The Best Music Videos of 2020

From Travis Scott’s “Franchise” to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” these are the 30 music videos that defined the year (ranked).

Best Music Videos of 2020
Complex Original

Complex Original

Best Music Videos of 2020

Since concerts were canceled for the majority of the year, music videos became even more vital than usual in 2020. Making videos was one of the only ways that artists could build worlds around their songs and connect with fans beyond the music. And since everyone was stuck at home, we were a captive audience for anything they threw at us. When a music video really connected, like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” it spread at unprecedented speeds, dominating social media timelines along the way.

Looking back on the past 12 months of music videos, there was no singular trend that dominated the year. Some videos set out to capture the reality of the world as it existed in 2020, and others attempted to provide viewers with an escape. There were successful no-frills, DIY videos, alongside blockbuster visuals that made the most of big budgets. Some were hilarious, and others were heartbreaking. So, when putting together this list, we attempted to highlight a range of stylistic approaches as we picked the videos that resonated with us the most this year. For the purposes of this list, videos needed to be released in 2020 and we only highlighted one per artist. These are Complex’s picks for the 30 best music videos of 2020.

30. Teezo Touchdown, “Strong Friend”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Geeta and friends 

We still don’t know a lot about Teezo Touchdown, but he made a hell of a first impression this year by uploading a series of music videos to YouTube. Filmed in one location—a slab of concrete in front of a garage door—each of the videos exist in the same universe. It’s unclear where in the world this patch of cement is (or how the hell Teezo Touchdown ended up there) but each video takes advantage of the relatively blank canvas in wonderfully creative ways. In one video, he’s joined by a crew of mascots. In another, backup dancers show up. He even does interviews there. But the video that started it all, “Strong Friend,” is the best of them all. With a bunch of nails in his hair and a guitar slung around his neck, Teezo sings into a bouquet of roses and strums his guitar. It’s all very simple and DIY, but that’s what makes it so special. Watching the “Strong Friend” video feels like taking a wrong turn down an alley and stumbling into a bizarre new neighbor who happens to be an incredibly talented musician. It was easily one of the best introductions of the year. —Eric Skelton

29. Armand Hammer f/ KeiyaA, “Charms”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Joseph Mault

The idea of a video and single coming from Armand Hammer is surprising enough. The knotty, cerebral duo of billy woods and Elucid peddle in completion. Detours and album highlights seem antithetical to their mission, but they jumped at the opportunity to build a world around “Charms,” one of many standouts from their brilliant 2020 missive, Shrines. The song features KeiyaA, and the video showcases a murky, post-apocalyptic uncanny valley landscape. Throughout it all, billy, E, and KeiyaA soundtrack our tour through ruined gardens and abandoned cityscapes. It’s desolate, but that merely allows Armand Hammer more room to shine. —Will Schube

28. Chloe x Halle, “Do It”

View this video on YouTube

Director: C Prinz

Every time Chloe and Halle performed at a television show or awards ceremony in 2020, they did so in breathtaking fashion. The sets were always stunning, the outfits were always on-point, and the choreography was always top-notch. In the music video for their hit single, “Do It,” they capture the same energy that made all those performances so special. Singing and dancing in front of a variety of simple but beautiful backdrops and lighting cues, they pull off a video that somehow manages to live up to the power of the song itself, inspiring top-voted YouTube comments like, “Everything about them from their vocals to the aura they give is just majestic.” One of the biggest disappointments in music this year was not being able to see this song performed in a live setting, but until that day comes, we’re happy to keep this video on loop. —Eric Skelton

27. Missy Elliott, “Cool Off”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Daniel Russell

You always know you’re in for something special whenever Missy Elliott releases a music video, and she lives up the high bar she’s set for herself over the years with “Cool Off.” The Video Vanguard Award winner appropriately transforms herself into a literal work of art in this Daniel Russell-directed video for her Iconology standout. Opening with a symmetrical shot of Missy as a bronze statue in the middle of an art exhibit, the video explodes into a rainbow of color, matching the song’s upbeat energy and giving Missy room to play with all kinds of visual textures. To put it simply, it’s fun as hell. At the end of the video, Teyana Taylor, playing a museum guide, describes Missy as “the greatest, most timeless woman of all time.” And with decades of incredible videos under her belt, it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue with that claim. —Eric Skelton

