Since putting out the call for talented creatives around the world to reimagine three of his greatest hits – ‘Bennie and the Jets’, ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Tiny Dancer’ as music videos last December, Elton John and his song writing partner, Bernie Taupin have narrowed down the final three winners.
To celebrate their song writing partnership of 50 years, the duo partnered with Youtube, to launch ‘Elton John: The Cut,’ to help undiscovered talent bring these songs to life that aired before the advent of music videos.
Video treatments were submitted from over 50 countries, with the only guidelines being ‘Rocket Man’ entries needed to feature animation, ‘Tiny Dancer’ treatments needed to use live-action and ‘Bennie and the Jets’ clips needed to focus on choreography.
The first round of judging was done three prominent YouTube creators for each category: Kurt Hugo Schneider for live action pieces, Parris Goebel for choreography and PES for animation. Afterwards they presented their favourites to an executive panel of judges consisting of Oscar-winning director of Moonlight, Barry Jenkins, Dreamworks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas and Taupin and John.
When asked about the winning treatments, Jenkins said, “It was very clear [they all had] really thought through the idea – taken the essence of the song, the essence of the brief – and manifested it in their own voices. To me, that was the thing that united all the winners”.
While the final videos will be revealed later this month, Youtube has released a behind the scenes video that previews some of the winning process along with the judging process and the shortlist of winners.
For visualizing Elton John’s 1973 hit, ‘Bennie and the Jets’, the judges chose award-winning music video and commercials director Jack Whiteley and his creative partner and choreographer Laura Brownhill. The UK-based team proposed a “futuristic talent show that takes place on a giant carousel-cum-zoetrope-style set that taps into the mythology of the song through its lyrics and themes”. Melina Matsoukas, the director behind many of Beyonce’s groundbreaking videos for ‘Formation’ and ‘Pretty Hurts’, had this to say about the winners:
“I was really impressed by [Jack and Laura’s] references and their knowledge of music and history and art…everyone immediately seemed to gravitate towards their idea”.
As for the classic hit ‘Tiny Dancer’, another UK talent, Max Weiland, was almost chosen for both categories. “Tiny Dancer…needed to be Californian,” said John. “Max just gave us the best treatment possible. He just captured the essence of what the song’s about. And he was nearly chosen for the choreography category as well so he’s clearly a very talented young man”.Weiland’s treatment is quintessentially LA, and features the city’s famous traffic jams to capture a slice of life through song. He’s also directed music videos for The Vaccines and Rejjie Snow.
For the animation category, Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and the rest of the judges quickly identified Majid Adin as the clear winner to animate ‘Rocket Man’, from 1972’s Honky Chateau. After studying fine art at universality in Iran, Adin moved around quite a bit before being granted asylum and the right to work in the UK and therefore drew personal associations from the lyrical themes of the song. In his treatment, he spoke of ‘Rocket Man’ as a story of a refugee who misses his family and old life.
“I was particularly blown away…[Majid] found in the song something so important and relatable to him in his life and his journey”, said Katzenberg. “I’ve never thought of the song in that context and he did something really quite special and moving with it”.
The final music videos will be revealed next month. Watch the teaser clip above and explore our dedicated Elton John Artist Page.