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5 directors taking your favorite artists’ music videos to the next level

Music videos are not only a part of the way we generally consume music these days but some of the most interesting and critical work is now being created through this medium.

Its value lies in being an avenue for directors to explore creatively, experiment, and formulate a level of authorship that may not come as easily in the world of narrative film or television.

Plus, music videos offer the opportunity to employ a non-linear form of storytelling that isn’t confined to a three-act structure, nor follows the cinematic convention of syncing sound seamlessly to an image in order to keep audiences hypnotized by what’s on screen.

There can be ruptures, breaks, visual contradictions, and juxtapositions, all of which creates an array of possibilities for interpretation and ultimately make for super engaging content. Here’s a list of the hottest directors right now whose music videos marry together stunning visuals with world-transcending sounds.

Ricky Saiz


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Happy Holidays ❤️

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Saiz’s collaboration with The Carters to direct the music video for their track “Apeshit,” may come as a surprise given Saiz is somewhat of a mystery and yet, ended up teaming with the ultimate celebrity power couple. The end result, however, is a powerful piece that affirms blackness’ place in a historically white space. But I guess we wouldn’t expect anything less than Black excellence from The Carters.

When viewers are introduced to The Carters in the video, their gaze directly meets ours as they stand tall in front of the most famous, valued, and prized artwork in the world;  Leonardo DaVinci’s, Mona Lisa.

It’s clear that Saiz is incredibly intentional and precise in his framing. The positioning of both Jay-Z and Beyonce in front of the infamous artwork is emblematic of the way that their black bodies throughout the video physically intervene in a space dedicated to preserving and heralding Western art and culture.

With the whole of the Louvre at their disposal, the actual museums’ space and the art that resides in it, are continually employed throughout the video. There are static shots of paintings, slowly spinning and tilted shots of the museums’ ornate architecture, as well as shots in which the camera almost floats through the vast space, rendering a kind of infinite or timeless quality.

music videos to the next level
The Carters

Wide shots of Beyonce standing in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, in addition to static close-ups of women’s faces in the paintings are all intercut with shots of Beyonce and her backup dancers, all of whom are women of color.

The interplay between these shots draws attention to how ideas of beauty and femininity are solidified in European art and have been subsequently perpetuated throughout history to cement white womanhood as the beauty ideal.

Plus, an amazing juxtaposing shot of Beyonce and her dancers in front of the painting depicting the crowning of Napoleon’s wife Josephine throws into question who is the real Queen in this shot. Put simply, the composition depicts a black woman superseding a European monarch.

The Carters

We also see enormous paintings of military victories – images that have been romanticized by the art world to be viewed as symbols of high art, instead of being interpreting as violent images of white male domination, conquest, and expansion.

With France being the birthplace of Enlightenment thinking, the philosophy that validated the project of global imperialism, The Carters’ embodied critique puts into question the nation’s motto of liberty, equality, and fraternity (a motto also absorbed by the West today) that these paintings ultimately signify.

In this way, the Carters’ physical presence in this site is a scathing critique of Western art and cultures’ historical tradition of representing blackness and ‘the East,’ as ‘primitive’ or ‘backward’, and the music video explicitly points to this historical space as responsible for the continuation of such racist mythology. These are just a few of the reasons people should really still be going apeshit over this music video!

Nadia Lee Cohen


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matching for @interviewmag wearing @versace styled by @melzy917 photo by @charliedenis

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With Nadia Lee Cohen’s videos lending the feeling of viewers being transported into a bizarre surrealist dream, the artist certainly knows how to make a statement.

Her vibrant visuals are steeped in color and produce a level of eccentricity that just exudes out of the screen. Using her artistic license to the upmost degree, Cohen actually seems to take pleasure in making viewers uncomfortable and achieves this primarily through the overtly sexual tone that runs throughout her videos and photography.

Indeed, the absurdity that characterizes the British artists’ work produces a visceral effect for beholders and suggests that Cohen likes pushing boundaries and is interested in how audiences engage with her art.