26. DaBaby, “Find My Way”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Reel Goats

Since he first popped off, DaBaby’s music videos have always been great, and “Find My Way” is no exception. Teaming up with comedian B Simone, he goes around robbing people (and even getting a few shots off) while being on the run. This video is like a modern version of Red Dead Redemption 2. DaBaby is well-known for his comedic music videos, but he shows his range as an actor in a more dramatic role here. He’s clearly going to be somebody who auditions for movies in the future and we hope to see him display more of his skills on his way to a debut on the big screen. —Eric Wells

25. Griselda, “Dr Birds”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Hype Williams

The Griselda crew is known for being one of rap’s chief purveyors of grittiness, but they got glossy for the Hype Williams-directed “Dr. Birds” video. Hype gets crazy with the video effects, hypnotizing us with twirling paint splashes, as well as kaleidoscopes of revolvers and AKs that fit Westside’s infectious “boom boom booms.” The colorful shots are counterbalanced by scenes of the three MCs against a blank, white backdrop that feels like a rap rite of passage. It’s as if you aren’t solidified until you’re lit enough to stand against that blank canvas and carry a visual on your own. Westside Gunn, Conway, and Benny can stand alone, and they announced it during a video that married the cutting edge with classic rap video elements. —Andre Gee

24. Rico Nasty, “Own It”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Philippa Price

Rico Nasty has never shied away from being herself, even when that meant being different. The video for “Own It” is no exception. The two-minute visual introduces something new in each scene, incorporating fresh hairstyles, backdrops, and more colors than an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. It really has it all. From random dead animals posted up by a swing set, to Rico having box braids that take the shape of a literal box, everything about this video is unique and fun. It’s clear that every frame was well-thought-out, too. If you take a screenshot of any part of this video, it’ll stand on its own as a work of art. —Eric Wells

23. City Girls f/ Doja Cat, “Pussy Talk”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Daps

It’s a shame that we haven’t been able to hear “Pussy Talk” in a crowded room full of people this year, but for now, we’re happy to keep watching the music video over and over. The vibrant Daps-directed clip follows Yung Miami, JT, and Doja Cat as they talk their shit in an office, a lavish mansion, and the great outdoors. Like the song itself, the visual is overflowing with swaggering confidence as they drop gems like, “Ayy, look, this pussy extort these n****s.” It’s a masterpiece. —Eric Skelton

22. Aminé, “Shimmy”

View this video on YouTube

Directors: Adam Aminé Daniel and Jack Begert

If you weren’t sure how much the city of Portland loves its hometown hero, Aminé, his video for “Shimmy” offers a pretty good idea. Who else could take over the stadium for the Portland Timbers? Dame D.O.L.L.A., and that’s probably it. But “Shimmy” showcases why Aminé is beloved both in his hometown and across the country. His humor is highlighted by an undeniable swagger and limitless charisma. Who else could look this cool walking a fleet of dogs? —Will Schube

21. FKA Twigs, “Sad Day”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Hiro Murai

Imagine going on a late-night run for some food, and while waiting in line for your order, you see two people draw samurai swords on each other. That’s how this video begins. FKA Twigs duels it out with a gentleman throughout most of the duration the clip, and watching the fight is like witnessing two Templar Knights settle their differences once and for all. FKA Twigs’ choreography is always top-notch, and to add weapons into the mix was just the chef’s kiss on top of everything that we wanted. —Eric Wells

20. Baby Keem, “Hooligan”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Jake Schreier

You can tell Baby Keem cares a lot about the visual presentation of his music. The cover artwork for Die For My Bitch perfectly captured the music inside, and every visual he’s put out since then has lived up to those high standards. The music video for his latest single, “Hooligan,” is especially strong. In each scene, Keem stares at the camera, expressionless, as a series of women take up his lip-syncing duties for him. An arms-length away from Keem in each of the scenes, the women are physically close to him, but ultimately detached. As a shadowy Keem walks from one woman to the next throughout the night, the simple concept conveys several metaphors at once, much like the song itself. Yet again, Keem’s close attention to visual details pays off in a big way. Run this one back a few times and you’ll catch something new each time you watch it. —Eric Skelton

