Updated Jan. 5, 2021.
Every picture tells a story, don't it? With visual aesthetics and original style more important than ever in the music world, the Best Music Video category continues to honor the most stunning, striking and moving music videos the year has to offer. Honoring the artist, video director and video producer, this award has gone to past winners and visionary music video pioneers like Peter Gabriel, Madonna, Lady Gaga and OK Go.
But today, the art of the music video has evolved well past visual experimentation, as music-makers push the medium toward meaningful social statements, moving storytelling and truly original art. In recent years, Kendrick Lamar's "HUMBLE.," Childish Gambino's "This Is America" and Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" took home the honor, setting the conceptual bar high for all who follow.
Today, GRAMMY.com takes a closer look at the Best Music Video nominees at the 2021 GRAMMYs, a stellar class of visual artists ready to carry the torch.
To find out who will win, tune into the 2021 GRAMMYs Sunday, March 14, on CBS.
"Brown Skin Girl," Beyoncé
Beyoncé returns to this category four years after winning it for her commanding and provocative 2016 video for "Formation." This time around, her breathtakingly beautiful "Brown Skin Girl" video, from her Black Is King visual album, with daughter Blue Ivy, plus SAINt JHN and WizKiD, is a feast for the fashion-forward and a celebration of Black and brown female beauty everywhere. The video's various venues and styles weave together in a stylish, six-minute sight to behold, featuring cameos from Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong'o and former Destiny's Child bandmate Kelly Rowland.
True to her fierce creative vision and limitless talent, Bey also directed the video alongside director Jenn Nkiru. The nomination also recognizes the video's producers Lauren Baker, Astrid Edwards, Nathan Scherrer and Erinn Williams, the latter of whom won the GRAMMY for Best Music Film alongside Beyoncé for the epic 2019 documentary concert film, Homecoming, at the 2020 GRAMMYs.
"Life Is Good," Future Featuring Drake
GRAMMY-winning rap heavyweights Future and Drake don't quit their day jobs in their hilarious "Life Is Good" music video. In the clip, they go back to work taking out the trash, setting up the Genius Bar, fixing cars and more. On a break from their fast food gig, they dream aloud about saving up for studio time and making it big. They ultimately end up behind the cameras of their own video, meta-directed by the actual Director X, real name Julien Christian Lutz. Try not to laugh as they all ham it up, and look closely for cameos from 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Mike Will Made It and Big Bank Black.
Taken from Future's eighth album, High Off Life, the "Life Is Good" video dropped back in January and stands as a gut-busting, working-class snapshot of a simpler time. The Best Music Video nod also includes a nomination for the video's producer, Harv Glazer.
"Lockdown," Anderson .Paak
The people are rising. Three-time GRAMMY winner Anderson .Paak's on-location report from the streets of Los Angeles in "Lockdown" shows life in the shadows of the Black Lives Matter movement, which grew to define the battle against social injustice in 2020 America. Honoring the lives and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and far too many more at the hands of police, .Paak and GRAMMY-winning director Dave Meyers, known for his work with Kendrick Lamar, craft a lasting image of the quieter side of an uprising to accompany the bold social statement song, released as a single in June.
Nathan Scherrer, who is also nominated in the category for his work on Beyoncé's "Brown Skin Girl" and Harry Styles' "Adore You," also receives the nod for his work here as producer.
"Adore You," Harry Styles
They say if you love someone, you should set them free. In the year's most unlikely on-screen pairing, One Direction alum Harry Styles falls for a fish who keeps outgrowing his makeshift tanks while longing to return to the open sea. The extended version even features an introduction to the land of Eroda, where none other than Rosalía narrates the larger story arc of how Styles turned all the frowns in the fictional, magical land upside down.
"It's the first idea that popped to mind after the first listen to the song, and the first idea I pitched to Harry. It was a story that underscored my understanding of what Harry stood for and felt it was necessary to tell it as a narrative to convey his optimism," Dave Meyers, who directed the heartwarming romp, said of the concept. Mission accomplished.
Jo Coombes, Ellen DeFaux, Tom Gardner and Nathan Scherrer produced the "Adore You" video.
The leadoff track from Woodkid's 2020 sophomore album, S16, got a special visual treatment that is probably unlike anything you've seen before. The video for "Goliath," directed by the French artist, born Yoann Lemoine, himself transports the viewer to an industrial construction dystopia where massive, maniacal, mechanical machinery carves away at the earth, feeding the debris—through pulsing rhythms that match the music, mind you—into a super cauldron that births a gigantic, fiery, rising blob before cutting to black with the track's final drum smack. The result is intense, unique and stirring.
Woodkid's much-anticipated S16 arrived seven years after his 2013 debut—and the wait was worth it. The latest in his catalog of epic music videos, "Goliath" has earned Woodkid his third nomination in the category, following nods for "The Golden Age" at the 2014 GRAMMYs and "Run Boy Run" at the 2013 GRAMMYs. Will this be his lucky year to take home the golden gramophone for Best Music Video?