The Best Music Videos of 2018 (So Far)

In 2018, we’ve been lucky enough to get some sweet visuals to help enhance our listening experience. These are the best music videos of the year, so far, including videos from the likes of Drake, Tyler the Creator, Janelle Monae, SZA, Childish Gambino and more.

Best Of 2018
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Best Of 2018

If you’re a millennial, you’ve likely heard a million jokes from dusty baby boomers about how “back in their day, MTV actually played music videos.” Overconfidence of older generations in their comedic abilities aside, they do kind of have a point: the days of music videos playing on TV are virtually behind us, and that’s a sad thing. I’m a young millennial, so I wasn’t alive for the birth of MTV, but I do remember sitting in front of my TV and watching the videos for songs like Evanescence’s “Wake Me Up,” Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” and Bowling for Soup’s “1985” and thinking: Ah, yes—this is high art. 

Since music videos moved to the digital realm, their impact has decreased significantly. If a video is good, we talk about it for a few days, meme it into oblivion, and move on. If it flops, we pretend we never saw it and go back to bumping the song, which is likely still good to us. 

Still, though, each year we do get a handful of music videos that knock us off our collective rockers. In the past few years, we’ve gotten Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” Frank Ocean’s “Nikes,” and the entirety of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, all of which have been able to overcome this post-music video era we’re living in and make their mark on viewers. 

In 2018, we’ve been lucky enough to get some sweet visuals to help enhance our listening experience. These are the best music videos of 2018, so far. 

15. Juice WRLD "All Girls Are the Same"

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Director: Cole Bennett

Juice WRLD’s “All Girls Are the Same” video is a trippy affair, to say the least. The video floats between animated graphics and distorted imagery. It’s definitely weird, but not in a bad way. The most interesting part of the video is that it doesn’t actually feature any women, but you still feel as though you’re inside Juice WRLD’s mind, seeing and feeling his heartbreak. Director Cole Bennett brings the song’s lyrics to life while also thinking outside of the box. —Kameron Hay

14. SZA f/ Kendrick Lamar "Doves in the Wind"

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Director: Nabil Elderkin

Solana's known to give zero fucks when it comes to thematic congruence in the song to video translation. "The Weekend," a song ripe for a Big Love polyamory riff, instead featured her artfully dancing in parking lots. So there was no telling what we'd get for "Doves in the Wind," the song wherein Kendrick Lamar declares that "pussy can be facetious." Based off the title alone I'd have gone in for John Woo aesthetics. Instead SZA, Kendrick, and Nabil serve up Westworld vibes to start before making a sharp pivot to Kung Fu Kenny's world for a send-up that evoked Kill Bill Vol. 2, with Kendrick doing his best Pai Mei to SZA's Beatrix. I'm not sure what I was supposed to take away from this visual, but beautiful people in a gorgeous setting with ninjas? Thumbs up regardless. —Frazier Tharpe

13. Cardi B f/ 21 Savage "Bartier Cardi"

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Director: Lily F Thrall

As Cardi B's persona morphs into the boss she says she is in her lyrics, it's only right that the visuals match. And just like any good boss, Cardi made sure to not only show off her squad of goons counting up her guap in the video for "Bartier Cardi," but she also has a bevy of shirtless dudes lined up to seemingly attend to her every need, be it watching her spit on an old school TV or repeating after her when she says her name. Her extended mid-verse make-out session with Offset is truly icing on the cake. —khal

12. Kali Uchis f/ Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins "After the Storm"

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Director: Nadia Lee Cohen

If you were surprised by the candy-colored suburban fantasyland of Kali Uchis’ “After the Storm” video, you shouldn’t have been. Uchis has been serving up pretty (though grittier) visuals for years, since back when she was platinum blonde (or bubblegum pink), and “After the Storm” proves that she’s still got it. The video sees Uchis, a lonely, red-taloned spinster, dropping by the grocery store to pick up bread, cheese, milk, eggs, and a Chia pet—excuse me, lover. Said lover is played by Tyler, the Creator, who delivers his verse from underground, as Uchis patiently waters and tends to him until he grows through the seasons to become her loving partner. Realistically, most of the men already on Earth are garbage, anyway, so I’m willing to give Kali’s method a *Bootsy Collins voice* try, try, try, try. —Carolyn Bernucca

