- Insider ranked the 34 best music videos released so far this year.
- “Already” by Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, and Major Lazer currently claims the top spot.
- “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyoncé, “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, and “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles round out the top five.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Plenty of artists use music videos to simply generate buzz or rack up streaming numbers.
But on rarer occasions, a music video can revitalize a fledgling single, introduce a new aesthetic era, or act as a vehicle for deeper self-expression. When a song is paired with the right kind of spectacle, it has far greater potential to be absorbed into pop culture mythology.
Insider rounded up the best music videos released in 2020 so far. They’re ranked below in descending order.
Note: This article has been updated since its original publish date.
34. “Be Kind” by Marshmello and Halsey
“Be Kind” is one of the few videos produced in quarantine that made excellent use of modern technology and managed to create an immersive viewing experience, despite lacking a large onsite production team.
As Halsey performs a sort of interpretive dance (with a broken ankle, by the way), her surroundings shift from a gloomy warehouse to more colourful places, inspired by Japan when the cherry blossoms bloom.
These new settings are rendered to look lifelike, but they still have an artificial sheen, almost like a video game. It gives the impression that Halsey is dancing in her own imagination – or perhaps trapped in a thought spiral, trying to convince herself that a situation is better than it really is.
33. “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night” by FINNEAS
Finneas O’Connell, who goes by the mononym FINNEAS as a solo artist, is deeply charming in his music videos. “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night,” a carefully choreographed dance number in white suits, is one such sparkling example.
The dapper singer-songwriter floats around a rooftop at dusk, flashing grins at the camera and fidgeting with his jacket.
It’s very difficult to feel like he’s not singing directly to you – and even more difficult to accept that you’re not destined to “talk that nerdy s—” with him until the sun comes up.
32. “Compensating” by Aminé featuring Young Thug
Aminé is the underrated king of eccentric, amusing rap videos. Every scene in “Compensating” is vivid and visually pleasing, from the bright pink bathwater to the alphabet soup spelling out “Steve Nash.”
The other great thing about Aminé’s videos is the recurring cast of characters: his friends. They always look like they’re having so much fun that it’s impossible not to grin and feel like you’re a part of it, and “Compensating” is no different.
It’s almost like watching a big-budget, less embarrassing version of those Photobooth movies you made with your squad in middle school, dancing and lipsyncing to your favourite songs.
31. “Attack of Panic” by Aly & AJ
“Attack of Panic” has a restless, haunting quality that sticks in your brain. The video features Aly & AJ stalking around Berlin in pink and green blazers, looking harried on the subway, casting around suspicious glances; to paraphrase a YouTube commenter, it’s basically “anxiety, but make it sexy.”
In fact, the sisters were partially inspired by their own experiences with panic attacks and partially by the bizarre, cult classic movie “Labyrinth.” They even designed the video to sync up with the film’s famously spooky ball scene.
30. “Dictator” by REI AMI
Like much of REI AMI’s music, “Dictator” delights in duality, switching gears halfway through to explore an entirely different mood. The video makes that contrast visually explicit, bathing the first half in a potent red glow and the second in a wistful blue.
“Dictator” could be interpreted as an expression of emotional abuse, teetering between fiery highs and frigid stretches of seeking validation – though crucially, in the video’s second half, REI AMI’s bright red eyeshadow suggests that she never gives herself over completely to the cold, remaining grounded by her own power.
29. “Lost in Yesterday” by Tame Impala
Tame Impala’s “Lost in Yesterday” masterfully translates the song’s lyrics into visuals, showing how memories become warped over the years as we yearn for the past and romanticize simpler times. Even the aspect ratio of the screen changes as the scene grows brighter and more lavish.
28. “Rare” by Selena Gomez
The video for “Rare” is a beautiful way to represent finding solace in oneself. Despite expressing disappointment in her lover, Selena Gomez frolics and glistens in a woodland fairytale, perhaps meant to represent the magical landscape of her own mind.
