Kanye - "Monster" Video

Almost none of us are at work this week, so almost none of us are getting fired. And with the holidays coming to an end, we don’t have to keep the good-cheer veneer up for much longer. So: Time to wade into some of the past year’s sickest shit!

When she wrote her list last year, departed Stereogum comrade Jessica wrote that 2009′s NSFW clips trended away from joyous, vaguely innocent sexploits toward darker, more disturbing fare. 2011 continues that progression in a more extreme and possibly more unwanted direction: Away from sex entirely, toward stickily disturbing Fangoria-style violence. There was plenty of Euro-arthouse nudity at work this year, as in the work of the directing team CANADA, but more working directors elected to keep the blood pumping. And if they did include nudity, it was wrapped up in that violence, or it was in service of some alien or otherwise other visions of sex. And so this list, which is unranked, leans heavily on disturbing than sexy; I figured that these were the videos you’d have the hardest time justifying if your boss peeked up over your cubicle wall.

All of which is to say: There is some unpleasant stuff below. I stuck completely with music videos and left out short films that could double as alternate-universe MTV8 fare. And I also left out clips that I found completely repulsive, as with South Central’s generally horrifying “The Day I Die” video, leaving in only video that I found to be interesting on at least some level. There’s one big exception, though, and that’s the video you’ll find immediately below.

1. Feat. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z & Nicki Minaj) (Dir. Jake Nava)

Kanye’s 2011 was pretty good all around, but it started off in a pretty horrible way, when he turned his great late-2010 anthem into a morally indefensible self-anointing horror movie, posing like a blaxploitation hero against a wall with a woman’s severed head dangling from his fingertips. The whole thing got even sillier when Kanye affixed a disclaimer telling us that it was art and we shouldn’t take it seriously — missing the whole point that art is something to be taken seriously. Luckily for Kanye, we all watched this thing, muttered “what the fuck” to ourselves, and moved on.

2. The Deadsets – “One Hour” (Dir. Jonas Govaerts)

Absurdist comedy, rendered in extremely brutal blood-flying gore-dripping style, starring one of the most genuinely frightening protagonists you’ll find in film history. Other videos had higher body counts but none lingered so lovingly on their victims’ demises. Well, none except the one below.

3. Broken Social Scene – “Sweetest Kill” (Dir. Claire Edmonson)

Bijou Phillips dances with her manfriend, gazes lovingly at him, and then spreads out a sheet of plastic and chops his body into pieces. Every single limb-slicing here is rendered in vividly tactile style, with every bit of viscera shown in all its glory, to the point where I wondered how this video could’ve been made without any actual decapitations.

4. High Places – “Sonora” (Dir. Keith Musil)

A classic Popeye cartoon, except done live-action, with genders flipped, and all the violence displayed in the grossest fashion possible. Liars frontman Angus Andrew makes a much more convincing Olive Oyl than anyone could’ve expected.

5. Is Tropical – “The Greeks” (Dir. Megaforce)

One of the year’s best videos, to be sure. And on at least some level, it’s also one of the most fun. But even if the blood is cartoon and the guns are toy, you’re still watching cute little kids bloodily slaughter each other, and it’s pretty fucking disturbing. Once you consider that this is what we used to pretend was happening when we were turning sticks into toy bazookas, it gets even more disturbing.

6. Duck Sauce – “Big Bad Wolf” (Dir. Keith Schofield)

An entirely different sort of disturbing cartoon, and a video that pushed its inherently ridiculous premise way further than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. This manages to be probably the single grisliest video on this entire list without including one single disembowling. Quite a feat!

7. Austra – “Beat And The Pulse” (Dir. Claire Edmonson)

Another one where naked people turn out to have alien anatomies. But this isn’t like the heads-as-dicks played-for-laughs thing. Instead, the various gorgeous, partially naked video of this video turn out to have webbed hands, or animalistic skin flaps, or other bodily abnormalities. Claire Edmonson, the director, also did Broken Social Scene’s “Sweetest Kill” video, proving that she can do a few entirely different forms of disturbing.

8. Beacon – “See Through You” (Dir. Beacon)

Even without any technical nudity, this one is pure porny cheesecake throughout. Except that the girls in the video are all video-game characters, with the dead eyes and the unrealistic proportions that that implies. So the video is either an interesting meta-comment on the objectification of women in music videos, or it’s the work of a disturbed and horny mind. Maybe both.

9. K-Holes – “Short Zippers” (Dir. Micki Pellerano)

A gritty and unflinching but ultimately empathetic look at the gay S&M world, this one is actually remarkable for how undisturbing it is. Everyone involved looks like they’re having fun! Good for them!

10. Handsome Furs – “What About Us” (Dir. Scott Coffey)

Another sexed-up video that regards its sex with nothing but affection, not using its NSFW status for titillation or grossout thrills but simply as a subject worth documenting. Ultimately, this is probably my favorite video on the list.

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