ACL 2020 ~ The Year’s 10 Best Music Videos

From heartbreaking stories to contagious dance to animation and wild FX, we’ve got a cornucopia of video styles to share this year.  Either we have an especially strong selection of music videos, or we appreciated them more because we really needed them.  Two of the directors return to our feature, while eight are featured for the first time.

The music video industry is alive and well.  Many music videos serve as promos for albums; but a select few transcend their sources to operate as standalone works of art.  In these instances, the contributions of directors, animators and actors is just as important as those of the musical composers.  And now, A Closer Listen presents The 10 Best Music Videos of 2020!

Blessed are the Hearts that Bend ~ Palace
Directors:  Luke Seomore & Joseph Bull
Director of Photography:  David Procter
Casting Director:  Kharmel Cochrane
Art Director:  Mark Couzens
Editor:  Dennis Mabry
Grade:  Steffan Perry
Post Producer:  Chris Anthony
2nd AC:  Norbert Varjasi
Executive Producer:  Adam Dolman

The pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement collide in this powerful video, anchored by a riveting performance from Daniel Ward as a paramedic walking home from work.  Blessed are the Hearts that Bend is the perfect name for the artist ~ one would be forgiven for thinking that was the title of the track.  The music tugs at the heartstrings while the visuals rip us in two.

All other music videos are presented in recommended viewing order.

Max Richter ~ All Human Beings
Director:  Yulia Mahr

The video was released in the middle of the George Floyd marches, a time of social unrest across the United States that spread to the rest of the world.  The LP Voices is based on readings from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Eleanor Roosevelt is the song’s first speaker.  In a time of fracture, Richter and Mahr remind us of our connected nature.

Koki Nakano ~ Bloomer
Director:  Benjamin Seroussi

Dancer: Mariko Kakizaki

The first of three videos this year to include dancing, “Bloomer” is so good we reviewed the video when we reviewed the album.  Kakizaki has incredible control over every muscle in her body, as the lighting highlights the shadow and light of this incredible location.

Hania Rani ~ F Major
Directed by Neels Castillon
Dancers — Mellina Boubetra, Janina Sarantšina, Fanny Sage
Cinematography — Éric Blanckaert

One pianist, one piano, three dancers and one long shot on a cold and beautiful day in Iceland ~ this video catches quicksilver in a camera.  Watching these dancers makes one wish one had been there despite the cold.  They exude joy while running, twirling and flirting with the encroaching shore.  All the while, Rani plays the ivories as if she were the wind herself.

Rone ~ Room With a View
Directed by (LA)HORDE
Marine Brutti, Jonathan Debrouwer & Arthur Harel
Featuring the dancers of the Ballet National de Marseille

Now multiply the dancers and move them inside, where they begin to grow increasingly agitated.  Provide a sci-fi solution that violates every rule of social distancing, and you have the fascinating “Room With a View.”  Either it’s a special effect, or the woman in the green stockings has the most unbreakable limbs we’ve ever seen.  COVID or no, the dance must go on.

Max Cooper ~ SWARM
Directed By – The McGloughlin Brothers
Music and Sound Design By – Max Cooper
Animation / Camera / Edit By – The McGloughlin Brothers
Fluid Art By – Roman Hill, Thomas Blanchard & Oilhack
Drone Photography By – Colm Hogan
Special Thanks to Léa Morel, Paul Mignot, Brendan Canty & Greenlight Films

Max Cooper has become a perennial guest on our video countdown, and so have the McGloughlin Brothers, who scored three appearances on last year’s chart.  “SWARM” makes astonishing use of aerial imagery, pairing it precisely with the music to create an astounding blend.  We’d expect no less from this teaming of talents!

ford. ~ Fruit&Sun
Director:  Man Mantis

The most recent of the videos on this year’s list, Fruit&Sun snuck in after becoming a Vimeo Staff Pick in November.  The crisp line drawings dissolve and recover, and there’s certainly a lot of fruit and sun on display, drenching the viewer in a warm, happy vibe.  This is exactly the sort of respite we need; can we bring back summer?

Max Cooper ~ Spike
Director:  Yoshi Sodeoka

Another Max Cooper video!  Our readers should be used to this by now, as the artist continues to draw top-of-the-line talent to his music.  We’ve seen animated droplets and paint before, but not this much paint and not this many droplets!  Mesmerizing, and all on beat, another triumph.

Laurence Pike ~ Nero
Director:  Clemens Habicht

Pike and Habicht return to this year’s video chart after debuting last year with “Drum Chant.”  This spiritual successor is just as bright and engaging, a visual treat that follows every beat of the drum and pairs it with a synesthetic color.  “Nero” is three minutes of percussive, hand-tapping fun, like watching just the happy parts of “Whiplash.”

Bronson ~ Keep Moving
Director and VFX – StyleWar
Executive Producer – Elizabeth Doonan
Editor – Noah Herzog
Online and Grade – The Mill LA
Production Company – SMUGGLER
Directors Rep – OB Management

Finally we come to the wildest video on this year’s list, featuring some camera tricks we’ve never seen before.  There’s even a nod to Hipgnosis’ cover art for Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.  The corporate world is killer!  Congratulations to all the artists who made this year’s list!

Richard Allen

One comment


    What a list! Love Palace and F Major video is sublime

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