Which music video do YOU think should win this year's Grammy? Check out the nominees in the embedded video players below, and then vote in our poll at the end of this article.
"Alright" by Kendrick Lamar
Directors: The Little Homies & Colin Tilley. Producers: Brandon Bonfiglio, Dave Free, Andrew Lerios & Luga Podesta. (Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath Records/Interscope Records)
I remembered you was conflicted,
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same,
Abusing my power full of resentment,
Resentment that turned into a deep depression.
Found myself screamin' in the hotel room.
I didn't wanna self-destruct,
The evils of Lucy was all around me,
So I went runnin' for answers.
This beautifully shot film is the most poetic of this year's nominees, in part because of the rueful subtext of Lamar's song -- the subjugation of black youth to police violence. It's a soulful search for meaning, with hope that there is a higher purpose to life than rampant suffering. It's actually an extremely optimistic song ("We gon' be alright" became a mantra during Black Lives Matter protests), which makes the video's final moments all the more powerful.
"Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
Director: Joseph Kahn. Producer: Ron Mohrhoff. (Big Machine Records)
This fake trailer for a big-budget Hollywood revenge fantasy featuring female assassins -- which won Video of the Year at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards -- includes such guest stars as Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, Lena Dunham, Selena Gomez and Hailee Steinfeld. Very slick (the film would no doubt have a boffo opening weekend), but it would work better as a parody of action films if the genre and the filmmaking style being aped weren't already parodies themselves.
"Freedom" by Pharrell Williams
Director: Paul Hunter. Producers: Dragonas & Nathan Scherrer. (Columbia)
Man's red flower, it's in every living thing.
Mind, use your power.
Spirit, use your wings.
The film illustrating Pharrell Williams' anthem for the human spirit is wide-ranging, from on-the-nose visuals (whales breeching the ocean's surface, a cheetah hunting down an antelope) to hints of magical realism (an astronaut floating through a teeming city intersection) to the playful (a Lego recreation of the Tiananmen Square tank protester). The film is visually arresting, but musically it's not as engaging or open to repeated plays as "Happy" -- and it's indeed a shame to see a piano sacrificed. [Note: Includes brief nudity. Freedom, of course.]
"I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)" by The Dead Weather
Directors: Cooper Roberts & Ian Schwartz. Producers: Candice Dragonas & Nathan Scherrer. (Third Man Records)
Nothing to color, I cross the desert, nothing's alive.
What does the black top know that I have not cracked with my mind?
Nothing to color, grey as a pill, nobody cry.
Why do the street lamps shine on still - nothing's alive.
I feel love, every million miles.
I feel love, every once in a while.
Alison Mosshart's vocals and the throbbing beat of this song have a terrific, pounding force that are heightened further by the wonderfully kinetic energy of the staging, in both black-and-white and color. One takeaway from the video is that, in addition to amps and lighting, no self-respecting band should be without a wind machine.
"L$D" by ASAP Rocky
Director: Dexter Navy. Producer: Shin Nishigaki. (RCA Records/A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds Music)
I look for ways to say, "I love you."
But I ain't into makin' love songs.
Baby I'm just rappin' to this LSD.
Neon is the key to this evocative video that, despite the lyrics, IS a love song, but one professing love to isolation and a drug-induced state (love, sex, dream), and a rejection of using words to express emotion with another person (what a paradox for a lyricist). The visuals melt into one another, but are startlingly interrupted by a verse about owing money to the bill collector -- concerns of the real world intruding upon a languid state of mind. [Language NSFW.]
Vote below for the music video you think should win this year's Grammy Award.