Country music's stars brought their A-game in 2016 when it came to music videos.
Newer acts such as Maren Morris (whose clips for "My Church" and the candy-colored, retro-flavored "80s Mercedes" made a splash) and Cole Swindell (who captured fleeting romantic nostalgia perfectly with "Middle of a Memory") had fans glued to their screens for a few minutes at a time, but the genre's veterans stepped things up, too. Chris Young and Cassadee Pope teamed up for a video for their smash “Think of You” that captures the song's wistful, he said-she said vibe, while acts such as Blake Shelton and Josh Kelley released heartfelt, stylized clips.
In other words, this 2016 list of country music's best music videos could've been a mile long. However, the following 10 country clips stood out from the crowd, whether due to cinematography, message, sense of humor or even sports team fandom. Read on to learn more about The Boot's picks for the Top 10 country music videos of 2016.
Rhett just barely made the cutoff for this year's best music videos list with his special effects-laden clip for "Star of the Show," a song that appears on the deluxe edition of his sophomore album, Tangled Up. In the video, the country star walks through what looks like a freeway underpass and, via the magic of camera tricks, merges with mannequin-like versions of himself along the way. These Rhett figures walk a red carpet, hop through a taxi, strum a guitar and are hit with white paint (just to name a few actions). At the clip's conclusion, however, the musician remains whole — because he's met his beloved. Awwww!
Eldredge is such a massive Chicago Cubs fan, he skipped the 2016 CMA Awards to see his beloved team play in (and win) the World Series. Maybe he knew something we didn't: Earlier in the year, Eldredge filmed the music video for "Wanna Be That Song" at the Cubs' home, Wrigley Field. The sentimental clip intersperses modern-day footage of him sitting in the stadium with vintage, sepia-toned scenes of him playing an old-time baseball player embracing his love.
Ballerini opted for dramatic in the music video for her No. 1 country hit "Peter Pan." The clip matches the song's theme of a guy who's "never gonna grow up": Ballerini's beau is a daredevil pilot who does loops and flips as she waits nervously on land. In the end, she decides that such ignorance of her feelings isn't right for her; in fact, she hops into a sporty car and drives off on her own, ready for a new adventure. In a nice nod, Ballerini's outfits, which boast flowing skirts and scarves, embody this powerful stance.
Cam had a breakout 2016, due in no small part to her Top 40 hit "Mayday" and its accompanying music video. The stylized clip imagines the singer as a pioneering pilot reminiscent of Amelia Earhart, and follows her as she embarks on a legendary flight. Although she eventually faces major obstacles, she inspires legions of girls and women — and grows from someone whom everyone underestimates into a woman ready to stand on her own two feet.
A three-day shoot in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, yielded this lighthearted, fairy tale-come-true clip for Bentley's "Somewhere on a Beach." The music video features a bedraggled tourist who meets his dream woman while on vacation: The new happy couple drink beers and do shots, sure, but also find a true love connection that lingers long after their morning hangovers wear off. At the end, the lead character (who also appeared in Bentley's "Drunk on a Plane" video) is able to ditch his anxiety pills because he's so happy. Everybody wins!
You'll need multiple viewings to catch all of the symbolism in Lambert's "Vice" music video. After a nasty one-car accident — the kind where gasoline (or perhaps that's kerosene?) pours from the vehicle — Lambert emerges unhurt and doesn't look back at the mangled wreck. Instead, she heads to a small town, where people are reading newspapers with significant headlines ("CHAOS") and ready to welcome her with open arms (and a shot). At the end, Lambert is literally at a crossroads, wondering how she got there — and decides to jump into a driverless car that pulls up, in a nod to the fact she's going forward by herself.
The vinyl boom continues unabated — and so does Church's fascination with the music format. Appropriately, his music video for "Record Year" plays off the pun-laden title (and musician-driven lyrics) of the song. Not only does it feature Church and his bandmates listening to some of their favorite albums, but it also has narrative grounding from a student working on a science experiment involving records: Specifically, he constructs an audio waveform from records of various sizes -- creating a precarious but symmetrical approximation of Church's beloved sonics.
Simpson's momentum showed no signs of stopping in 2016. Accordingly, his music videos became more sophisticated. Exhibit A: The Matt Mahurin-directed clip for the smoldering blues-country tune "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)" boasts gorgeous (but dark) animation that speaks to the song's themes of death — and, eventually, making the most of life while you are alive. The included footage of Simpson performing is tinted by dark colors as well, making the video the most artistic accomplishment of the year.
"Humble and Kind" was inarguably one of the biggest songs of the year. Written by Lori McKenna, the McGraw-recorded tune hit No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada and spawned a #HumbleAndKind movement meant to inspire respect and kindness. The song's accompanying music video captures the track's positive vibe by interspersing footage of people from all walks of life (and places around the world) with moody footage of McGraw singing. The diversity within the clip is awe-inspiring, and is a stark reminder that no matter what our differences, we're all in this together — and a little bit of humility can go a long way.
Stapleton was already destined to have a strong 2016 thanks to the amount of awards and critical acclaim he racked up late last year. However, he outdid himself with the powerful, moving music video for his song "Fire Away." The stark clip features a police officer (played by Ben Foster) and his girlfriend (Margarita Levieva), the latter of whom is struggling with mental health issues and suicidal ideation. Levieva is particularly powerful, as she holds nothing back in her portrayal of a woman who is (sometimes literally) crying out in emotional anguish; Foster, meanwhile, is just as realistic as he tries to support his beloved.
Stapleton himself came up with the idea for this video, which was conceived in support of the Campaign to Change Direction, a movement to "change the culture of mental health in America so that all of those in need receive the care and support they deserve," the organization says on its website. People absolutely took notice: "Fire Away" won Breakthrough Video at the 2016 CMT Music Awards and Music Video of the Year at the 2016 CMA Awards.