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These Simple, Performance-Driven Music Videos Do Songs Real Justice

Straightforward music video concepts can go a long way. These lean stunners will spark some low-budget, crew-optional ideas.

Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing” by Grant Singer

Shot in one day — on no budget — at the urgent request of Capitol Records, “Everything Is Embarrassing” is a straightforward, mostly outdoor performance. Los Angeles’s natural light glows to its maximum in the gaze of director Grant Singer, who took bedroom pop songstress Sky Ferreira out alone (without a crew) to the rooftop of the Capitol Records building, to a playground, and for a ride on the L.A. metro. The result is a fireworks show of Hollywood-starlet vulnerability in severe high contrast.

“Everything Is Embarrassing” would introduce Ferreira’s new aesthetic to the world after reaching the Billboard dance charts as a teenager. Due to the short turnaround, Singer threw out an original plan to include a love interest in the video, as he told IMVDb. Ferreira didn’t need one. The focus on her delivery helped facilitate a breakout moment in her career. “Everything Is Embarrassing” dropped on October 1, 2012, about a month after the song had been released online. Two weeks later, upon the Ghost EP’s release, “Everything Is Embarrassing” was deemed “one of the year’s unlikely pop gems” via critic Jon Caramanica of The New York Times. Singer and Ferreira were already a team — he’d made other videos for her and cast her in his short IRLand they continue working together.


Solange’s “Losing You” by Melina Matsoukas

Even if you don’t have the funds for an overseas (or out-of-state) trip, a deep neighborhood study (as a music video) can encourage you to flex two modes of filmmaking at once. Solange and her friend director Melina Matsoukas, took a documentary sensibility to Cape Town, South Africa, for “Losing You.” The singer told Pitchfork that the concept wasn’t firm when they decided on a location, only the desire to honor their adventures and an artful, fashionable group called the Le Sape Society (Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People).

A book by Daniele Tamagni called Gentleman of Bacongo served as their compass. And the author advised. Audiences’ horizons were broadened, as they’ve been with other Solange joints like “I Decided,” which layer historical and civil rights references with her charming, high-toned pop music. Operations at a tailor’s shop, mural art on facades of buildings, and explorations down townie roads make a joyful recording of Cape Town and complicate the bittersweet “Losing You” to gorgeous ends.


Now, Now’s “Yours” by Alexa San-Roman

Now, Now‘s Brad Hale made glowy shapes in After Effects for projections, while his band-mate Cacie Dalager danced in front of them as the camera rolled. Sounds pure and simple, and it was — a wealth of energized material for director Alexa San Roman, who also filmed the pair in an eerily lit car and chased Dalager down the beach at night. The distinctly cool palette of pink, purple, and black melts against the grooves of “Yours.”

The editing here is musical in its own right.  Hands reaching into the shot to embrace Cacie are a tender match for the breathless vocals in the song.

Check out the sunset-soaked desert in San-Roman’s video for “SGL.”


Cover image via “Losing You.”

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