While I’ve made it clear that it never truly clicked with me as an individual song, the actual video for “Rolling in the Deep” is one of the year’s best. The video allows Adele’s voice to really shine, as it no longer takes a backseat to other elements in the song, while also creating visuals that work on both modern-day and archetypal levels. The increasing sense of uneasiness one feels as the video progresses is masterfully conveyed as it rises to a well-timed, and brilliantly-executed, climax. Adele’s situation is all-too-familiar to many of us, even if the world she inhabits is one we’ve never seen before.
Evelyn Evelyn – “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?”
The very notion of conjoined twins being ‘discovered’ on MySpace and subsequently recording an album may be hard for some to swallow, but regardless of what you think of the concept, the video for “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?” is a truly astonishing work. While the song itself – a jaunty, cabaret-style tune in which the twins take subtle potshots at each other – is solid, the video takes it to a whole new level, becoming a perfect blend of form and content in the process. One of the most quietly brilliant music videos of 2011.
Sarah Slean – "The Rose"
I'm going to be honest with you: very few music videos, by any artist and in any genre, have ever moved me as much as "The Rose" did. This is what I was talking about when I mentioned the 'intangible marriage of music and visuals' in my introduction to Part 1. Sarah Slean's absolutely gorgeous song and its incredible lyrics meld cohesively with a concept that steadily becomes more brilliant the more you think about it to create something that you can't really describe in words, only in emotions. Emotions that aren't forced or melodramatic, just emotions that exist within us all; our hopes and our fears, our dreams and our desires, and our underlying wonder at the nature of the universe.
Sarah Slean – “Set It Free”
Yes, I am aware two videos by Sarah Slean made the list this year. Both are so inherently different, however, and both so exceptionally crafted that I feel I would be doing a disservice by leaving either of them off. I've already used Sarah Slean’s video for “Set It Free” in one of my Best Songs of 2011 posts, but it’s so accomplished it deserves to be seen twice. Despite being made independent of a major label, it’s amazing how glamorous everything looks – the use of mirrors is particularly inspired – and how the song’s emotions practically burst from the screen, calling out for you to adopt its unabashedly celebratory perspective on life.
Annie Clark made some absolutely brilliant videos for 2009’s Actor, works that took the creeping urban paranoia expressed in that album and brought it to life, but the video for “Cruel” is of a different breed. It’s the story of a woman abducted by a family and forced to be their mother – and when she doesn’t live up to their expectations, she gets reprimanded in a variety of ways. If the premise sounds a little weird, the execution is fantastic; darkly humorous sight gags (the bit in the trunk, the part with the gun – and no, that’s not a spoiler!) run alongside moments that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Flannery O’Connor story, moments as thought-provoking as they are well-crafted.