The concept of a lyric video has come a long way since the beginning of YouTube, when fan-made lyrics on a black background served as the only option. Once record labels saw the amount of views these videos racked up, some decided to make official versions to be released with their tracks. But not all lyric videos are made equally; some follow the simple format of moving text on a background while others go all-out with storylines and cinematics. Most artists still aren’t on the lyric videos train, but these are some of the best from the artists who’ve embraced them.
“Closer,” The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
There’s no conversation of lyric videos without discussing “Closer,” which ranks amongst the most-viewed videos on YouTube with over two billion views. Since the song immediately took off with no music video, the lyric video grabbed all the views for months before the main music video was posted.
“Birthday,” Katy Perry
Katy nailed the birthday theme in this lyric video, which shows off cake, candles, sprinkles and frosting. It’s super sweet to match the song’s peppy sound, with endless creativity to put lyrics on every surface imaginable.
“Sorry,” Justin Bieber
The “Sorry” lyric video goes hard on special effects, centered around a young woman (played by Lauren Hudson Petrilli) as she can’t seem to escape the lyrics inside or outside of her home. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve watched this video, I still have no idea how most of these effects were done.
“Life Of The Party,” Shawn Mendes
In 2014, Shawn’s team nailed a total staple of lyrics video in this one: it’s all one continuous shot, with a very slow zoom in on the brooding singer. It comes across as stripped down and natural, a perfect introduction of Shawn to the world at the start of his recording career.
“Quit,” Cashmere Cat featuring Ariana Grande
Ok, now this is a weird one. The “Quit” lyric video is really a lyric video within a lyric video… confusing, right? It’s as if Cashmere Cat’s team made a lyric video, then went on a moving train and played that lyric video alongside flowers. It’s an incredibly dope aesthetic that works for such a cool song.
“Back To You,” Selena Gomez
If you want to see how far video editing has come, watch the three-dimensional “Back To You” lyric video. It takes fancy text movements up a notch, between shots and imagery of 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series from which the song came.
“Silence,” Marshmello featuring Khalid
The lyrics of “Silence” aren’t just projected onto the wall in the song’s lyric video: visuals are split between the wall and a stack of boxes in front of it. At all times, there are projections on both the wall and the boxes, allowing for more complex visuals instead of just displaying the lyrics.
“Out Loud,” Gabbie Hanna
Gabbie gave “Out Loud” the full treatment, starring solo in the video and clearly feeling every word of the song.
“Miss Movin’ On,” Fifth Harmony
This lyric video might not win any cinematic awards, but it captures a moment in time before Fifth Harmony had dropped their first music video. Since the video features the girls holding hand-drawn sheets of paper with their lyrics, Fifth Harmony was cool enough to sign those sheets and send them to fans.
“Roar,” Katy Perry
Katy really is the queen of lyric videos — so much so that both “Birthday” and “Roar” made this list. Each lyric appears as a text message in the most emoji-filled group chat ever, because every fun friend group sends the lyrics to their anthem from time to time.
“The Middle,” Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey
Though it only went up five days before the official music video, the lyric video for “The Middle” boasts 30 million more views than its music video counterpart. That’s due in part to just how creative the production is in projecting the song’s lyrics in every which way possible.
“Don’t Stop,” 5 Seconds of Summer
Luke, Calum, Michael and Ashton become superheroes in the comic book-themed lyric video for “Don’t Stop.” Not every lyric for the track pops up, but that’s because pictures speak louder than words… especially when it’s pictures of 5SOS.