Country music videos in 2018 were a mix of the poignant and the empowering, as some clips movingly told end-of-life tales and others glamorously celebrated independence. Others still lampooned the very art of making videos. Here’s the 10 must-watch clips of the year.
John Prine, “Summer’s End”
A woman loses her life to opioids, leaving behind a young daughter and an elderly father. The aftermath is shown in a series of quick vignettes: an emotional breakdown at school; a trip to a fruit orchard; a family visitation at the gravesite. Directed by Kerrin Sheldon and Elaine McMillion Sheldon, the “Summer’s End” video is dedicated to Max Barry, son of former Nashville mayor Megan Barry, who lost his own battle to addiction in 2017.
Brandi Carlile, “Hold Out Your Hand”
Brandi Carlile joins the youth movement, raising her fist (and her voice) in this politically pointed video. Shot during the Seattle March for Our Lives, the clip alternates between live footage of Carlile’s band and clips of peaceful protestors marching against gun violence. The result is a video that focuses not only on the frontwoman herself, but on a city of young activists eager for an opportunity to better their tomorrow.
Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”
Director Hannah Lux Davis fills this lavishly retro video with all the wood paneling, oversized collars and tangerine-colored pantsuits of the disco era, turning “High Horse” into a 9 to 5-worthy clip that skewers any cocksure character who’s grown too big for his bellbottoms. In this case, that character is Kacey Musgraves’ boss, who leers lecherously at his female staff and, somewhere around the first chorus, inspires Musgraves to daydream an escape from the workplace. She brings her co-workers along for the ride, and the result is a Seventies send-up that glitters in all the right places.
Pistol Annies, “Got My Name Changed Back”
Party in the courtroom! Miranda Lambert has booked a one-way ticket to Splitsville, and she’s bringing Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley along for the ride. A tongue-in-cheek celebration of the legal headaches that follow a divorce, “Got My Name Changed Back” features a sympathetic judge, a baby-bump-sporting Presley and, if Lambert’s sparkling smile is to be believed, the world’s first positive experience at a DMV.
Brothers Osborne, “Shoot Me Straight”
Evoking Weekend at Bernie’s, this video-within-a-video involves dart guns, Dierks Bentley and a pair of passed-out Osbornes, their limbs rubbery as they’re manipulated into a variety of rock-star postures. The climactic guitar-solo scene steals the show, with the clip’s own director donning a wig and a fake beard in order to portray six-string slinger John Osborne.
Kip Moore, “Last Shot”
A doctor delivers heartbreaking news to a pack of friends who’ve been together since childhood. While one of them fights for her life in a hospital room, the others hatch a plan to break her free — one last time — and fulfill a lifelong dream to see Paris. Directed by PJ Brown, “Last Shot” is cinematic and heart-rending.
Brandon Stansell, “Hometown”
A proudly gay artist in a relatively buttoned-up genre, Brandon Stansell begins this emotionally-charged video with a (slightly) fictionalized version of his own coming-out exchange with his blindsided mother. She pushes him out of the house, kickstarting a painful — but ultimately strengthening — period of self-discovery.
Dan + Shay, “Tequila”
Director P. Tracy ignores the cinematic cliches that surround tequila — a drink that’s become synonymous with beaches, boats and babes — and, instead, sets this video in the snowy mountains of Colorado. There, we watch a love story unfold between a deaf backpacker (Nyle DiMarco, winner of both America’s Next Top Model and Dancing With the Stars) and a woman who must contend with his unquenchable wanderlust (Instagram icon Mica von Turkovich). Love is the pair’s universal language, and it’s framed beautifully throughout.
Joshua Hedley, “I Never (Shed a Tear)”
Joshua Hedley and his band of western-wear devotees haunt the halls of an Asian restaurant, while their leader cracks open fortune cookie after fortune cookie in search of good news. With its uncluttered premise and mid-century ambiance, “I Never (Shed a Tear)” shines a light on the classic-country core of Hedley’s music.
American Aquarium, “The World Is on Fire”
Two survivors slow dance in a bunker, waiting for the apocalyptic world outside to come to its senses. By the clip’s end, they’ve grown brave enough to leave their stronghold and head back into society — or whatever’s left of it. “We must go boldly into the darkness and be the light,” sings BJ Barham, who wrote the song during the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.