Pop

From Britney Spears To Billie Eilish, Director Dave Meyers Has Shaped The Last Two Decades Of Music Videos

Dave Meyers might not be a household name, but since starting his music video directing career in the late ’90s — when he lensed clips for Korn, Juvenile, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock — he’s become one of the most influential (and in-demand) visual architects of the pop and hip-hop world.

Meyers has worked with current superstars when they were trying to launch their careers (Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” SZA’s “Drew Barrymore“), artists on the brink of a breakthrough (Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real”), and musicians aiming for career reinventions (No Doubt’s “Hey Baby”). However, he’s also forged long-term relationships with boundary-pushing acts such as Missy Elliott and Pink, which illustrates his ability to grow and evolve along with his collaborators, and underscores a generous collaborative spirit.

Here are 12 videos that demonstrate Meyers’ breadth and depth as a music video director.

Britney Spears — “Lucky” (2000)

In the “Lucky” episode of MTV’s Making the Video, Meyers noted that he felt like he was directing “the video [Spears] wants to mature with. It’s the first step of the maturing Britney.” It was a rather prescient statement: The clip — which deliberately references old-school ’40s and ’50s cinematic glamour — finds Spears portraying both a famous-but-melancholy movie star (named “Lucky,” natch) and a lightly fictionalized version of her down-to-earth Louisiana self. The latter character is an “overseer of the lonely star,” Meyers said, while Spears characterizes her as “a ghost.” The video ended up a rather sophisticated take on the fame-as-a-fishbowl concept — and did indeed show Spears had range beyond teen-pop.

Outkast — “B.O.B.” (2000)

Outkast were already stars by the time they released “B.O.B.,” the genre-blending first single from 2000’s Stankonia. However, the song’s video illuminates the vibrant electricity coursing through their music — and, at the behest of Andre 3000, the duo’s Atlanta hometown.

“The pulse of the piece was integrating certain staple urban cultural things like bouncing cars, things like that, people from the hood having a celebratory vibe, and then integrating it into an experience that anybody in the world could watch and feel was a movement,” Meyers said in a 2015 Red Bull Music Academy interview. “It felt like a movement to me and that’s what we were after, just this perpetual fluidity of excitement that was happening in the streets of Atlanta.”

Accordingly, the video’s participants are all in constant motion, as the clip follows nimble dance crews, drivers going joyriding, kids running through neighborhoods, and a gospel choir singing at a church service. Meyers later confirmed to RBMA that the “B.O.B.” video frames were sent to India to be colored, which explains the vivid and often psychedelic tones. As it emerged at the dawn of a new millennium, the clip felt like a futuristic leap forward for both Outkast’s visual aesthetic and hip-hop videos in general.

Jay-Z — “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (2001)

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Much like Outkast’s “B.O.B.,” the video for the Kanye West-produced “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” has a strong sense of place; namely, Jay-Z’s beloved New York City. (Oddly enough, however, the clip was filmed in LA.) The rapper is portrayed like a conquering hero — specifically, a charismatic politician — quite literally basking in the glow of success: a parade that finds him riding on a Roc-A-Fella Records float.

The clip both matches the life’s-good vibe of the “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” lyrics and Jay-Z’s own personal and career ascension. “I was part of Jay-Z’s life at a time where he was single and wanted to do a lot of party records, and I was trying to get him to do some edgy stuff, but he wasn’t hearing it at the time,” Meyers told RBMA, while stressing that although the pair only worked together a few more times, “there’s no bad blood. It’s just sort of the evolution of a creative.”

Ja Rule and Ashanti — “Always On Time” (2001)

Meyers’ ability to get out of the way and highlight the personality of his subjects shines through on this early ’00s classic, which pairs the charming, swaggering Ja Rule and the cool-and-collected Ashanti. The video shines because of its subtlety, both in the plotline — Ja Rule portrays a man who learns to clean up his act after a car accident, and embrace the love of a good woman — and imagery. The rapper alternates between wearing white and black outfits to signify the two sides of his personality, while there are religious undertones to several scenes that add meaningful depth.

Missy Elliott — “Work It” (2002)

The video partnership between Meyers and Elliott dates back to 2001’s “Get Ur Freak On,” and is distinguished by the pair’s same-wavelength brains. “It’s a back and forth of pitching and collaborating and creating the environments and setups that most resonate,” Meyers told Fortune back in August of their creative process. “It’s a curation process — I’m pitching and she’s curating.” For the decade-defining “Work It,” he adds, Elliott “was like ‘I see this beauty salon. We should do something with beauty salons.'”

