Once upon a time, when The Playlist was a fledgling blog, we had a semi-regular column called Videodrome, which looked at the world of music videos. While we focus mostly on movies, we’ve always maintained an interest in the places where they cross over with music, and the promo world has provided us with directors from Spike Jonze and David Fincher to Michael Bay and Francis Lawrence, as well as occasionally featured big name stars.
Between one thing and another, we let the column lapse a little, but music videos have by no means become less important: the month began with one promo veteran, Nima Nourizadeh, making his directorial debut with “Project X,” while the last few weeks have seen Jake Gyllenhaal get murderous in a clip for The Shoes; Lance Bangs roll with Odd Future in the fun “Oldie” and Brett Ratner become attached to a project about the history of MTV. As such, we thought it was time to dust the Videodrome label off, and from now on, every few weeks we’ll be highlighting a selection of the most notable recent music promos, and the men and women behind them. Our first list can be found below.
“Blue Jeans” – Lana Del Ray (dir. Yoann Lemoine)
The level of hype around Lana Del Ray reached a peak a few months back with her much-derided SNL performance, and her album was a little underwhelming, but that doesn’t mean that she’s not capable of summoning up a little wasted, faded L.A. glamor, particularly when it comes to collaborations with her regular video director Yoann Lemoine (also known as musician Woodkid). The clip for album highlight “Blue Jeans” is big on atmosphere and short on… well, pretty much anything else, but it looks great, thanks to lensing by DoP Rodrigo Prieto (“25th Hour,” “Brokeback Mountain“).
“Never Let Me Go” – Florence & The Machine (dir. Tabitha Denholm)
Another singer who has carefully cultivated her own aesthetic is Florence Welch, whose second record has seen her continue the same pagan, faintly goth-y mood she claimed on her first. In the stunning-looking clip for her latest single, directed by former DJ Tabitha Denholm, she goes on an after-hours ice skate with rising star Jamie Campbell-Bower (“Sweeney Todd,” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn“), with eerie, tragic consequences.
“New France” – Orbital (Ft. Zola Jesus) (dir. Ian Bucknole)
Classic British dance act Orbital are on their way back; they’re scoring the London-set remake of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s “Pusher,” and have a new record on the way, with the lead single featuring U.S. singer-songwriter Zola Jesus. For the clip, they’ve enlisted Cornish director Ian Bucknole for a touching, funny “Toy Story“-reminiscent clip of a stuffed lion who leaves his child to go partying on the town, but finds himself missing his owner. It’s reminiscent of some of Hammer & Tongs‘ earlier work, but it’s sweet all the same.
“Every Little Thing” – Caan (dir. Alex Warren)
Singer-songwriter Caan Capan‘s gone on to a promising solo career out of the ashes of Camden band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, and for the video for his new single, he’s gone with another emerging talent, with actor Alex Warren making his promo debut in strong fashion. The POV clip of a love story gone wrong nods to “Peep Show” and the seminal video for The Prodigy‘s “Smack My Bitch Up,” but it’s less eager to shock and more affecting than the latter. We look forward to seeing more from both.
“One Second Of Love” – Nite Jewel (dir. Delaney Bishop)
Delaney Bishop is certainly a name to look out for: she’s worked with Marilyn Manson, had an award-winning short on the festival circuit “The Death of Salvador Dali,” and is developing a feature, “EleMentalal,” with the Sundance Labs. Her latest promo, for the new single by catchy lo-fi dance pop act Nite Jewel, is particularly unnerving: a girl’s night where the well-dressed ladies hire a freaky pair of triplets and a terrifing goat man to dance for them, before they start vomiting pearls and octopus tentacles. We’ve got no idea what it means, but we’ll likely dream of it for some time to come.
“Ill Manors” – Plan B (dir. Yann DeMange)
Rapper/actor Plan B might be making his directorial debut in May with impressive drama “Ill Manors” (read our interview with him on that subject here), but for the title track from the soundtrack, he’s turned to rising directorial talent Yann Demange (“Dead Set,” “Topboy“) to helm the video. The track’s an electric protest song taking in the British government and the recent riots, and the video, which features the cast of the film along with documentary footage and Monty Python-style animation, is powerful, rousing stuff, appropriate for a track that’s fast becoming the “Ghost Town” for the 2010s.
“All Of Me” – Tanlines (dir. Julian Barrett)
There’s been a recent run of comedians moving into music videos — Richard Ayoade turned his Arctic Monkeys clips into a successful movie career with “Submarine,” and we named Peter Serafinowicz as one of the potentials to break through to the feature world soon. The latest is Julian Barrett, one half of surreal duo The Mighty Boosh, who’s helmed the promo for Brooklyn band Tanlines‘ irresistible floor-filler “All Of Me.” And it’s enormous fun, a retro performance of the band on an old TV inspiring a room full of middle-aged men and women to get their dance on awkwardly. Expect to see much more from Barrett in the field.
“Hey Jane” – Spiritualized (dir. AG Rojas)
After a four-year absence, Spiritualized are back, and the video for their comeback single “Hey Jane” is an appropriately epic one, a powerful ten minute drama about an Atlanta transvestite and prostitute struggling to provide for her son. Director AG Rojas has established a very specific, humanist style to date in his work with the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, and that carries over here; it’s not the most obvious fit for the track, but that makes it kind of brilliant, and we’d definitely peg Rojas as a potential to break out with a feature at Sundance or SXSW in years to come. Be warned, though, it’s a tough watch, and NSFW.
“Oblivion” – Grimes (dir. Emily Kai Bock)
Easily the most addictive record of the year so far is Visions, from Montreal electronica artist Grimes. “Oblivion” is the killer single from it, and Emily Kai Bock‘s video is easily the match of the track. In some ways, it shouldn’t work: it’s mainly a performance video, with the pink-haired songstress singing her track in and around a Montreal football stadium (and we weren’t aware that was such a thing…) But there’s something so spontaneous, so joyful about it that it’s entirely infectious, and it manages to feel genuinely original.
“Met Before” – Chairlift (dir. Jordan Fish)
This is easily our favorite of the recent batch of vids. In an age when most watch music videos online rather than on MTV, more and more artists and filmmakers are embracing the interactive possibilities of the medium, and the latest to do so are excellent New York synth-pop duo Chairlift (whose new album is a must-listen). Helmed by Jordan Fish (Das Racist, Boy Crisis), the video for anthemic single “Met Before” is an ingenious Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style piece of work, which lets the viewer decide on the path that a nerdy science student (played by the band’s Nico-voiced frontwoman, and future ex-Mrs Playlist, Caroline Polachek). We’ve not even scratched the surface of all the content available, but we’ve gone through a gay romance, a mushroom trip, and a scientific discovery in all the versions we’ve seen. Both the technology and the filmmaking are seamlessly executed, and it’s more fun than anything we’ve seen in the form in a long time.