Janelle Monáe wearing fluffy pink pants in a desert backdrop.
Single cover for Janelle Monáe’s “Pynk.” Visuals were often the best part about a single release throughout the 2010s. Here are our picks for the best music videos of the decade.

“Pynk (feat. Grimes)” – Janelle Monáe (2018)

From the vulnerable one-shot masterpiece of 2010’s “Cold War” to her signature black and white fashion of 2013’s “Q.U.E.E.N,” Monáe constantly delivered excellent videos throughout her breakout decade, but “Pynk” intermixes all there is to love about her artistic vision and what she stands for.

Directed by Emma Westenberg, this particular video was a part of a 48 minute “emotion picture” for Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” album. The premise of the story depicts Jane 57821, played by Monáe, as she is brought into a lab to have her memories cleaned out due to being considered “dirty,” which basically represents anyone who looks, loves and lives differently from the rest of mainstream society. 

Showcased as one of her memories, the “Pynk” video features actress Tessa Thompson who plays Zen, Jane 57821’s love interest, along with a group of other beautiful women celebrating each other in a gorgeous desert setting. Utilizing catchy snaps and layered falsetto vocals, Monáe’s delivery perfectly matches with the song’s playful, yet substantial references to sexuality, self love and unity.

The colorful cinematography and freeing choreography alone would make the video a stellar masterpiece, but the vagina-esque pants Monáe and her dancers wear takes it to a whole other level. The fashion statement evokes themes of empowerment, but there are also two women who aren’t wearing the pants—making it clear that being a woman isn’t necessarily about what’s between your legs, but rather an expression of one’s individuality.

The video also makes a point to turn around sexist narratives often thrown around in our political landscape—for example, the underwear stitched with the phrase “I grab back” represents just that. 

More than anything, Monáe’s choice of the phrase “deep inside we’re all just pink” reaches beyond the initial connotation of feminism the video encapsulates. 

“PYNK is the color that unites us all, for pink is the color found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere,” Monáe wrote in the video description. “PYNK is where the future is born.”

-Rylee Jackson

“Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift (2014)

With 2.8 billion views on YouTube, “Shake It Off” remains Taylor Swift’s most viewed music video. She brought out a multitude of different acts—ballerinas, breakdancers, and gymnasts to name a few. 

As part of her “1989” album, “Shake it Off” came as a response to the criticism she receives almost everyday. Whether they are talking about her love life, fashion choices or her politics, there is always something negative said. 

Even five years after its release, the message rings clear today: shake off the haters, and keep on dancing to the beat of your own drum.

-Madeleine Chinery

“Hotline Bling” – Drake (2016)

At this rate, Drake might never craft a classic album, but he does have his fair share of classic songs. 2016’s “Hotline Bling” is certainly one of those classics.

A track which felt intriguingly different than most of his prior work, but somehow also exactly in his lane. It also struck a pivotal moment in the music scene—altering shifts in rap, R&B and pop while also harbinging the beginning of Drake’s dominance streak. 

“Hotline Bling” is also one of his best music videos and certainly one of the decade’s most memed. The dance moves are iconic, the geometric and simple setting is iconic too, but nothing is more iconic than his grey turtleneck—an unsung hero of the 2010’s.

-Vincent Rendon

“This Is America” – Childish Gambino (2018)

One of the most influential and powerful music videos of the decade was “This Is America” by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover). It was released on May 5, 2018, and within a week the video soared to 85.3 million views on YouTube. In December of 2018, Billboard named it the sixth best song of the year. The video won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video and the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage Best Cinematography in a Music Video Award.

However, the music video didn’t just speak to critics. It’s presentation of gruesome reality affected its viewers in away none of them can forget. The video speaks on racism, gun violence, police brutality and much more. It doesn’t hold back showing the horrors black people faced in the past and the struggle that is still present today. 

It’s impossible to do the video justice in only a few sentences, but the depictions of violence, church shootings and the presence of the pale rider Death come together to give a moving and scarring commentary on some of the most prevalent issues in the U.S. 

“This Is America” will forever be remembered as a genius piece of art and one of the most significant pieces of the decade.

-Sarah Strang

The Sagebrush Staff can be reached at ryleejackson@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.