19. SZA f/ Ty Dolla Sign, “Hit Different”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Solana

SZA and Ty Dolla Sign are completely correct. This shit does, indeed, hit different. The song is a tremendous slab of sweaty R&B, and the video is an all-timer. SZA and co. invade a junkyard/used car depository, and proceed to run through a plethora of dances, outfits, and various interactions with plains and hay. It’s a wild ride, and a perfect encapsulation of SZA’s infectious personality. And the video gets even better when Ty shows up, walking through the car cemetery with a cool indifference, like he could be anywhere in the world. —Will Schube

18. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin, “My Dawg”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Joe Weil

Rappers have been ideating themselves as drug kingpins for decades now, and 21 Savage and Metro-Boomin offered the year’s best entry into the canon on “My Dawg,” a slick visual that shows the two presumably meeting with the Cartel at a plush villa. Video director Joe Weil skillfully matches the visuals with the lyrics throughout the song, including a scene with classically-dressed British soldiers during the bars in which 21 warns, “Nigga keep talkin’ that U.K. shit like I don't got AKs.” They also show Metro and 21 “hangin’ in the hallway” at school, before heading back to the mansion for seedy night shots that radiate menace when backed by Metro’s sinister keys. At that point, you’re just waiting for a cadre of assassins to climb the gate ala Scarface. 21 and Metro prioritized the visuals throughout the Savage Mode 2 album cycle, and the “My Dawg” video is exhibit A. —Andre Gee

17. Lil Baby, “The Bigger Picture”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Keemotion

Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” is a time capsule of this summer’s protests. The video’s occasional black-and-white shots lend the video an urgent gravitas, and it plants the seed for the viewer to realize that the fight Lil Baby is rapping about has been going on since all we had was black-and-white TV (and even before that). In between scenes of Baby and his crew standing united are clips of protesters from this summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations all over the country. We see “No Justice No Peace” signs, as well as pleas to End Hate and #SayHerName, which all reflect the movement’s resounding demands. Making it clear where he stands, Lil Baby and crew are wearing #BlackLivesMatter shirts, and they end the video giving the Black Power fists in unison. —Andre Gee

16. Flo Milli, “Weak”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Sara Lacombe

The “Weak” music video might remind you of a visual from the early 2000s. It sets the scene in a simple home where chiseled men count out piles of one hundred-dollar bills. And as the camera pans out, Flo Milli struts out of the house in a money-print unitard. As she glides over a carpet of dollars bills, two rows of men bow their heads in her presence. The video may be simple, but it captures a certain dream: being surrounded by money and men who respond to your every demand. —Jessica McKinney

15. Ski Mask the Slump God, “Burn the Hoods”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Cole Bennett

Ski Mask the Slump God might not be the first rapper you’d expect to go after the history of the Confederacy in his music, but in 2020, nothing can be assumed. The visual for “Burn the Hoods” is a powerful shout against racism. The song is a distant cousin of YG’s “FDT,” with Ski Mask yelping, “Fuck my president Donald Trump.” And in the video, the KKK invades his home, but with a Confederate flag burning in the background, Ski Mask is able to fight them off and march their bloody bodies back where they came from. As Ski Mask explained to Complex, “There are a lot of concepts behind [the video], but the main one was that it was just going to be us beating up the KKK.” Mission accomplished. —Will Schube

14. Anderson .Paak, “Lockdown”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Dave Meyers

Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown” comments on the current events that have rocked the United States this year, but you don’t need the sound on to know when this video was shot or what time period it is capturing. Paak and his crew ride through the city with medical masks over their noses and mouths, and as he steps into a local supermarket, images of Black Lives Matter protests flash on the cashier’s television in the background. As .Paak rests at home with his son, the video becomes animated. The final images show the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and many other Black people who died at the hands of police. “The people are rising,” it says at the end. There have been many protest videos and songs in 2020, but “Lockdown” is a clear standout, providing important documentation of the time. —Jessica McKinney