11. Migos f/ Drake "Walk It Talk It"

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Directors: Daps & Quavo

Here's how you make an instantly viral video: take the biggest group in hip-hop, add one of the most popular rappers of our generation, and sprinkle in some Hollywood royalty in the form of Jamie Foxx. Once those ingredients are in place, prepare some homage stew (R.I.P. Soul Train) and add a dash of the absolute cheesiest '70s outfits ever. The final dish is "Walk It Talk It," one of Migos' best music videos yet—which is saying a lot. The trio and featured guest Drake take turns making love to the camera, giving us a taste of what life might have been like had we been blessed with contemporary rap decades ago. It's not often that we get to see the Migos have fun, and this video was the perfect concoction to get a taste of their personalities. —Kiana Fitzgerald

10. J. Cole "Kevin's Heart"

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Directors: J. Cole & Scott Lazer

J. Cole and Scott Lazer snapped with this concept. Kevin Hart must owe Cole big time if he let the rapper talk him into appearing in a video addressing Hart's own infidelity. The whole thing plays out like a short film as Kevin tries to deal with the public humiliation he put himself and his family through, and although it shouldn’t be, the video is hilarious. Shouts to Kevin Hart for being a good sport. —Angel Diaz

9. Tyler, the Creator "OKRA"

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Director: Wolf Haley (Tyler, the Creator)

Part BMX video, part Golf Le Fleur ad, part seizure-inducing fever dream, all Tyler. The music video for “OKRA” is a split-screen peer into Tyler’s mind, a mind that’s done some serious evolving over the last few years. In the wake of 2017’s Flower Boy, we’ve seen a softer side of Tyler. He’s no longer the kid yelling out homophobic slurs and fantasizing about necrophilia to get a rise out of us. But the best parts about that era—the bucket hats, dancing around with friends, and dizzying camera work—are felt in “OKRA,” whether Tyler is sitting under a tree, sprawled out in an armchair, or sporting a reflective crossing guard vest and telling “Tim Chalamet to come get at me.” The kid we all fell in love with on Tumblr is still in there—he’s just a little (really, a little) more polished now. —Carolyn Bernucca

8. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake "King's Dead"

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Directors: Dave Free & Jack Begert

Kendrick's always had compelling visuals, but one of the highlights of the Damn era was witnessing his mastery of the music video solidify in real time. "King's Dead" marks his frequent collaborator Dave Free's first time at the helm without the assistance of the Little Homies or music video OG Dave Meyers. Based off what he did here, give that man a short film next. Those wide rooftop shots? Straight Michael Mann shit. Not to mention, Kenny, Hendrixx, and Rock in a Wolf of Wall Street setting for one scene is like a video within the video. There's also that instantly iconic shot of Kendrick and the elote—just an embarrassment of GIF-worthy riches. —Frazier Tharpe

7. 2 Chainz f/ YG and Offset "PROUD"

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Directors: 2 Chainz and Howard Ross

It's one thing for 2 Chainz to bring in YG and Offset and make a dope tribute to their moms; it's an entirely different thing to then get all of their mothers in the video. If anything, you can tell that their mothers' swag and determination rubbed off on the trio of rappers, as the clip shows each mom rapping along to her son's verse, four-letter words and all. Hopefully everyone has a mom who can ride for them like 2 Chainz, YG, and Offset. —khal

6. Janelle Monáe "Make Me Feel"

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Director: Alan Ferguson

It’s no secret that Janelle Monáe and Prince were thick as thieves, but in case anyone was unsure, Janelle went ahead and confirmed with “Make Me Feel.” Not only does the song evoke Prince vibes (who else could that guitar remind you of?), the video’s mega glam looks and sensual choreography practically scream “Kiss.” The video, which was released before “PYNK,” is what originally reignited conversations surrounding Monáe’s relationship with Tessa Thompson and her sexuality overall. Oh, and of course, there were the endless think-pieces about the video’s “bisexual lighting” and what it all meant in relation to #Janessa. Two months later, Monáe revealed that she actually identifies as pansexual (which, for the record, still makes #Janessa very possible). The release of “Make Me Feel” gave us a queer anthem with flawless visuals, and helped fill the holes we’ve had in our hearts since Prince’s passing. What else could we ask for? —Carolyn Bernucca

