What makes a great music video is perhaps even more subjective than trying to answer the question of what makes a great song. Whether you prefer minimal lo-fi or expansive big-budget, music videos provide an intriguing insight into how musicians want to interpret their song visually, a unique perspective into the artist’s mind.
But are music videos still relevant in 2021, when it’s so natural to just listen to streamed music? Going to YouTube to watch the music video of the song you are listening to is perhaps unlikely. With apparently rapidly reducing attention spans and an abundance of short video clips everywhere, the popularity of music videos as a way to consume music may be reducing in many people’s lives. But the act of sitting down to consciously watch a music video has parallels to listening to an album on vinyl. It takes effort, and it’s rewarding. Music videos can be beautifully cinematic complements to a song, or as quirky and novel as you could possibly imagine. A good visual can elevate an already great song, providing audience reach, and enhanced artistic expression.
Perhaps now is a good time to rekindle your love of the music video art form, with Melodic Mag’s look back at this year’s content; starting with our own staff picks, then reviewing the most popular videos of 2021, and a look at the music video awards from earlier in the year.
Melodic Mag Staff Picks
Favorite music videos are just as hard to pick as favorite songs, and may change just as easily, but a quick sample amongst Melodic Mag’s staff came up with these video recommendations, all well worth a little time out to kick back and enjoy.
Billie Marten — “Liquid Love.”
Tony Palmer: “A gentle, almost meditative, one-shot video that perfectly complements the song. Reminiscent of lazy, relaxing, summer days in the English countryside.”
Coach Party — “FLAG (Feel Like a Girl).”
Tony Palmer: “Superb revenge-romp narrative, set in 18th century England, complete with flintlock weapons, stately home, and horse and carriage. Set in a period of antiquated gender inequality, mirroring the song’s anger of being hurt, objectified or unsafe in today’s society.”
Zak Abel — “Be Kind.”
Megan Wales-Harding: “It’s all filmed in one location but it fits the song so well. It’s pretty simple but is all about good vibes, much like the song itself.”
Taylor Swift — “All Too Well (The Short Film).”
Megan Wales-Harding: “Incredible… it perfectly brings the story behind the lyrics to life.”
Peach Pit — “Look Out.”
Brent Goldman: “Great and simple. I don’t really have a ton to say about it but I loved it.”
Knocked Loose — “A Tear in the Fabric of Life.”
Ariana Simon: “A super cool music video movie thing for their new EP A Tear in the Fabric of Life.”
BADBADNOTGOOD — “Love Proceeding.”
Marjorie Halle: “Incredible story told with only visuals and the camera movement is amazing.”
The Most Popular Music Videos in 2021
In terms of audio streaming services, the top song of 2021 globally on Spotify, with an incredible 1.1B (billion) streams was Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” . Still a huge number, but an order of magnitude less, she had 325M (million) views on YouTube with the same song. Music video reach can be huge; Karol G had 3.11B views on Vevo in 2021, followed closely by The Weeknd, with 3.10B views . Lil Nas X had the most engagement (likes, shares, comments) through music videos worldwide in 2021.
Here are a few of the high-ranking music videos from YouTube in 2021:
The Weeknd — “Save Your Tears”, 636M views since Jan 2021.
Karol G — “El Makinon”, 574M views since March 2021.
Lil Nas X — “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, 410M views since March 2021 . Incredible visuals with a pole dancing decent to hell.
Olivia Rodrigo “Drivers License”, 325M views since May 2021. Beautiful visuals, and of course some night driving scenes.
Doja Cat featuring SZA “Kiss Me More”, 269M views since April 2021. Earthling astronaut crashlands with Doja Cat and SZA in this wonderful fantasy video.
Ed Sheeran “Bad Habits”, 264M views since Jun 2021. Late night vampire escapades from Ed, in a hot pink suit.
The Music Video Awards from 2021
At the 63rd Grammy Awards back in March 2021 , Beyoncé won best music video for “Brown Skin Girl”, 47M views to date, with the following nominees: Future featuring Drake “Life Is Good”; Anderson Paak “Lockdown”, Harry Styles “Adore You”, and Woodkid “Goliath”.
In June 2021, at the Berlin Music Video Awards , amongst the numerous accolades, first place in the Best Music Video category was awarded to Zemfira “Austin”, second to Duck Sauce “Mesmerize”, and third to 13 Block featuring Niska “Tieks”.
Then in September 2021, at the MTV Video Music Awards , Lil Nas X took the Video of the Year award for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, with nominations for Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion “WAP”, DJ Khaled featuring Drake “POPSTAR”, Doja Cat featuring SZA “Kiss Me More”, Ed Sheeran “Bad Habits”, and The Weeknd “Save Your Tears”.
Finally, at the 14th UK Music Video Awards, held in November 2021 , Duck Sauce “Mesmerize” took the award for Video of the Year. The numerous other categories included UK Best Pop Video awarded to Dua Lipa “Love Again”, UK Best R&B/Soul Video awarded to Celeste “Tonight, Tonight”, and UK Best Rock Video to Beabadoobee “Last Day On Earth”.
Beyoncé “Brown Skin Girl”, 47M views
Future featuring Drake “Life Is Good”, 1.9B views
Zemfira “Austin”, 2.1M views
Duck Sauce “Mesmerize”, 296k views
Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion “WAP”, 434M views
DJ Khaled featuring Drake “POPSTAR”, 244M views
Dua Lipa “Love Again”, 124M views
Celeste “Tonight, Tonight”, 346k views
Beabadoobee “Last Day On Earth”, 701k views
Words by Tony Palmer