Beyoncé set the bar high with her HBO video extravaganza that dominated the MTV Music Awards last summer. But it’s not just “Lemonade” that’s got the cinematography geeks all a buzz. From Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” to Bowie’s heartbreaking “Lazarus,” many of this year’s Grammy-nominees enlisted top-notch directors and cinematographers to bring their music to filmic life. Here we pull back the curtain on the magicians behind the cameras, who made the year’s best songs look great.
Up for 11 Grammys, the tour-de-force album celebrates black women, the South, and music itself. The HBO spectacular testifies to Beyoncé’s ability to direct the look as well as the sound of her art with its four Emmy nominations. Beyoncé employed a talented roster of cinematographers to capture her star-studded cast. Malik Sayeed took home the MTV best cinematography award for his work on “Formation,” and other notable cinematographers include Dikayl Rimmasch (who also wears his hat as director on the project), and Meadowland director Reed Morano. As Film School Rejects concludes: “There’s a reason why Beyoncé’s special looks and moves like artful cinema: there’s a team of talented artists behind her.”
In a recent article, we examined the most filmic music videos by Radiohead, and looked forward to the next single off “Moon Shaped Pool,” up for alternative album of the year. Radiohead did not disappoint! Paul Thomas Anderson directed and, as this article at Flavorwire suggests, likely acted as cinematographer for the much-analyzed “Daydreaming.” From domestic interiors to snowy cliff exteriors, Anderson pulls the camera through endless doors to create a symbol-laden look that invites film and music fans alike to watch and re-watch.
“25” is up for eight Grammys, including album of the year. The single “Hello” is up for song of the year. The video for “Hello,” directed by Xavier Dolan and with cinematography by André Turpin, is an intimate portrayal of loss and regret. Actor Tristan Wilds was cast opposite Adele and it seems the singer and her talented team approached “Hello” as they would a short film. Despite the flip phones, the look packs an emotional punch, causing Adele to say, “It’s my best video and I’m so proud of it.”
Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”
It’s not a big surprise that Bieber’s “Purpose” is up for album of the year, but finding him (or at least his video) a topic of discussion at No Film School is a bit of a surprise. Yet it’s not the heartthrob the indie film buffs are interested in, but rather the work of cinematographer Joshua Reis. “Breaking Down the Cinematography in Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean’ Music Video” praises Reis for his designed color theme, which ties together the traditionally lit exteriors with the innovatively lit interiors (shot in an actual hotel room): “Reis does some beautifully intriguing things with light and color in the music video — the harsh shadows and the neon greens and reds create what Matt [Workman] describes as a ‘modern film noir’ look.”
David Bowie’s “Lazarus”
The heartbreaking video of impending death and impossible resurrection was released three days before Bowie’s passing. With the help of cinematographer Crille Forsberg, director Johan Renck (of “Breaking Bad” fame) created a look that helped Bowie turn “hospice care into high art,” according to Pitchfork, who listed the video as #2 in its list of the Best Videos of 2016. Bowie is up for five posthumous Grammys for his final album “Blackstar.”
What are your picks for the most cinematic moments in music videos this year? Will you be watching the Grammys on Feb. 12? Let us know in the comments below!