13. Pharrell f/ Jay-Z, “Entrepreneur”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Calmatic

We are all aware of the fact that both Pharrell and Jay-Z are successful entrepreneurs, but what makes this music video so great is that the moguls turn the lens on other innovators and business owners who are making moves in their communities. The “Entrepreneur” video puts an emphasis on Black business owners, educators, and creators, as the collaborators address systemic racism and inequality. The video focuses on creatives like Honey Pot founder Beatrice Dixon, while also shining a light on celebrity entrepreneurs, including Tyler, the Creator, Issa Rae, and the late Nipsey Hussle. In a social climate that has seemed more divisive than ever, “Entrepreneur” is an uplifting visual that celebrates Black people’s contributions to the world. —Jessica McKinney

12. The Weeknd, “In Your Eyes”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Anton Tammi

While calling a music video cinematic or “like a movie” is generally hackneyed, Abel legitimately approaches the video for “In Your Eyes” like he’s Benny and Josh Safdie with a hundred million dollars budgeted out. The drama unfolds with tension and a frenetic pace, as Abel stalks a woman and eventually gets his head chopped off, which serves as a dancing partner for said woman throughout the rest of the video. The Weeknd dons his now-signature red suit and bruised face in the video, and while the look is iconic, our favorite moment is the tight frame on the saxophone player as he blasts through his solo. —Will Schube

11. Roddy Ricch, “The Box”

View this video on YouTube

Directors: Christian Breslauer and Roddy Ricch

The visual for Roddy Ricch’s massive hit, “The Box,” is a blend of typical video fare and a conceptual play on consumerism that marries Roddy’s high aesthetic aspirations with the bombast of big budget music videos. He dunks from the free throw line, robs a bank, lies on a bed surrounded by sharks, plays the President of the United States, and rides a conveyer belt on a factory floor. The fun comes to an abrupt end, though, as Roddy finds himself stuck in a literal box at the center of a museum. “The Box” made Roddy a bonafide superstar, but the spotlight can be unnervingly claustrophobic. —Will Schube

10. Beyoncé, “Brown Skin Girl”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Jenn Nkiru

The video for “Brown Skin Girl” is rich in melanin and Black girl joy. In true Beyoncé fashion, it’s luxurious and elegant, depicting a handful of Black women of many different shades of brown in the most regal outfits. The video is so sweet and mesmerizing that you have to watch it multiple times to catch all of the famous faces that made it into the final cut. Naomi Campbell, Kelly Rowland, and Lupita N’yongo, who were named specifically on the record, all appear in the video, wearing beautiful gowns. What’s more important than the faces you recognize is the message that it sends to little girls. It shows them that they are beautiful in the skin they are in. It can’t get any better than that. —Jessica McKinney

9. Drake f/ Lil Durk, “Laugh Now Cry Later”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Dave Meyers

Fat Joe and others justifiably catch ire when they compare Drake to Michael Jackson. There will never be another MJ. But it’s worth noting that people put Drake in a “league of his own” category for this era, exactly because of videos like “Laugh Now Cry Later.” It’s a star-studded, world-is-my-playground type of video that only a megastar could pull off. There aren’t many artists who could express their love of sports by shutting down the Nike Company Store (on Nike headquarters) or have fun with top-tier athletes like Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham, and the recently retired Marshawn Lynch. The Dave Meyers-directed video splices those scenes with clips of Drake jet skiing, shadow boxing underwater, and paying homage to LeBron by ideating himself and Lil Durk as top draft picks, baggy suits intact. It was as if once Drake heard “Laugh Now Cry Later’s” regal horns, he knew he had to provide it with a fittingly monumental video. That’s what he did, making for one of the best moments of the summer. —Andre Gee

8. Pop Smoke f/ Quavo, “Shake the Room”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Off-White International Rap Video Studio 