By setting the video in an “ethereal forest dream,” Gomez suggests that spending time alone is natural, and that she came to these conclusions (“I’m special,” “I’m so rare”) by exploring her own psyche – rather than relying on others to tell her.
27. “Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is known for serving confident, provocative visuals –“Mother’s Daughter” was the runner-up on our ranking of 2019’s best videos – and “Midnight Sky,” her first self-directed effort, did not disappoint.
Despite the video’s straightforward, pop-star-sings-to-camera premise, the bondage-inspired outfits and colourful set design are plenty to keep you invested. It looks and feels like Cyrus is in her element, and it’s always refreshing to see an artist absolutely nail their new aesthetic direction.
26. “Levitating (The Blessed Madonna Remix)” by Dua Lipa featuring Madonna and Missy Elliott
The “Levitating” remix is nowhere near as good as the original, but at least the video is fun. The diverse cast of characters – including the moon, which seems to take on its own magical personality, and Dua Lipa’s model boyfriend, Anwar Hadid – gives the video a cinematic, sexy edge.
The storyline is a little disorganized, but it actually works, making this chaotic version of the song a lot more enjoyable.
And of course, there’s the Missy Elliott cameo, which is an automatic way to add a mountain-high pile of cool points.
25. “What a Man Gotta Do” by the Jonas Brothers
There’s just something so charming about watching these newly reunited brothers, who grew up in the public eye, unselfconsciously celebrate how much they love their wives – and adopt it so wholeheartedly into their band’s brand.
Nick and Priyanka have the “sexy couple” thing, Joe and Sophie have the “funny couple” thing, and Kevin and Danielle have the “romantic couple” thing. It just works.
24. “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift
It’s not easy to self-direct a music video for a surprise lead single during a global pandemic. But true to form, Taylor Swift packed “Cardigan” with rich metaphorical resonance, winks to fans, and commitment to the moment.
Even though this is one of Swift’s most low-key videos in recent memory, she still sells the emotion in each scene – gazing around her lush green daydream, clinging to her piano in the middle of a stormy ocean, or climbing back into her cabin as a sopping wet but more mature woman. The visuals for “Cardigan” perfectly match the mood of the song.
23. “Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa
Aside from creating a bona fide fashion show of tasteful two-piece outfits, “Break My Heart” plays with perspective and transition in a very cool way.
The editing creates a dreamlike effect, drenched in colour and bright lighting, that should feel magical – but actually feels tinged with ambient anxiety. It expertly combines the upbeat, poppy tone of the song and the hopeful uncertainty of its lyrics.
22. “TKN” by Rosalía and Travis Scott
The message of “TKN” is ambiguous, much like the meaning of the acronym itself, but one thing is for certain: Every single person in this video has enormous star power, including the children.
Whenever the camera provides an up-close look at one of the young dancers, their face is so full of passion and intensity that it’s nearly impossible to look away. Combine that with Rosalía’s existing charisma and Travis Scott’s existing magnetism, and this video certainly keeps you enthralled.
21. “Boyfriend” by Selena Gomez
In “Boyfriend,” Selena Gomez plays a woman who’s deceptively normal – but so obsessed with finding a worthy, committed man that she turns her dates into frogs and keeps them as pets.
It’s a little incongruous with the point of the song (“There’s a difference between a want and a need / Some nights I just want more than me”), but it’s always fun when Gomez gets a little weird.
Most of her best videos are vaguely freaky (“Fetish”) or twisty and sinister (“Hands to Myself”), so even though “Boyfriend” isn’t one of her best songs, the video deserves a spot in her visual hall of fame.
20. “Say So” by Doja Cat
The video for “Say So” compliments the song’s retro, carefree energy. It also takes a standout lyric and brings it to life – “He ain’t never seen it in a dress like this / He ain’t never even been impressed like this” – as Doja Cat struts around a glass mansion, trying to seduce a repairman in a variety of glittering, curve-hugging looks.
Indeed, the video doubles as a three-minute thirst trap and as an homage to the song’s ’70s-inspired sound, as well as the TikTok dance that helped make it so popular.