The resulting clip does indeed feature a salon, albeit one that’s suffused by sci-fi visual effects such as the scene flashing into a photographic negative. This moment illustrates the video’s cutting-edge flourishes — which include proto-Boomerang camera tricks that mimic the song’s circuitous beats — and penchant for iconic scenes, such as dancing prodigy Alyson Stoner busting out moves on an apocalyptic playground, and real bees swarming around the stone-faced rapper as she DJs. Elliott’s videos always inhabit their own universe — and the world conjured by “Work It” is both futuristic and visually stunning.

Katy Perry — “Firework” (2010)

Katy Perry is known for elaborate videos that scan more like mini-movies, but for the inspirational “Firework,” Meyers directs her toward heartstring-tugging. The clip features people facing adversity — kids trying to drown out fighting parents, a hospital patient, teens dealing with insecurity — who muster up self-confidence that’s manifested in actual fireworks shooting from the body. The premise might sound cheesy, but between smart lighting — things are kept dim, so the sparks pop — and understated shots of Perry herself singing her heart out and spouting off fireworks, “Firework” is a winner.

Pink — “Raise Your Glass” (2010)

Meyers and Pink have worked together consistently since 1999 and amassed an emotional body of work, with videos that address self-harm (“Perfect”) and empowerment (“U & Ur Hand”). One of the most moving clips in Pink’s arsenal is “Raise Your Glass,” an ode to those who march to the beat of a different drummer. Meyers structures the clip like mini cinematic vignettes, all of which are helmed by Pink, who cosplays as a variety of characters — including Rosie the Riveter, a skater girl, and a nerdy teenager — to illustrate the different ways people can find their own way in the world.

Camila Cabello — “Havana” (2017)

“This is dedicated to the dreamers,” reads the end-title dedication of the video for “Havana,” Camila Cabello’s Grammy-nominated No. 1 hit. The sentiment rings true throughout the gorgeous, cinematic clip: In this movie-within-a-movie concept, Cabello plays a daydreaming, misfit girl who’s looking for a role model with which she can identify, and tries to find it by going to see a film, Camila in Havana. (Yes, Cabello also plays the lead.) The scenes boast impressive choreography and perfect vintage backdrops, making it one of Meyers’ most elaborate videos.

Kendrick Lamar — “HUMBLE.” (2017)

HUMBLE.” has taken home multiple awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Music Video and Video Of The Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. The accolades are well-earned: The cinematic clip’s rich symbolism is striking, while the camera nuances — such as capturing all 360 degrees of a Lamar bike ride via a GoPro Omni and sequencing them like a globe — add even more thematic layers.

Although “Humble.” was co-directed with the Little Homies (a.k.a. Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment president Dave Free), Meyers is quick to credit his collaborators as being integral to the clip’s execution. “Co-directing isn’t really what you think it is,” he told The Atlantic. “Any time I’ve shared co-direction, it’s always usually an acknowledgment that the artist is there and present in the creativity. So I’m in a sense collaborating with him in the creation of the idea.”

Ariana Grande — “No Tears Left to Cry” (2018)

The Sweetener era began with this technology-aided marvel. The clip revolves mostly around a nighttime cityscape full of buildings stacked at all angles, defying the laws of physics and gravity. From there, to illustrate further the disorienting feeling of navigating through a breakup, Grande does a handstand on a fire escape ladder, sits on the ceiling perpendicular to the floor and then walks down a wall, and even floats off the edge of a building. Later in the clip, Grande illuminates the idea of starting over by removing her face and choosing a new one from a selection of similar visages. The net effect is dizzying and disconcerting, but thought-provoking.

Travis Scott — “Sicko Mode” (2018)

Sicko Mode,” which Meyers co-directed with Scott, captures the horror-meets-fun-house vibe of Astroworld. The mesmerizing clip plays liberally with perspectives — at one point, the rapper gets larger and smaller, Alice In Wonderland-style, as the camera wobbles, while guest Drake is filmed hurtling through computerized space and someone else is crushed by an asteroid — and surreal scenes, such as a woman shrouded in blacklight paint and computer effects that render Scott blurry and dissolving.

Billie Eilish — “Bad Guy” (2019)

Meyers draws on inspiration from his entire body of work for the “Bad Guy” video. Its dazzling backdrops and blocky color schemes exude cartoonish ’90s vibes, while Eilish’s confidence and defiant attitude conjure his larger-than-life, early ’00s hip-hop clips. Best of all, Meyers’ ensures Eilish’s personality shines through: The pop star — who sports an array of oversized fashions in rainbow hues, to match the scenes — is sullen and playful, and darkly funny as she waterboards a guy with milk, nonchalantly sings with a bloody nose, and sasses every adult in her path. It’s both very 2019 and also retro — a perfect encapsulation of Eilish’s own musical approach.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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