The music video Gilligan for D.R.A.M. ft A$AP Rocky and Juicy J unveils Cohen’s interest in suburban settings and the decades of the 60s and 70s as a source of stylistic inspiration. Interestingly, the white women in the video resemble caricatures. This representational approach is subversive given that black women’s identities have historically been represented in such a derogatory two-dimensional way.

Her thematic attention to ideas of beauty, femininity, race, consumerism is amplified and exaggerated in her jarring colorful aesthetic. Cohen’s engagement with such themes inevitably brings into question ideas about the representation of women in the media, the implications of such representations, and the male gaze. It is in these ways that there is definitely a critical quality to Cohen’s work.

Karena Evans


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like a lady from time to time (thx to @jessnmori) – from last weekend at @tiff_net

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Moving through the ranks as an intern for big-name music video director, Director X at his production company Popp Rok, Karena Evans has recently made waves in the industry by landing the opportunity to direct Drake’s music videos for the tracks “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What.”

Captivated by the electric energy and face-paced environment of the world of music video production, the 22-year-old ended up dropping out of film school to take a chance and pursue her career at Popp Rok.

Turns out, her hard work and dedication for the production company paid off as Evans was gifted with the dream to work with Drake and apply her directorial skills to making the videos for two of the artists’ songs on his latest album, Scorpion.

In “God’s Plan,” viewers are set up with the preface of Drake having a million dollar budget to shoot the music video. Evans, however, ends up following the rap star around the city of Miami and we watch as Drake redistributes the money for the video shoot instead to those in need.

The video shows Drake dishing out bundles of cash to city-dwellers, paying for everyone’s’ goods in a grocery store and offering a fifty thousand dollar college scholarship to a young African-American woman.

All of the footage is juxtaposed with shots of Drake rapping in a clothing floor of a high-end mall and in doing so, exposes the economic disparity between life on the street and the high life and riches that Miami is also known for.

Hiro Murai


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For a music video that is deeply embedded in exploring what it means to be black in America, it may come as a surprise that the mind behind the provocative visuals for Childish Gambino’s music video “This is America,” is a Japanese-American director, Hiro Murai.  Yet, Murai made an explosive statement on race in America through the music video.

There are so many things that keep audiences’ eyes glued to what is happening on screen. Viewers are taken on a journey, following the movements of Glover and each interaction he makes with the extras in the video. with the extras. But it is a highly choreographed piece. There are no cuts in the editing.

Instead, the camera floats through the abandoned warehouse. And it is no accident that Murai chose this as the site to shoot the video, as it visually references the fall of industry in the U.S. under our current iteration of global capitalism and essentially an abandoned warehouse that could easily be found in any city across the nation.

While the visuals and lyrics are disturbing, the song is alarmingly so consumable. And that is what Gambino is getting at through this video. He is presenting the way in which black suffering is normalized and highlights the exploitation of black cultural production at the expense of white leisure and entertainment.

His minstrel-like smiles, body movement, and topless dancing take primary focus despite the chaos and violence that explodes behind him. And that is one of the devastating messages Gambino is conveying through this video.

Colin Tilley


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working on my craft 2day and 4ever #boyinthecastle I want the action!

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Hailing from Berkley, California, Colin Tilley is directing some of the most influential and biggest artists of the industry right now.

Tilley has been able to collaborate with some pretty damn famous names; from RiRi, Kendrick Lamar, Selena Gomez, DJ Khaled & Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, DJ Snake, and Nicki Minaj to name a few. To add, his most recent work includes directing a video for the collaboration between the two major labels, Balmain and L’Oréal.

His music video for Kendrick Lamar’s track “Alright,” I would argue is some of the best cinematic work you will see. Shot in black and white, the visuals are highly saturated and contrasted. The video depicts black bodies becoming sonically animated and suspend in the air as the beats, kicks, low ends and lyrics dominate the soundscape.

We continually see Kendrick floating and moving through urban space, as life plows on below him, the music in the video takes on an emancipatory quality as we observe Kendrick’s body escaping the violence, and specifically, the brutal policing and surveilling of black bodies under him — a reality that characterizes this bleak urban space. Tilley masterfully captures artists in their element.