19. “Aquí Yo Mando” by Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty
“Aquí Yo Mando” takes the concept of “girl power” and amplifies it, giving the trite concept a seductive and dangerous spin.
The outfits alone make this video worth discussion. Kali Uchis and Rico Nasty both serve multiple grunge-glam looks as they casually dismantle a corrupt law enforcement operation, run by men with pig noses and feet. In this futuristic world, these two women call the shots.
18. “Easy” by Troye Sivan
“Easy,” Troye Sivan’s directorial debut, is a masterclass in using space and colour to create a mood. The palatial cinematography and deep tones of blue and green almost seem soothing. In reality, these design decisions subtly emphasise the quietude, loss, and loneliness he sings about.
Even a cartoonish version of Sivan, dressed in David Bowie-esque style and bathed in neon lights, can’t perform through the pain. The camera often lingers on the singer as he gazes off, his expression betraying an exquisite sadness. Honestly, it’s heart-wrenching.
So when Sivan starts having visions and spontaneously bursts into flames, it doesn’t feel even slightly over-dramatic. The video communicates heartbreak in a graceful, relatable way.
17. “Dynamite” by BTS
BTS’ latest visual is pure, confectionery fun. “Dynamite” is like a lozenge for the bitter taste in your mouth, a momentary escape from the current state of affairs; no wonder it demolished the record for the biggest premiere in YouTube history, racking up approximately 4 million views within mere minutes of its premiere – and then over 100 million in 24 hours.
16. “Ice Cream” by BLACKPINK with Selena Gomez
There are two main reasons why “Ice Cream” rocketed its way into this list’s top 20 as soon as it was released.
Firstly, it’s wonderful to see BLACKPINK having a moment, and all four of those girls really know how to work a camera.
Secondly, Selena Gomez did that. She looks stunning and confident and like she’s genuinely having fun, which is an instantly winning combination.
15. “XS” by Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama’s “XS” is a high-energy, visually pleasing pop video that casually lambastes the exploitative practices of capitalism, the mental toll of materialism, and the complicity of whiteness – all in less than four minutes.
It’s a masterful social critique that parallels the very thing it critiques, cloaking something sinister in colour, humour, and quotable directives.
14. “Adore You” by Harry Styles
The full eight-minute version of “Adore You” is so cute and weird I can hardly stand it. I don’t know what compelled an international pop star and renowned heartthrob like Harry Styles to make a mini film about forging a friendship with a big fish, but I pray he never loses that core of bizarre sweetness in his body.
The concept of Styles as the only person on a morose island who ever smiles, thus freaking people out with his shiny white teeth, is just so pure and delightful to behold – and having Rosalía narrate the story was another stroke of genius.
13. “Modern Loneliness” by Lauv
Plenty of artists have tried to make videos that capture the experience of quarantine, but Lauv may be the only one who’s truly succeeded.
In our increasingly digital society, “Modern Loneliness” really would have been relatable at any time. But released amidst global shutdowns and directives to stay home, the video took on an almost freakish relevance.
Lauv – who has been open about relying too heavily on technology and social media, despite the feeling of isolation it brings him – forwent the polish and flair that’s typically associated with making a music video, or with translating the highlights of your life to your followers online.
Instead, he laid bare the lonely machinations behind Instagram posts and Tinder swipes, striking an authentic chord that most confessional songwriters only dream of.
12. “Black Swan” by BTS
“Black Swan” is one of BTS’ most artful and theatrical videos to date, underscoring the song’s themes beautifully.
The official music video – preceded by an interpretive dance art film, performed by the Slovenian MN Dance Company in an abandoned shopping mall – shows BTS performing without an audience. Surrounded by the ornate, gilded architecture of the Los Angeles Theatre, the band’s seven members adopt an air of seriousness and grace.
The video seems to explore their place in Hollywood and the status quo of Western art – or, perhaps, interrogate the meaning of music and performance without applause or acclaim. It also appears to reference the Jungian shadow concept, which Teen Vogue notes is a recurring metaphor on their most recent album, “Map of the Soul: 7.”
