that "Friday" is not a good video in the typical sense is irrelevant. This was the video that had everybody talking in 2011. Who can forget where they were the day they first clicked on the link for this video? I know my life was never the same after witnessing Queen Rebecca decide which seat to take. The video is absolutely ridiculous, yes, but Rebecca injected enough class and charm into the proceedings to make all of the weaker links (the $40 budget, the terrible girl in the car next to Rebecca who can't dance and, oddly enough, looks like my cousin's fiancée) much less noticeable.
Normally a non-starter in the music video area, Rihanna gave us two reasons to be hopeful in 2011 that she is finally beginning to understand how important music videos can be for her. The first of these was "S&M," which, with its candy-colored sets and deranged, over-the-top bondage costumes, became the first video of hers that portrayed her having "fun" without sticking her in some dark club with laser lights. This is RiRi at her naughty best.
Frankmusik & Colette Carr "No I.D."
Sure, the Grease homage is a tad overdone, but if you can find me two other popstars this past year who share as much chemistry as Vincent and Colette do in this video, my name isn't Dame James. Besides, did the year in music videos offer up any image nearly as delicious as Vincent, in leather jacket, sunglasses and with slicked-back hair, driving that race car at the end?
The Hurts boys recreate the Orpheus myth with heaping helpings of melancholy, bright flashes of color amid a bleak color palette and a fashion sense straight from the pages of Vogue Italia.
Katy Perry "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"
Unlike nearly any of Lady Gaga's videos this year, Katy Perry's massively stuffed "Last Friday Night" clip works despite its massive length for one reason: the video never feels at odds with the song. The two manage to cohabitate wonderfully, never once sacrificing the completeness of the song just to make the video longer. Bonus points for including 2011's other Friday girl, Rebecca Black, as the Katy Perry character's fairy godmother of sorts.
Beyoncé "Run the World (Girls)"
Not only did this video make me truly understand "Run the World" as a song, no other song this year managed to have a video that felt so at odds with the flow and rhythm of the song and still have it come out this wonderfully. Beyoncé's dancing is hypnotic, but the long takes and slow editing contrasting with that incessant Diplo beat takes it to a whole other level, making one of the neatest visual tricks of the year.
Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris "We Found Love"
My only complaint with Rihanna's "S&M" video was that there were too many cuts, not allowing us any time to fully see any of the extreme visuals (although, I suppose, there were reasons for that). With "We Found Love," there are, perhaps, just as many cuts, but it works for two reasons. One, it matches the insane, escalating, driving beat of the Calvin Harris production. But, more importantly, it manages to convey the essence of a whirlwind romance, how you are so in love and out of control that everything flashes by you and you have no idea what is going on but you don't care because you are so happy. It's an enviable feeling, which many people expressed on Twitter the day of this video's premiere. But they are missing the grand point of the whole video. Sure, everything was great in the beginning, but by the end of the video, Rihanna grows bored and realizes that all the happiness she once felt for him isn't worth the pain she's feeling at the moment. It's a pessimistic view, sure, but it's conveyed poignantly in this video, without a doubt the finest one she has ever made.
Britney Spears "I Wanna Go"
The most fun Britney has had on a video ever. Spoofing not only herself (Crossroads 2: Cross Harder) and her image (sexed up vixen flirting with all the boys she passes on the street), but the press, who, 5+ years after her meltdown, still won't stop hounding her, this is the video "Piece of Me" should have been.
Robyn "Call Your Girlfriend"
With the music video rebounding in popularity thanks the ease of access on the internet, this leaves artists a lot of room to differentiate themselves and come up with creative ways to sell their product. Unfortunately, very few artists take this path, creating one forgettable video after another. Not content with doing that, Robyn crafted a clever and all-around fascinating video for the final single from her Body Talk trilogy. Armed with herself, a room, a lighting scheme, one shot and a dance routine, Robyn has created one of the finest music videos since Beyoncé's "Single Ladies". It's been more than half a year since the video came out and I still can't get enough of it.