2016 has been a great year for Canadian music and in particular Canadian music videos. We saw everything from full-length animated films politically charged and thought-provoking visuals. We even saw a deadly game of Dungeons & Dragons.
Here are our top Canadian ten videos of the year. There could have easily been ten more.
Grimes, “Kill V. Maim” (Director: Claire Boucher and Mac Boucher)
Grimes (a.k.a. Claire Boucher) teamed up with her brother Mac again to empty the costume box and produce another blast of neon lights, vivid colours and outlandish characters. The video for "Kill V. Maim" was filmed partially in the abandoned Lower Bay subway station of Toronto, creating a gritty post-apocalyptic world. Grimes’ cute and colourful animation juxtaposed with a bloody dance party encapsulates her Art Angels aesthetic perfectly.
Your Boy Tony Braxton, “Good (Enough)” (Director: Justin Broadbent)
"Good (Enough)" takes us back to the days of video stores and their snobby clerks, as Your Boy Tony Braxton (a.k.a. Shad) becomes the arty cool guy trying to persuade his patrons (Brendan Canning) to go for indie films rather than mainstream titles like Speed 2. Director Justin Broadbent describes this video as an affirmation for people to like what they want to like and to enjoy things for what they are. It's also a secret recommendation for Speed 2. What I'm saying is, go watch Speed 2.
AudioOpera, “Forever” (Director: Avery Stedman and Graeme Barrett)
"Forever" stars Kids In The Hall’s Kevin McDonald as he searches for meaning in his dismal and lonely life. Panning through his rageful driving range scene and mustard sandwich lunch, AudioOpera's Graeme Barrett calls this video an ode to the oddities of small towns. When Kevin McDonald finally finds some like-minded friends, it's both weird and weirdly touching.
PUP, “Sleep In The Heat” (Director: Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux)
PUP's "Sleep In The Heat" video is an ode to our furry and not so furry friends. Starring Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard, who was absolutely everwhere this year, the video revolves around the relationship between a boy and his dog. After a full picture of their relationship, from love at first sight to eventually having to say goodbye, we are reminded of how powerful a bond with your pet can be and how losing a friend is really hard. And PUP prove when they take their foot off the throttle, they're a bunch of softies.
Harrison feat. Clairmont The Second, “It’s Okay, I Promise” (Director: Scott Cudmore)
A self-reflective look at filmmaking, this teamup between Toronto wizkids Harrison and Clairmont The Second starts with commentary from the crew as they begin to set up for the first shot and then continues to cut between behind-the-scenes footage of the set and elements of a more traditional hip-hop video. Scott Cudmore creates the feeling of an art film within a music video... or a music video within an art film. I'm not totally sure which.
Kaytranada feat. Anderson .Paak, “Glowed Up” (Director: Bo Mirosseni)
The visuals to one of our favourite Canadian songs of 2016 look as ethereal and infectious as the song sounds. As Kaytranada floats through a glowing house party, the line between dreams and reality blur. The slow and calculated camera movement matches every beat and rhyme by Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak. As we flash between images of the house party and Kaytranada alone in his room we realize the song is a dichotomy between loneliness and inclusion. For lack of a better term, it's glowed up.
A Tribe Called Red, “The Virus” (Director: Tunkasila)
With the outcome of Standing Rock still fresh in our minds, "The Virus" feels all too relevant. The flashes of militant forces taking down protesters and Indigenous dancers demonstrate the underlying injustice at the heart of Canada. A Tribe Called Red describe this video as “a defiant celebration of indigenous and oppressed cultures.” With ATCR, defiance can still be fun as hell.
BADBADNOTGOOD feat. Kaytranada, “Lavender” (Director: Fantavious Fritz)
A high stakes game of Dungeons & Dragons, Fantavious Fritz’s works off of the intensity of the song with awkward close-ups and an insane dungeon master. Members of the band are literally shackled to the game and forced to play until someone dies. BADBADNOTGOOD videos excel at unconventional narratives. Their space-jazz instrumentals are a perfect canvas for an ambitious director.
Andy Shauf, “The Magician” (Director: Winston Hacking)
The video for "The Magician" has won numerous awards this year both across Canada and internationally, so let's add another one. Its unique treatment combines images from old postcards and magazine cutouts to create a kaleidoscope effect around Andy Shauf’s face. The paper cutouts move whimsically with the music, filling the melodic vintage world of the party in The Party.
Gord Downie, The Secret Path (Director: Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire)
In 2016, Gord Downie showcased his courage and strength in the face of terminal cancer. Through his ailments, he brought The Secret Path to Canada, using his CanRock credentials to shed light on the country's cultural genocide. With beautiful animations by Jeff Lemire, Downie tells us the story of Chanie Wenjack, who died trying to return home to his family after being forced into a Residential School 400 miles away. A human face to a tragedy with many stories just like it.
Rihanna feat. Drake, “Work” (Director: Director X)
"I tell people 'no one in Toronto can say nothing to me; I got the exterior of The Real Jerk as the very first shot of Rihanna's video," Director X told us in our Prism Prize roundtable earlier this year. The Real Jerk becomes the venue to showcase some steamy dance moves by Rihanna and Drake, as well as a lucky Caribbean restaurant full of Torontonians. Director X has become this generation's Hype Williams and people south of the border have taken notice, but no one should doubt his hometown pride.