Top Ten Music Videos of 2008. #9

Gnarls Barkley - "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?" Directed by Chris Milk

Literally the most heart-wrenching video of the year. Gnarls Barkley and director Chris Milk take a concept that in the wrong hands could be a crude literalizing of a romantic cliche (a jilted lover surrendering his heart) and turns out a video that is by turns absurd, wise, funny and harrowing. Their winning approach is explicitness and candor, as featured in the second minute: a raw, breathtakingly honest dialogue (possibly played out in the man's heartbroken imagination) in which the endgame scenarios are laid bare.  By spelling out the emotional mechanics of the breakup, the two characters become more than just types - they acknowledge the futility of the situation as well as we do, and we respect them more for it.

Dialogue drowns out the music in the first half of the video (almost to the point that the song is being underserved), but when the talking settles and the singing takes over (by the heart, now appended with Cee-Lo's lips) the song acquires new resonance. The dead-end analytics of the first half gives way to lyricism in the second; all everyone can do is shake their heads in a shared sadness. (Look for Gnarls Barkley commiserating from the kitchen).

Lest we think the film ends on this note of well-earned self pity, there's a possible twist at the end, signified by the way the heart pulls the boyfriend out from itself in a bloody rebirth. It adds a layer of meaning to the final exchange, when he answers her question, "Are you even listening to me?" with a flat "No."  It suggests that, having played out this mournful scenario in his own head, he doesn't need to proceed with the real-time breakup; that he has achieved, on his own, some measure of sobriety.

For more of Chris Milk's work, watch Gnarls Barkley's "Gone Daddy Gone" or Kanye West's "Touch the Sky"