Famous Directors and Their Famous Music Video Muses


As we reported yesterday, Paul Thomas Anderson has reunited with Fiona Apple for the video for “Hot Knife,” the second single from last year’s The Idler Wheel…. It’s the latest episode in a long creative relationship between the two, and it got us thinking about similar connections between directors and musicians — specifically, noted directors and the musicians who’ve served as their muses over the years. Here’s a selection of the most interesting.

Paul Thomas Anderson: Fiona Apple

Anderson isn’t exactly a prolific music video director — he’s made precisely eight over the years, five of which have been for Fiona Apple. This makes sense, given that they dated briefly in the late 1990s, and it’s good to see that their creative connection endures even though they’re not romantically involved any longer.

Michel Gondry: Björk

By contrast, Gondry has worked with a whole heap of artists, but while he’s made memorable videos for everyone from big names The White Stripes and the Chemical Brothers to indie acts like Cibo Matto, it’s his work with Björk that has provided a large share of his signature moments. He’s collaborated with her eight times over the course of two decades, most recently on 2011’s “Crystalline,” and the two seem to bring out a certain quirky creativity in one another.

Chris Cunningham: Aphex Twin

He’s only made two videos for Richard D. James, but they happen to be two of the greatest music videos of all time: the claustrophobic horrorshow freakout of “Come to Daddy” and, of course, “Windowlicker,” embedded in its entirety above, which is one of the best things you’ll ever, ever watch.

Mark Romanek: Nine Inch Nails

Similarly, Romanek’s only made two videos for NIN, but they happen to be “Closer” and “The Perfect Drug.” Bravo.

Spike Jonze: The Beastie Boys

It’s not just “Sabotage,” y’know. Jonze has diversified his oeuvre substantially over the years, but it’s the Beastie Boys to whom he seemed to keep coming back. He made the “Time For Livin'” video in 1993 — one of his first projects as a solo director — and nearly 20 years later, returned to make a clip for the Beasties’ Santigold collaboration, “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.” And then, of course, yes, there’s “Sabotage.”

David Fincher: Madonna

Fincher still moonlights directing the occasional video — he recently made the suitably overblown video for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” — but really, his music video directorial career will always be remembered most for the work he did with Madonna in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Madonna’s always been good at spotting talent, and she realized quickly she was onto a winner with Fincher. His videos for “Vogue” and “Express Yourself,” in particular, garnered heaps of praise and helped kickstart his career directing features.

Jake Nava: Beyoncé

Upcoming British director Jake Nava has been Beyoncé’s music video collaborator of choice for quite some time — he made “Single Ladies,” “Crazy in Love,” “If I Were A Boy,” and Shakira collaboration “Beautiful Liar.” If and when La Knowles finishes her new album, no doubt Nava will be waiting to direct its videos. In the meantime, a lucrative sideline directing Pepsi commercials awaits.

Jonas Åkerlund: Lady Gaga

There’s an argument to be made for Roxette here — Åkerlund made a shitload of their videos, as well as one for a Per Gessle solo tracks — but really, it’s his recent work with Lady Gaga that really brought him to most music fans’ attention. He made the “Telephone” and “Paparazzi” videos, both of which were suitably epic.

Sam Peckinpah: Julian Lennon

As related here. Peckinpah made precisely two music videos in his lifetime, and they were both for Julian Lennon. Who knew?

John Landis: Michael Jackson

He’s best known for his ’80s comedies, but Landis also directed two music videos for Michael Jackson. You may have heard of them: “Thriller” and “Black and White.” The former basically invented the idea of the long-form music video as we know it, and the latter was particularly memorable for its use of then-cutting-edge face-morphing technology.