D. VS. P. – The YouTube Music Awards Special
This Director Vs. Producer is a little different as we take a look at the YTMAs most talked about videos with newly signed to Partizan’s Sing J. Lee in the director’s chair going up with independent producer Emory Ruegg. Check the six most talked about videos of the YTMAs below:
Sing J. Lee: When a video is driven by a technical idea, it has a lot of responsibility in carrying the video and maintaining attention, Greg Jardin definitely did so in this, the idea was super neat, it kept me wanting to see where we’d be taken and how far Greg would push it. Very clever and subtle.
Emory Ruegg: Having seen Greg’s video for Joey Ramone I was anticipating something clever and I wasn’t disappointed. While the song isn’t really my cup of tea the execution is definitely slick and a nice take on mixing what I assume must be MoCo and a lot of compositing. What’s most impressive is that you never see the joins, which I usually quite like in videos, but in this instance it would feel wrong for such an unabashed pop / dance track. The technique never feels heavy handed and there’s enough sound thought and satisfying movement by the bit part players that make it highly watchable and worth repeat viewing. The layering of people is well thought out and the use of reverse footage is particularly impactful. All in all an accomplished promo.
Emory: Anamorphic is everywhere! Seems that no one likes to shoot 16:9 anymore. That’s not a criticism in this case just an observance of how aesthetic trends really do exist. This video makes some pretty strong references to ET and Close Encounters… both films that I love. There are so many elements reminiscent of ET in particular that I would consider this video a homage to the visual and story telling spirit of that film. I really enjoyed it. I’m not always a huge fan of narratives starting before the song kicks in, at times it can be indulgent, but in this it sets up the rest of the video nicely because it’s pulled off with a sense of irony and humour. And the irony and humour permeates throughout the video to good effect. I like the Daft Punkesque retrofuture helmets with dot pixel graphics – I’ve always been a fan of Tron like neon graphics. The payoff at the end of the video is probably my favourite bit – it’s unexpected but imaginative in its detail – though the astronauts trajectory and the backdrop of the end shot is almost like for like of the ET going home sequence. They say imitation is a the highest form of flattery. In this case it gets the balance just right. A solid piece.
Sing: I think this was one of the stand out videos for me from the YouTube Music Awards. Saman Kesh has such fun, inventive vision in his work so I was hoping for big things in this one, it didn’t disappoint. Dancing videos may have become a little overcooked over the last year but when done right, they still make you feel so good inside, just like watching these two lovestruck astronauts. The ending too…epic, everything rounded off neatly…there were plenty of lovely little touches and layers throughout the story, I think you can tell Saman is gearing up towards a big short/feature venture soon.
Sing: Eric Weirheim. That’s all you really need to say. Brilliant, odd, gross, subversive. Only Eric could get away with creating something like this for a big artist of the moment and for it to be relevant, hilarious and fun. The youtube comments provided huge entertainment/exasperation too.
Emory: I really like some of Eric’s work. His video for Mr Ozio’s Ham is an absolute joy and of course his work as part of Tim & Eric is right up there with the best of them. This is probably not his strongest suit though, but there are parts of it that I really dug. The post post modernist observations (how many ‘posts’ are there now?) about our relationship with our phones and technology are apt and feel contemporary. I think it says a lot about Charlie XCX that she wants to work with a director of Eric’s style and not play safe, so kudos to her and her team. My favourite moment is probably everyones favourite moment, where the ersatz Charlie goes to plug in her phone in to the human baby volt machine. It’s a lol moment, and a visual feast to boot. The grotesquer moments work best, and it’s probably fair to say they’re all the more enjoyable because of the candy pop sugariness that proceeds each such moment, however it is that candy pop sugariness that isn’t subverted enough for my tastes.
