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Jay Z 'Picasso Baby' by Mark Romanek

Luke Tierney - 16th Aug 2013

When you are a leader of an industry it is up to you to forge ahead, lead the rest, inspire. Jay Z has shouldered this burden for years and now with his 'performance art' he has again taken a step ahead of his peers. One step ahead of even the quintessentially odd Lady Gaga who too has endorsed Marina Abramavich's performance school, the Marina Abramavich Institute, in her own wholehearted manner.

As expected the concept is on point. In a world where we want to be engaged on a more personal level day by day due to the ever growing lack of humanity in our every day, the personal performance is a natural step. Jay Z supposedly performed Picasso Baby for 6-hours straight to one person at a time to a select crowd at the Pace Gallery in NYC. Perhaps a only fault is the crowd, made up of actors, dancers, singers, writers, art dealers and metrosexuals who "rep Brooklyn". Having himself grown up in Brooklyn before its recent gentrification, Jay Z couldn't be further from home.

Regardless of the difference in class attending the project as a music video itself it is easily enjoyed. As with all great art it is the little details that make the difference in the big picture, in this case the audio. Having the live recording rather than the studio recorded track is a must, it lets you experience the performance that little bit more allowing the viewer to almost participate rather than simply spectate. Although its not the starting point, the end product is a music video as for all its hype and glitz as an art piece, it is reliant on the fact they filmed it and are putting it out to a wider audience.

Even with a great idea, the direction must not be taken for granted. When you're Jay Z you have a wealth of talent at your fingertips; enter Mark Romanek. Before Romanek starts shooting the idea is just a concept and it is the candid style with which he captured the event that helps bring it to life. Cutting his teeth in the music video industry as far back as the 90s, his direction won acclaim and the chance to create Scream, billed as the most expensive music video ever, for Michael and Janet Jackson. His eye is award winning and thus he naturally brought his vision to the big screen. Having worked with Jay Z on 99 Problems, it's easy to see why they have reunited.

So what next? Kanye West x Nick Knight projected their video onto walls in 66 different locations around the world before release as an interactive version. Miley Cyrus twerked her way to the fastest 100 million viewed video, in a bold new white girl 2.0 direction. It obviously wouldn't be fair to compare our modern day pioneers to those that defined the industry in the 80s, the Michael Jacksons and Madonnas, but they are trying to make an unforgetable mark.

The music video is once again a focal point at the top end of the music industry and if that means we'll see more innovation, can I get an encore?

* Check out Luke Tierney's blog, Word Is Cheap, or his Twitter @wordischeap, for more thoughts on his favourite music videos.

Luke Tierney - 16th Aug 2013

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Mark Romanek
1st AD
Nicholas Hahn


Director of Photography
Jody Lee Lipes


Geoff Hounsell
Paul Martinez


Dave Hussey

Luke Tierney - 16th Aug 2013

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