Music videos in 2014 ran the gamut from interactivity and formal innovation (like the starring-your-Instagram feed video for “Hashtag My Ass” or Cut Copy’s open-source, 3-D-printed “We Are Explorers”) to fascinating lo-fi, fast-turnaround experiments from mega-artists like Jack White. Meanwhile, big stars continued to make blockbuster videos, unexpected artists used the form to showcase their social conscience, movie stars made appearances, and artists with a cinematic bent recruited big-name directors to make mini-movies to accompany their songs.
Interactivity isn’t exactly a new thing in music videos–recent years have seen artists steadily find new ways to make the viewer feel like a participant–but the innovations are steadily evolving from “gimmick” to something that offers some clue as to what the future of the form might look like. The fact that you can pull together something beautiful without much time or money has been true for a while, but the results continue to get more and more impressive, and the visual difference, and the emotional-impact difference between the big, Taylor Swiftian productions and quick-and-dirty creations is only getting smaller. The best music videos of 2014 are alternately whimsical, affecting, innovative, experimental, and bombastic–not bad for a medium that, a few short years ago, was all but left for dead. Take a look at our top 15 music videos of 2014 above, and read more about them as well.