Emory: Where to begin! FKA Twigs has certainly built an aura around herself as an ‘event’ artist in the way that one of her inspirations Madonna (I assume) was the absolute genius in. However she’s got a long way to go before she reaches Madge’s level of mastery in the art of pure artifice, but there are signs that she’s got enough good ideas to make a good attempt. And that’s what this video feels like, a good attempt, a mish mash of some great visual ideas that unfortunately for me miss the mark. In terms of the camera work it’s flat, the production design incongruous, the styling doesn’t marry the setting and I think most crucially the edit is rhythmically off. I feel like the edit doesn’t pay attention to the song or the varying settings within the video, which is unusual for an artist directed video to do. If you took any part of this video (styling, choreography, setting) and stripped it back in to its own element there’s probably enough within each element to make a captivating video of its own. I love the clothes, genuinely, but within this video alongside everything else that’s going on it feels wrong. I love the choreography, one of her strongest aspects as an artist, but again within the context of the video it doesn’t work as well as it should. I’m a big fan of FKA Twig’s music, it’s atmospheric, rhythmically intelligent and feels like the crazy mixed race love child of Kate Bush and late Bjork (if there were such a thing) but on this occasion her many talents have not combined well. However I will continue to look forward to whatever she’s scheming to do next as I respect the fact that she’s doing things on her own terms.
Sing: FKA Twigs has earned the right to be regarded as a hugely influential and important creative of the moment. I love whatever she does, always pushing boundaries. With G&P, the highlight was the opening, it was brave and what we hope to see from her. We see the female body portrayed in a way that’s not normally envisioned in pop promos, nurturing and empowering, it left me wanting to journey even further into the visual mind of Twigs.
Sing: Action Bronson is such a great performer and character to watch, most of his videos have hinged on just how fun he is on screen. Lil Chris does well in Baby Blue capturing a fun slice of Americana, it was definitely the entertaining hijinks we’ve come to love and expect from AB.
Emory: Off late I feel like Hip Hop is going through a reinvention. Fools Gold are at the fore front of that reinvention as a label and yet Action Bronson might be considered one of the more retro sounding artists out there, but he is also one of their most unique. For me this video confirms it. There is a strong flavour of pastiche in this video, which if you think about how Hip Hop came to be works perfectly with the song. I really like this video. Probably because it feels like this is exactly what the artist wanted to say. Yes it indulges in some well worn archetypes, be they racial, stylistic, or comedic, but it never feels overly lazy or poorly imagined, rather there’s a tangible low key, down to earth finish to the pastiche elements that keep it grounded, fun, unfussy, irreverent and the right side of silly. It’s one to savour. Chance is always watchable too – he’ll be big in the game hopefully. It helps that the song is a good too.
Emory: It’s fair to say that Emil Nava’s repertoire as a director has grown in recent years. Whether consciously or subconsciously he’s moved away from solely making overt pop videos and started to explore serious narrative themes in his work. It’s incredible to think that at this stage in his career (relatively short) one can consider that there are two Emil Nava’s, yet so prolific has he been that the work can be split in this way. No mean feat. I think it’s good video. Of course it helps that it centres around a very charismatic and well known actor who probably isn’t stretching himself that hard with regards to emotional arc of his role, but it has it’s moments, both visual and emotional that are well crafted. It’s what I now expect from an Emil video – strong performances, strong cinematography, strong editing. In this regard he’s ticked all the boxes. Emil knows what works, he’s an astute and practiced operator and its great to see that he wants to try new things, even if at times there’s a feeling that his work could be categorised as form over substance. Incidentally I like this song, a guilty pleasure no doubt, but the narrative arcs work well with the drops in the song. What a coup to have worked with Ray Liotta.
Sing: Watching Ray in Rockstar was like imagining the twilight years of Henry Hill from Goodfellas or Tommy Vercetti years on from blowing all his dirty money. A portrait of an empty man who had everything in a vacuous life. Hard to sympathise with, but catches you in empathy by the neck imagining the overbearing sense of worthlessness. Emil was so fitting to have been paired with a titan of crime cinema.