Music videos nowadays are typically well-oiled machines – known for their expensive budgets, sprawling concepts, a troupe of backup dancers, and more often than not, less than subtle product-placement. The format has proven to be a stable one, moving past the conventional platforms of MTV/VH1 as they adjusted their focus, finding a contemporary home with YouTube, Vevo, and a multitude of streaming services.
While modern music videos have used the short film format for decades now to promote singles/albums, or to express a meaningful narrative in a limited timeframe, the nature of how we consume content and over-saturation of multimedia markets has definitely impacted how artists and directors can express their ideas creatively, and uniquely. State-of-the-art ultra high-definition cameras, lighting and rigs, special effects, etc. are all now common tools of the trade, sometimes used to translate a concept that is otherwise flimsy, into something flashy.
For Lorde’s new single, “Green Light” – in a pop-culture climate that makes it increasingly difficult to stand out – the ideas are simple. In her short career, having only appeared in a handful of music videos to date, Lorde has chosen a typically minimalist approach, scattering distinctive visuals throughout otherwise simple clips. “Green Light” is perhaps her most accomplished example yet, relying on little more than thoughtfully considered aesthetics and improvisation. Director, Grant Singer, chose to shoot the video in 16mm film, rather than the standard digital medium now preferred for music video production.
“To me, 16mm film has a thickness to it, and it feels timeless to me. And that was really important: to not make it feel like a video made in 2017, but to me the quality of the film, the music video itself feels more timely, and that was definitely intentional…”
16mm is one of the most popular kinds of film, and has been used to great effect in the past to bring distinguishing qualities, beauty, and a particular style to many projects. While the format hasn’t been fazed out, it isn’t the first choice for a lot of music directors, so at first glance there is already something quite distinctive about the “Green Light” video.
From the lighting, to the simplicity of the nameless backdrops in which it takes place (an area in Los Angeles called MacArthur was used as the location), and Lorde’s own performance as the central ‘visual statement,’ the video executes these ideas effortlessly. Theatrics and scale may be one tried and tested approach to creating something that is memorable in music today. However, by utilising the 16mm film – and allowing Lorde to immerse herself in its landscape – Singer has been able to apply a striking, saturated depth that contrast with a textural, grainy nostalgia to create something uncomplicated – and indeed timeless – that exists in the present.