5. Drake "God's Plan"

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Director: Karena Evans

Drake and director Karena Evans brought “God’s Plan” to life with a visual that featured various donations (totaling $996,631.90) and acts of kindness around the Miami area from the Toronto rapper. Among them: tuition checks, free groceries, shopping sprees, toys and money for a women’s shelter, and a turn-up at a Florida high school those kids will never forget. The video also helped “God’s Plan” make a run for 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even if it doesn’t inspire you to do something charitable, at the very least you can appreciate the message behind this feel-good performance. —Edwin Ortiz

4. ASAP Rocky f/ Moby "ASAP Forever"

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Director: Dexter Navy

Nobody in rap makes better videos than ASAP, TDE, and Tyler on such a consistent basis. Rocky continues to push the envelope in terms of visuals and “ASAP Forever” is a mindfuck, yet somehow Dexter Navy manages to match up each scene with Rocky’s bars. This video is like a Rubix Cube of fashion, NYC street corners, and colors. My favorite part is the scene where Rocky seems to be running from the cops amid a backdrop of himself standing in the middle of the projects. Somehow he manages to outdo himself with each video he rolls out. —Angel Diaz

3. Janelle Monáe "PYNK"

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Director: Emma Westenberg

Janelle Monáe’s “PYNK” combines all of the greatest design schemes of the past few years—desert aesthetics, athleisure, velvet, and of course, the resurgence of the color pink—to create a lush, dreamy utopia, a fantastic realization of Janelle’s mission to Fem the Future. The song itself is tongue-in-cheek, but the essence of the music video is loud and clear, thanks to underwear embroidered with the words “sex cells,” a neon sign that reads “pussy power,” and a shot of a grapefruit that makes me blush just to think about. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Tessa Thompson’s face peeking out of Janelle Monáe’s “pussy pants,” which is either confirmation of the pair’s relationship or the greatest troll of all time. No matter the explanation, the message remains the same: women rule the fucking world. Duh. —Carolyn Bernucca

2. Drake "Nice for What"

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Director: Karena Evans

Drake doesn’t always get feminism right—his support of friend and collaborator Baka, who was found guilty of assaulting a woman (he avoided jail time due to time served), is just one example of how Drake isn’t exactly a champion of women’s rights. But when he does get it right, we get something like “Nice for What,” an ode to women’s defiance in the face of the bullshit we encounter every day, usually at the hands of men. The video features some of the industry’s most beautiful women (mostly women of color, no less), but even those of us without famous faces can still see ourselves in the Karena Evans-directed visuals. From Issa Rae bossing up on a table of old white men to Tracee Ellis Ross exuding pure joy to Yara Shahidi shadow boxing in a Harvard hoodie to Syd chilling with a lady friend (shout-out to queer representation), “Nice for What” feels like a party we were all invited to—one in which our dancing, our laughter, and our confidence exist for us and no one else. —Carolyn Bernucca

1. Childish Gambino "This Is America"

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Director: Hiro Murai

Childish Gambino made the world stop when he dropped the video for his single "This Is America." Featuring a shirtless Donald undulating throughout a warehouse, it immediately became clear that this was not your average music video. Less than a minute in, Gambino shoots a friendly man and has the gun cleaned and taken away. The extremes of the video—from a choir getting gunned down to schoolchildren jubilantly dancing—are emblematic and reflective of the way American society has learned to live with death and destruction plopped in the center of our day-to-day lives. The video spawned offshoots, both tone-deaf and inspiring, but the original left many scratching their heads, wondering what exactly it was supposed to mean. Childish Gambino refused to comment on the video's true meaning, leaving us to come up with our own interpretations. All I know is this: if "This Is America" ain't art, I don't know what is. —Kiana Fitzgerald

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