A good music video is an art form in and of itself. Weaving sound, cinematography, choreography, and narrative into one brief package is no small feat. So what exactly does it take to make a solid music video? In this episode of Playback, we give Julia Michaels a chance to answer that question.
In our latest episode of Playback, singer-songwriter Julia Michaels breaks down the music video for her 2021 hit single “All Your Exes,” a satirical ode to the “Stepford wife” who fantasizes about the lengths to which she’ll go to maintain her lover’s gaze.
“I love being able to play a character, even though my boyfriend said that he’s pretty sure I wasn’t acting throughout this whole music video and that’s why it came out so great,” Michaels says, laughing.
Watch her full music video below and read on for more highlights of Michaels’s creative process throughout the production of her Ira Levin–inspired visuals.
On birthing the concept of the video …
Michaels says that she sought to incorporate the concept of a dinner party, but accredits director Blythe Thomas for specifically angling the idea around all the dead exes of the main character’s boyfriend. “I was like, ‘This is genius.’ Whatever we do, I want it to be really satirical, really comedic, and just really play up the psycho-ness, I guess, of the song,” Michaels says.
In tribute to “psycho-ness,” she says that she strove to base the video on the portrait of the “Stepford wife,” the submissively agreeable, societally accepted woman of the ’70s who is devoutly loyal to traditional duties and pure on all aesthetic accounts, but who has skeletons hidden in her closet and has suppressed a slow-burning jealous rage that threatens to surface. “I wanted to portray someone who had their life together … and just wants to protect her love with her person and will do anything to protect her love with that person,” Michaels says.
On artistic intention …
Leaning in to an Addams Family-meets-American Psycho feel, Michaels goes for a vintage aesthetic. She adds that the visuals are meant to illustrate the satirical intent of her lyrics. “I feel like if my lyrics can be sort of satirical and catchy and funny, then I should be able to portray that in the things that I wear and the way that I do things,” Michaels says.
Mission accomplished, as she does just that with what she says is her most fun look: a pink bow tie dress with lime-green heels—and a chain saw. “I never really held a chain saw before,” she shares (besides in her single cover). “I know how to handle a chain saw now—be scared.”
She muses, “I guess I like destructiveness.”
On collaboration and the creative process …
“I think the creative process from the music video comes after you’ve been able to sit with the song for a second,” Michaels says.
“I love everything about the music video process,” she adds. “I love that I get to be with a lot of people that I enjoy. I love the hair, I love the makeup, I love the outfits, I love the collaboration. B. Thomas was really so magical and let me be a really big part of the creative process, which made it all the more fun.”
Watch the full Playback video above to see what else went into the production process.
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