The “Shake the Room” video comes with a disclaimer: “This is real life footage.” Directed by Virgil Abloh in France during Paris Fashion Week, the music video doesn’t revolve around an elaborate concept or a big-budget set. Instead, its sole purpose is to document an exciting moment in the rapid ascent of a breakout star, because at the time, Pop Smoke’s real life was more thrilling than any music video treatment could ever hope to be. The 20-year-old Brooklyn rapper was hanging out with A-list celebrities, getting invited to fashion shows, and going to fancy Parisian restaurants with his crew. He was in the midst of becoming a global star. “When we got the call for him to go to Paris, it was super exciting because it was validation that he was on [people’s] radar and worthy of that front-row seat and the celebrity and stuff that comes with it,” Victor Victor Worldwide’s Shivam Pandya remembers about the trip. Shot four hours after a Louis Vuitton fashion show, the raw nature of the music video captures the chaotic intensity of Pop Smoke’s whirlwind rise. The video was ultimately released after Pop Smoke’s death, making it a bittersweet moment for his fans and members of his inner circle. But it now serves as important documentation of what made Pop Smoke and his music so special. —Eric Skelton

7. Travis Scott f/ Young Thug & M.I.A., “Franchise”

View this video on YouTube

Directors: Travis Scott and White Trash Tyler

Travis Scott is an icon, a brand ambassador, and still, a rapper, too. It’s hard to figure out when he still finds the time to churn out hits, but this one, which features Thugger and M.I.A., is another bouncy, bass-heavy jam. The video features a shitload of fancy cars, Travis shilling for his spiked seltzer brand, and a clip of him hitting a golf ball so far he knocks someone off a wooden floatation device. All that being said, he looks fly as hell in his golf fit. Thugger shows up and promptly eats sushi and acts wildly unimpressed by the riches surrounding him. Before the video gets to M.I.A.’s appearance, Gunna even makes a cameo and does his own stunt. The biggest flex here, though, is the fact that Travis filmed it at Michael Jordan’s 56,000-square-foot Chicago mansion. —Will Schube

6. Bad Bunny, “Yo Perreo Sola”

View this video on YouTube

Directors: Bad Bunny and Stillz

The visual for “Yo Perreo Sola” is just as vibrant and entertaining as we’ve come to expect any video from Bad Bunny to be. At first, the camera rests on a frame of a red patent leather boot tapping along to the beat. But the real fun starts once you realize that the boot belongs to Bad Bunny, who has dressed up as a busty alter ego. The video then switches to different scenes of the Puerto Rican superstar dancing in skimpy clothes in colorful rooms. Then he appears again, dressed in monochromatic ensembles. The video is fun and carefree, providing the breath of fresh air we all could use as we continue to push through a difficult year. —Jessica McKinney

5. RMR, “Rascal”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Gabe Hostetler

Before the “Rascal” video mysteriously appeared online at the top of the year, no one knew who RMR was. So how did it immediately go viral, setting off a major label bidding war? There’s no exact science to creating viral success, but the “Rascal” video did a lot of things right, balancing a perfect concoction of mystery, surprise, and pure musical ability. Taking the rap-meets-country aesthetic to a new stratosphere, the video opens with a group of men aiming guns straight at the camera. Half of them are wearing ski masks, and RMR is decked out in an Yves Saint Laurent bulletproof vest over an Off-White long-sleeve T-shirt. But then the masked singer flips the imagery on its head by belting out an a cappella version of Rascal Flatts’ “These Days,” before transitioning into a stirring take of “Bless the Broken Road,” updated to include lines like, “Fuck 12, fuck 12/Fuck 12, fuck 12.” On “Rascal,” RMR and his team beautifully utilized the music video medium in a fresh new way, creating a moment that made a much bigger impact than a song from a then-unknown artist could have on its own. Simply put, it’s the most unique and intriguing introduction to a new artist we saw in 2020. —Eric Skelton

