We take on the impossible task of trawling Queen Bey’s videography for the very best
Beyoncé Knowles isn’t known for phoning it in on the visuals. With over fifty music videos released in the last two decades, choosing the very best of the best is an incredibly daunting task. But whilst Beyoncé always delivers a memorable performance, some of her offerings truly can’t be forgotten.
With just over a month until Beyoncé takes her Renaissance tour to the UK, we’re taking a break from speculating about what she has in store for us and looking back through what we’ve already been given. Here are what we consider her twenty best music videos to date.
20. Ring The Alarm
Bey pays homage to Sharon Stone. This Basic Instinct-inspired video more than delivers on the 90s neo-noir visuals, but it’s Bey’s fantastically intense performance that sees this one sneak into the top twenty. No one switches between dangerous poise and total rage quite as effortlessly.
Not Beyoncé’s first video to feature a giant stately mansion, and certainly not her last. The singer struts over a grand piano in stilettos, pole dances and practices her gymnastics in an effort to make date night more exciting. Meanwhile, Jay-Z’s smoking. The bar for men is low.
18. Love On Top
A joyful rehearsal in a well-lit apartment with a semi-circle of backup singers turns into a full-on production. A costume change for every key change may not sound like much of a feat, until you remember just how many key changes ‘Love On Top’ actually has.
17. Best Thing I Never Had
Bey does one of her most serotonin-boosting tracks justice with a knowing, wink-to-the-camera performance. The plot of the video – Bey on her wedding day, getting ready to walk down the aisle and remembering a subpar high school prom date – is secondary to the enormous amount of fun she’s having. It’s infectious.
16. Run The World (Girls)
This one’s a little confusing, but in the best way. Bey, her all-women army and a few CGI big cats lay waste to the world with the power of dance. Rows of slowly retreating riot shields and men in bulletproof vests quake at the sight of Beyoncé rolling around in the sand. Is there any weapon more effective than good choreography? A special shoutout goes to the brief and deeply baffling shot of Beyoncé holding two giant hyenas on a leash.
15. Pretty Hurts
The beauty pageant concept is a little on the nose for a video to a song called ‘Pretty Hurts’, but the production value and Bey’s heartfelt performance help to sell it. From Botox injections to diet pills to eating disorders, Beyoncé is clear about where exactly the perfection pipeline leads.
14. Get Me Bodied
Imagine waiting hours in the queue for a club that looks like a modern art installation, only for Beyoncé and friends to dance their way straight past you and through the doors. “Who is that?” whisper multiple people as she arrives, as if anyone wouldn’t recognise Beyoncé. ‘Get Me Bodied’ has 00s Bey in her element, cycling through her repertoire of dance moves and recreating the ultimate girl’s night out.
13. Crazy In Love
All the way back in 2003, Beyoncé was just a girl in denim shorts posing against chain-link fences. Nostalgia does play a large role in the placement here – at one point Jay-Z drops his lighter and blows up the road whilst Bey dances next to him in a leotard – but there’s plenty to love in this early offering. Bey proves that she can more than hold her own as a solo performer, and the choreography is, of course, fantastic.
12. Mood 4 Eva
From Beyoncé’s earliest video to one of her most recent. ‘Mood 4 Eva’ is all about excess, combining the Afrocentric aesthetics of the Black Is King visual album with an ode to flexing culture on steroids. Beyoncé brushes her diamond-studded teeth with a diamond-studded toothbrush and forgoes an alarm clock in favour of a live violinist.
11. All Night
Texas girl Beyoncé is a big fan of the Southern belle aesthetic, which comes out to play in a big way in ‘All Night’. She pays homage both to romantic and familial love, highlighting generations of women lifting each other up and also couples doing the same thing for each other. Footage of her and Jay-Z is cut with Beyoncé singing about forgiveness and new starts under a blue sky. ‘All Night’ is the first of several Lemonade videos to make this list – the visuals of this era are masterful.
“So what are you gonna say at my funeral now that you’ve killed me?” asks Beyoncé in her opening monologue. African influences are all over the black and white video for ‘Sorry’, stripped of their usual colour but still lending Bey a lot of dignity as she vents her anger and heartbreak. The jerky, eerie dancing in the video’s last minute is fantastically threatening.
9. Me, Myself and I
Bey moves backwards through her day, slowly rewinding through keying her exes car and getting into a violent altercation with him before finally reaching the moment she presented him with evidence of his cheating. Basically, Beyoncé could have written Tenet.
Painfully intimate. Beyoncé sits on her living room floor and plays ‘Sandcastles’ on her keyboard. Interspersed is footage of her and Jay-Z, some of which includes her singing the lyrics directly to him. What must have been an emotionally taxing shoot results in an astounding snapshot of the aftermath of infidelity.
7. Hold Up
Before forgiveness came the chapter in which Beyoncé took a baseball bat to a fire hydrant. After almost drowning in her bedroom, Bey opens the doors to her house and lets the water rush out, before heading out to cause chaos in the streets. The ‘Hold Up’ yellow dress might be even more recognisable at this point than the ‘Single Ladies’ leotard.
Even back in 2006, Beyoncé didn’t suffer fools. She delivers a wonderfully icy performance, watching as her unfaithful boyfriend packs up his stuff and leaves her huge stately home (told you). She swerves his kiss to take back the jewelry she gave him and languidly waves goodbye from where she’s perched on the hood of her car. Then she starts a girl band. No wonder we all want to be her.
Beyoncé has always been an activist, but she made it abundantly clear to those still in doubt with 2016’s ‘Formation’. With references to the New Orleans crisis, Black Lives Matter and the plantations of the South, the video underscores the Black pride in the lyrics of ‘Formation’, whilst highlighting what it means to be Black in America.
It’s fitting that a video filmed in the Louvre looks like a work of art. The cinematography in ‘APESHIT’ is stunning, Bey’s dancing is infectious as always, and the Carters show that the Lemonade era is well and truly over by presenting as a slick team. The visuals are arresting, albeit a little unnerving at points. There’s a A24 horror trailer in here somewhere.
3. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Just three girls in black leotards dancing, and yet it remains one of the most popular music videos of all time. That’s because the choreography is the true star of the show here – simple enough for an audience to learn, and yet still entirely its own thing. Some of the editing hasn’t aged particularly well, but other than that there’s little fault to be found here.
2. If I Were A Boy
Sometimes a very literal interpretation of a song into a video feels cheesy and grating. Other times, it just works. ‘If I Were A Boy’ sees Beyoncé brushing her boyfriend off at breakfast, flirting with her police officer colleagues, gaslighting him and ignoring his calls. In the middle of an argument – one of Bey’s many mid-video dialogue breaks – the roles are reversed and we realise that, of course, Bey’s day-dreaming about being the one with the power. The attention to detail and Beyoncé’s total commitment to the performance completely sells it.
1. Brown Skin Girl
The Beyoncé song we’ll remember centuries from now will likely be ‘Single Ladies’, ‘Crazy In Love’ or ‘Run The World’. It should be ‘Brown Skin Girl’. The epic video for one of Bey’s very best creations features the likes of Kelly Rowland, Lupita Nyong’o and Beyoncé’s own daughter Blue Ivy in a celebration of Black beauty that highlights generations of Black women. The video is littered with living paintings, gorgeously constructed scenes that keep a viewer glued to the screen for the entire six minutes. It’s a pleasure when a music video entirely does its song justice. When the song’s as good as this one, it’s a victory.