2013 was an impressive year for music videos. Once upon a time, music videos were a rare treat for the typical Asian-American music artist, with the budget and technical constraints too big for most independent artists. But as the barrier of entry continues to shrink and the skills and resources available begin to grow, we are truly in an age where nearly any artist can put together a visual to promote their material. But I’ve always been about honoring the best of the best, and although we had many fantastic music videos last year, I decided to go through all of them and rank what I considered to be the Top 10. And just because it was hard to complete that task, I included a few more that didn’t quite make the cut but I felt should be recognized. So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to let me know!
But without further ado…
10. Paul Kim – “You Had Your Chance”
There’s just something cathartic about causing and witnessing destruction in an emotional moment. PK may have released many videos this year, but this is the one that stood out the most from this catalog. How many other R&B singers do you know that went complete Street Fighter II bonus stage
on a car in a music video?
9. TOKiMONSTA – “Clean Slate”
Admittedly, this one gets a lot of points for novelty, but being so unique, I couldn’t help but include this one on the list. Tokimonsta serves up a interactive music video that plays out like a living sticker book set to her song. At the very least, it’s an impressive mixture of mediums and technical exercise, even if the variety is lacking after a while.
8. Kero One – “in All the Wrong Places”
Mixing animation and live footage can always be tricky, but luckily Kero & company pulled it off very well – even if it was for a single that is 7 years old. Is it perfect? Not exactly, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting music videos to come across my monitor in 2013. This one deserves much more than the sub 50K hits it currently has on Youtube.
7. Bambu x Promethus Brown – “Books”
In the past few years, we’ve seen the technical production values of music videos make huge improvements, with directors and videographers being able to do much more with less. But at the end of the day, it’s still more about execution and smart use of style than anything else. Bam & Pro’s “Books” has all of the latter, successfully using a 90’s sitcom motif to satirical pair with their socially-minded lyrics.
6. Inch – “Artful Dodger”
Sometimes, going abstract can be detrimental to an artist’s cause, but Inch’s MV for “Artful Dodger” manages to keep things quirky and unconventional without losing the audience’s interest or weirding us out too much. This was easily one of the most curious and engaging videos of last year. It’s strange done right.
5. Us – “Take Me Home”
On a strictly technical or style level, there isn’t much noteworthy to mention about this video. But what it does right, and more so than any other video on this list, is tell a moving narrative in an effective and believable manner. The fact that the leading actors/artists are a real-life couple and in love themselves add an extra dose of authenticity and genuineness. I don’t know how or why anyone would reunite in a flower field, but who cares – it’s friggin’ beautiful.
4. Dumbfoundead – “Clear”
Every genre of music has it’s list of cliche’s to check off in a music video. Parker’s “Clear” hits a lot of boxes for an indie music video, but does it so convincingly well that it sets a new standard for the indie hip-hop video. The video’s got great shots, great set pieces, international appeal, and a smart nod to all the pillars of Hip-hop culture. It’s hard to find anything to dislike with this video.
3. Sam Tsui – “Make it Up”
One take videos are often a sign of laziness and compromise from an artist. But when you commit to carrying out an entire full-production of a music video, the planning needed is immeasurable and the execution is nearly impossible to do. But leave it to Sam Tsui to step away from his always slickly produced video style and try to do something a little more lively and unpredictable. And the kid pulled it off with aplomb. I don’t know how many artist we cover that could do the same.
2. Gowe – “Aurora”
When you hear Gowe’s “Aurora”, it’s hard not to imagine it as the BGM to a video game. Obviously, he felt the same because he had a music video commissioned in the style of a retro arcade game and it was pulled off perfectly. It oozes old-school style and appeal and has cool points to spare. But let’s give credit where credit is due, the director/animator, Rikognition aka Ronald Jenkees, absolutely killed it with this one.
1. Vienna Teng – “Level Up”
I had nothing but good things to say about this video when I saw it a month ago, and I still stand by my praise. It may have come out towards the end of the year, but it stands out above nearly every other video released in 13. It’s the perfect mix of dance, story telling, and indie-pop to bring you one of the most compelling watches that I’ve come across since I started this site. And that’s why it’s my number one pick.
Runner Ups (in no particular order):
Lions Ambition – “Believe”
Yes, it’s a little silly, but I’m loving the Walking Dead type video. It must have been a blast to make this MV. It has campy make-up and isn’t a thriller of a watch by any means, but it’s undeniably entertaining.
Jason Chen – “Thank You”
There are a number of music videos this year with impressive special effects and editing, but it’s one thing to include it just because, and another when it is incorporated smartly and effectively to make the video stronger. Ross Ching & Jason Chen did a fantastic job doing just that with rubix cubes.
David Choi – “Rollercoaster”
If we were to give an award for best editing, this video would prob take top honors. David and his team did an amazing job of being creative with this video and keeping it fresh and engrossing with smart and impressive direction.