Of course, the septet could’ve simply wanted to flex their superior dance skills in a cool place. Either way, the video is a stunning visual feat.
11. “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
“Blinding Lights” embodies everything that’s made The Weeknd’s newest era so successful.
The video maintains his mysterious, slightly menacing aura – yet manages to create a cinematic, retro, exhilarating experience that’s unlike anything he’s done before.
References to Michael Jackson and DC Comics’ villainous Joker seem relatively clear, but The Weeknd finally seems to have a solid grasp on the kind of unique artist he wants to be. The video feels like a reintroduction and a clear vision.
Despite multiple shots of his teeth covered in blood, “Blinding Lights” doesn’t make for an off-putting viewing experience; it actually excels thanks to The Weeknd’s confidence and charm.
10. “Do It” by Chloe x Halle
It’s rare for a music video to lack a story or theme – to hinge entirely on the artist nailing a few dance moves and gazing at the camera – yet manage to keep the viewer engaged for three straight minutes.
But “Do It” does exactly that. Chloe and Halle Bailey are simply mesmeric, and the video radiates with star power.
Despite its straightforward premise, “Do It” doesn’t need bells and whistles because it’s fuelled by the sisters’ chemistry – not to mention their coordinating crystalline outfits and, most importantly, the hypnotic choreography.
9. “Yo Perreo Sola” by Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny has a habit of serving colourful, uber-fun, deceptively insightful visuals, and “Yo Perreo Sola” is likely his best yet.
In terms of skewering gender norms and basking in the glow of his own confidence, the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter raised his own bar by dressing in drag, rocking a red latex ‘fit and smokey eye better than I could ever hope to.
The bold visuals double down on the content of the song, which condemns sexual harassment with the triumphant declaration, “I twerk alone.”
“I wrote the song from a woman’s perspective – but I do feel like that woman sometimes,” Bad Bunny explained.
As an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, Bad Bunny excels at creating Trojan Horse art, forcing you to pay attention to injustice; the visual pays homage to Alexa Negrón Luciano, a transgender woman who was murdered and then misgendered by the media. “Yo Perreo Sola” is both a pleasure and a necessity.
8. “You Should Be Sad” by Halsey
On an album full of courage, chaos, and bare honesty, “You Should Be Sad” is a particularly bold highlight.
With cutting lyrics like “I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you / ‘Cause you can’t love nothing unless there’s something in it for you” – largely inspired by country music’s history of petty and powerful breakup bops – this song always deserved an equally splashy, dauntless visual. Thankfully, Halsey delivered just that.
Every detail is deliciously on target, from the dark, fiery tear-stains painted onto Halsey’s face to the cheetah-clad reference to Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”
7. “The Man” by Taylor Swift
Appropriately, Swift made her directorial debut with “The Man,” a video that transforms her into a stereotypical vision of power and dominance.
Given its much-needed intention to expose and smash the patriarchy, “The Man” would have been engaging with any male actor playing the titular role – but using makeup and prosthetics to literally become “the man” was a stroke of genius on Swift’s part. She’s so unrecognizable and committed that, upon first viewing, the reveal comes as quite a fun shock.
As to be expected, the video is also packed with Easter eggs, cameos, and hidden references to Swift’s real-life struggles.We found at least 40.
6. “Physical” by Dua Lipa
A video that begins with Lipa plunging her hand into a man’s chest and pulling out his still-beating heart? Sign me up immediately.
The intermixed scenes of animation and colour-coordinated choreography in “Physical” work perfectly for the song’s over-the-top, whimsical vibe.
The song draws its power from extravagant instrumentation (especially the flute in the intro) and a campy ’80s sample (“Let’s get physical!” should not work as the main lyric in a modern pop song, and yet, it does). So it only makes sense for the video to be surreal, flashy, drenched in colour, and incredibly entertaining.
5. “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles
It would have been plenty enjoyable to watch Harry Styles frolic on a beach in a crochet top and bright blue sunglasses, caressing a slice of watermelon.