4. Future f/ Drake, “Life Is Good”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Director X

It’s always a good time when Drake and Future link up. In the “Life Is Good” video, the frequent collaborators find themselves working odd jobs. On their first shift, Drake and Future are wastemen who are assigned to the late-night shift, becoming undoubtedly the coolest looking garbage men ever to roll through a gated community. And on the second job, they turn out to be employees at a fake Apple company, where they assist customers on the floor with all of their tech questions and concerns. Their turn as fast food employees is the funniest, though. As the track switches to Future’s uptempo portion, Drake and Future find themselves flipping burgers and taking orders. 21 Savage and Mike Will Made-It also make a quick cameo behind the counter. Future and Drake are at their most entertaining as a duo when they’re comfortable showing their playful side, and the “Life Is Good” video is a great time all around, true to its title. —Jessica McKinney

3. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats, “Unlocked”

View this video on YouTube

Directors: Jack Begert and Christian Sutton

Get yourself a friendship like the one Kenny Beats and Denzel Curry have. Watching the 23-minute, mostly animated version of their collaborative record of the same name makes me want to call childhood friends I haven’t spoken to in years and propose we make a beat tape or something. These guys work so well together, and their chemistry is apparent both throughout the ’tape and in the way they both got fully onboard with producing and acting in a short film that’s longer than many Sundance submissions. The video has the aesthetics of a lost clip from Adult Swim, moving from black-and-white to claymation and anime. It’s a brilliant effort, the rare video that works as both a stand-alone piece of art and a support system for the album. TikToks have shrunken our attention span in a serious way, but with “Unlocked,” Kenny Beats and Denzel Curry have provided the half-hour antidote. —Will Schube

2. Lil Yachty, “Oprah’s Bank Account”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Julien Christian Lutz

The “Oprah’s Bank Account” video is hilarious. Not only did Lil Yachty get Drake to joke about that thing he does with his lips in Instagram photos, he also gave DaBaby a chance to address the tired “same flow” criticism in a funny, lighthearted way. As DaBaby revealed to Complex in August, “That was Yachty’s idea. That was just a joke he made. Everything we did in the skits was just off the top of the head. It was all improv.” Yachty’s instincts as an all-around entertainer shine throughout the nine-minute clip, as he pulls off the incredibly difficult task of making a comedic rap video that has multiple skits. Choosing to include extended sketches in a music video often distracts from the song and slashes replay value, but on “Oprah’s Bank Account,” Yachty actually delivers something that has us wanting more. After watching this, we’d definitely tune into a Netflix variety show starring Lil Boat. According to DaBaby, Yachty was overflowing with ideas on set. “Really, the funniest shit we did ended up not making the final video,” he revealed. “I need to call him and tell him he needs to post it or something, because it was hilarious.” In 2020, we desperately needed reasons to laugh, and the “Oprah’s Bank Account” video is something we kept coming back to whenever we needed a pick-me-up. —Eric Skelton

1. Cardi B f/ Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP”

View this video on YouTube

Director: Colin Tilley

“WAP” has everything you could hope for from a major music video in 2020. In four minutes, we’re hit with vivid imagery, glamorous costumes, trippy effects, dynamic choreography, exotic animals, celebrity cameos, and much more. While Cardi B had the vision, director Colin Tilley and co-creative director Patience Foster deserve credit for bringing that world of extravagance and luxury to life. Cardi and Megan Thee Stallion are equally captivating and seductive as they tip-toe down the halls of the massive fun house, filled with erotic statues and celebrity friends. While fans might immediately recognize cameos from Normani and Kylie Jenner, the video also puts a spotlight on newer acts like Rubi Rose and Sukihana. The choreography is sharp, as group dance routines balance close-up shots of Megan and Cardi. And, above all, it did exactly what any music video hopes to do: create an inescapable pop culture moment that draws extra attention to the song. When the “WAP” video hit YouTube this summer, it completely dominated the conversation, attracting memes, political debates, think-pieces, and millions of streams. Cardi B and the whole team nailed it. “WAP” set the standard for quality videos in 2020, calling for other artists to put more thought and effort into their visuals as we move into the new year. —Jessica McKinney

Latest in Music