One of the biggest happenings in the kingdom of cool recently is the release of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s much anticipated “Watch the Throne” album. While the record itself is good (but no great stretch for either half of this dynamic duo), fans of West — whose last major video release was the epic, 35-minute Runaway — knew to expect something special in the way of accompanying music videos.
West and Jay-Z’s first release from their new album is Otis, a short, action-packed video which is surprisingly low key compared to West’s previous ones (with the notable exception of a hacked-up, flame-spewing Maybach that stands in as the video’s main character). Spike Jonze, the indie auteur who brought Being John Malkovich and Where the Wild Things Are to the big screen, and who has made music videos with The Beastie Boys, Arcade Fire and Daft Punk, as well as the video for West’s hit “Flashing Lights”, does not disappoint in his work on Otis.
Watching the video, in which West and Jay-Z joyride in the now-roofless luxury sedan (complete with several leggy models strapped into the backseat…because…why not?), I can’t help but feel that Jonze is a master of the pop video medium. While Otis doesn’t strive for much narrative, it captures perfectly the over-the-top presence of the two stars, each of whom has taken pains to cultivate a larger-than-life persona. If you wanted to, you could interpret the custom Maybach and giant American flag as reflections of both artists’ signature blend of individuality, braggadocio and unpredictability, but it’s probably best not to read too much into this one. Just watch and enjoy — music videos don’t get much more satisfying than this.