But Styles took “Watermelon Sugar” up about 1,000 notches with a delightfully diverse cast – one of whom praised his respectful behaviour, calling him a “consent king”– and a very timely, almost soul-stirring dedication to “touching.”
In the midst of quarantine, “Watermelon Sugar” arrived like a jolt of sun-drenched joy and adrenaline, offering a peek into a perfect world. It was powerful enough to give the song renewed life as a summer jam, even though it was released a full six months before the video, and paved the way for its eventual ascent to No. 1 – the first of Styles’ career.
4. “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion
As Stereogum’s Tom Breihan writes: “In a summer that’s been hopelessly devoid of crowd-pleasing spectacle, the ‘WAP’ video is the closest thing we have to a new ‘Avengers’ movie.”
“WAP” is precisely the kind of music video that elevates a song from catchy to iconic. The song is unabashedly, gloriously filthy, and only a video that appropriately celebrates Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion – meaning both their talent and their curves – could have done it proper justice.
But the genius of “WAP” doesn’t stop there. For the price of one video, you are also blessed with a Normani dance break and the endless amusement of angry, horny conservative pundits voluntarily exposing their utter lack of interest in female pleasure.
3. “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande
“Rain on Me” is everything you’d want from a powerhouse pop duo joining forces – and it’s a bonus that Lady Gaga was able to bring Ariana Grande so gracefully into her strange, highly choreographed world.
Gaga is known for her bizarre and cinematic videos, of course, and “Rain on Me” delivers in the form of elaborate set designs and carefully structured costumes.
But “Rain on Me” is extra satisfying because it doesn’t make Grande seem like an outsider, despite the two artists’ super different styles. It’s a treat to watch Grande, whose visual brand is so carefully maintained, execute characteristically “Gaga” choreo in chrome butterfly wings and white eyeliner.
The song celebrates resilience and joy in the face of calamity, so watching Gaga and Grande hold hands and literally dance in the rain – especially given the traumas that both women have endured and publicly worked through – gives “Rain on Me” a sense of depth and kinship that many of us crave.
It’s exactly the kind of defiant, exultant escapism that represents pop music at its best.
2. “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyoncé, Blue Ivy, SAINt JHN, and WizKid
“Brown Skin Girl” is just one of two clips from Beyoncé’s newest visual album that she’s specifically released on YouTube – so this is one of only two performances in “Black Is King” that Insider deemed as a valid “music video” for our ranking purposes (even though every single one is iconic).
There are so many details in “Brown Skin Girl” to fawn over. It’s the most cameo-dense clip from the film, including appearances from Lupita Nyong’o and Naomi Campbell, though Kelly Rowland’s moments may be the best; at one point, Beyoncé serenades her former Destiny’s Child bandmate while they gaze into each other’s eyes. It’s so intimate and intensely heartwarming that Rowland blushes and scrunches her nose in delight.
Notably, “Brown Skin Girl” stars Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé’s eldest child, who’s actually a featured artist on the song. She grins at the camera, draped in fineries, and even gets a spotlight moment to sing as the song closes.
The 8-year-old is also filmed alongside her mother, grandmother, and younger sister Rumi, emphasising the generational ties and feminine strength in the Knowles family.
1. “Already” by Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, and Major Lazer
As previously noted, “Already” completes the set of two “Black Is King” performances that Beyoncé released separately as “music videos.”
That both of those clips landed in the two top spots on this list should come as no surprise.
Beyoncé is simply on another level when it comes to translating her music into a visual feast, stuffed with meaningful references, conceptual resonance, and flawlessly executed choreography.
Of course, “Already” is better when it’s consumed within the greater framework of “Black Is King.” But even on its own, this video is a painstakingly styled and deeply impressive enterprise. You can pause “Already” at literally any moment and it will look like a painting. In fact, it’s more performance art than music video.
On top of its sheer beauty, “Already” features countless details that pay homage to pan-Africanism, including West African symbolism, Ghanaian excellence, and Nigerian fashion.
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