Thanks To The Beastie Boys, Spike Jonze Is Returning To Music Videos … But What Of His Peers?


The Beastie Boys announced on Friday that a Spike Jonze-helmed music video for new single “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” featuring Santigold, is on its way later this month. The preview image above speaks volumes; the action-figure Beastie Boys, crouched for cover behind an overturned flatbed bearing their old-school logo, are prepared for some sort of Bond/Inception battle. We’re already excited.

That said, it seems slightly inaccurate to say that Jonze and the Beastie Boys have re-teamed, per se. The new clip likely didn’t require the Beastie Boys to even set foot in front of a camera or microphone, which probably suits them fine; they had a mere cameo, after all, in their “Make Some Noise” video. We are nonetheless thrilled to hear that Jonze is making another music video.

Over the past few years, music videos have had a miniature revival, but many of the innovative music video directors are no longer working in the medium. Jonas Åkerlund never stopped, but he’s enjoyed a return to popularity thanks to his videos for Lady Gaga (“Paparazzi” and “Telephone”). Nigel Dick also continues to make music videos, though his forté was teenpop; none of his videos for Nickelback and others have been anywhere near as iconic as clips he shot for Britney Spears (“…Baby One More Time,” “Sometimes,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” and “Oops…I Did It Again”) and the Backstreet Boys (“As Long As You Love Me,” “All I Have To Give,” “Drowning”), not to mention the MTV original movie 2Gether.

David Fincher, of course, was the biggest name in music videos for the first decade of MTV’s existence (about which, we want to note, we’re excited to read I Want My MTV!, an oral history of the first ten years of our sister channel, coming in October from music writers Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum), but he’s only made six videos since 1990, the most recent of which was Nine Inch Nails‘s “Only” in 2005. His career trajectory has been mirrored by a number of other directors who, as their own stars rose and music video budgets fell, started directing music videos less frequently and only for bigger artists (with proportionally bigger budgets). Jonathan Glazer stopped in 2000 (except for a single Massive Attack video). Stéphane Sednaoui stopped making videos in 2003, save for a Y.A.S. clip in 2009. Mark Romanek only made one—Coldplay‘s “Speed of Sound”—after Palm Pictures put out a DVD compilation of his videos in 2005. Anton Corbijn stopped in 2006, except for a video for Swedish singer Per Gessle in 2007 and one for Coldplay‘s “Viva la Vida” in 2008. Michel Gondry stopped in 2007.

Some of these directors have since gone on to focus on feature films, while others have focused more on photography and other visual arts. We don’t mean to suggest that they should abandon these pursuits (although after The Green Hornet, we urge Gondry to reconsider which features he signs on for). Couldn’t they make time for a video or two every once in a while, though?

Perhaps the budgetary restraints remain, except for the biggest artists. If Coldplay asked any of these directors for a video, it’s not inconceivable that they’d sign on; several did just that, as noted above. One thing’s for sure: their creative eyes for the medium are sorely missed (though some newer directors, like Chris Marrs Piliero, do excite us). Jonze stopped making music videos in 2005, though he’s co-directed a handful in the intervening time. When he made Scenes from the Suburbs with Arcade Fire last year, it wasn’t seen at the time as a sign of a return to music video making. And Jonze’s history with the Beastie Boys means we can’t necessarily take this video as a sign either. But we can hope!

Until the new Beastie Boys video premieres, here’s the best video he’s already made for them, “Sabotage”:

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