Top Five (or so) Videos of 2009

5. Kanye West: "We Were Once a Fairytale" [dir. Spike Jonze] A year ago I might have put this higher, but honestly, after that MTV Awards fiasco, I'm starting to have my misgivings about Kanye's ongoing self-dramatization of his burdensome ego, whether it amounts to crocodile tears. Still, there's no getting around the fact that this video is incredible. It's maybe not as simple and elegantly devastating as "Flashing Lights," also directed by Jonze, but it pushes his self-critique into a disturbing yet compelling terrain of psychosis. It also works as a riff on Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are - Kanye is Max, disavowing the animal embodiment of his inner child.

4. Matt & Kim: "Lessons Learned" [dir. Taylor Cohen, Otto Arsenault, and Matt Johnson]
What's a music video countdown without a one-take wonder? This one has a great mix of the staged and the spontaneous, and the last twist puts an edge on what could be read as an exercise in indie obnoxiousness.

3. Nyle: "Let the Beat Build" [dir. Chad Harbold]

Works as a rebuff to Kanye - bring it back to your peoples, kid, and make it joyful.

2. Major Lazer: "Pon de Floor" [dir. Eric Wareheim]

From the folks who brought us Flying Lotus' "Parisian Goldfish", a video I found it horribly offensive a year ago, but have a new appreciation for thanks to this new one. He celebrates sex in all its color, its audacity, its music. Aggressive, violent, scary and rapturous.

Honorable mention to Massive Attack's "Paradise Circus" featuring 73 year old ex-porn actress Georgina Spelvin reflecting on her career, interspersed with footage from her performance in Behind the Green Door. I'm a bit shy about putting such a graphic video on my list, but it's a striking, Errol Morris-like work that toys with the idea of the camera as an enabler of inner demons to be unleashed.

1. (tie) Grizzly Bear: "Two Weeks" [dir Patrick Daughters; dir. Gabe Askew]

The official video is by Patrick Daughters, arguably the most sought-after video director working today. The other is a fan video created by Gabe Askew over four months' worth of nights and weekends. Daughters finds a visual motif correlating to the music's cherubic creepiness; Askew uses the lyrics to launch into romantic reverie. Daughters explores face; Askew space. Regardless of which you prefer, that they are of a comparable level of achievement attests to the democratized nature of online visual media.

Patrick Daughters:

Gabe Askew: