On Thursday evening, Adele’s somber — and frankly, quite stunning — “Someone Like You” video premiered, and once we had finished wiping the tears from our eyes, we quickly realized that director Jake Nava really deserves a video Oscar or something.
Not only did he deliver a video that perfectly matches the song’s heartbroken, haunted feel (not an easy feat), but, whether you know it or not, the British-born Nava has also been responsible for some of the greatest pop clips in recent memory, only adding to a resume that stretches back to the early ’90s (and includes work for everyone from System of a Down to the Spice Girls).
And sure, while the eye-catching clips being churned out by Lady Gaga tend to grab the headlines (since, you know, it’s Gaga), what makes Nava’s work so impressive is that, rarely, if ever, does he make the same video twice. In fact, if you didn’t pay attention to the credits, you’d probably have no idea who was responsible … he’s not only one of the most malleable directors in the business, he’s also one of the most unassuming, and really, that’s what a good director should be. The video is about the artist in front of the camera, after all.
So, in celebration of a man who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, we’ve compiled a list of Nava’s most iconic music videos. Because, as you’ll soon learn, while you may not know his name, you most certainly know his work.
Beyonce, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”
The rare instance of an iconic song being married to a truly iconic video, Nava’s “Single Ladies” is as notable for its simplicity (literally, it’s just Bey and two of her dancers positively killing it) as it is for everything it inspired (literally 12 bazillion YouTube parodies). Fittingly, it raked in the accolades, being named the fifth-best video of the decade by Billboard and taking home the award for Video of the Year at the VMAs. Of course, most folks only remember the latter for Kanye West’s hissy fit, but given Nava’s low profile, it seemed slightly fitting that he’d be overshadowed yet again.
Sex and swagger personified, just like the song, Nava’s “Milkshake” is little more than Kelis cavorting on the counter of a Brooklyn diner (fun fact: It’s now a Mexican restaurant!), and yet, it’s also her most iconic video, not to mention one of the decade’s best. And not just because of the suggestive use of over-easy eggs, either.
Shakira, “She Wolf”
Arguably the most booty-riffic video of all time (or at least the most flexible), “She Wolf” sees Shakira on the prowl, but it’s the moments when she’s caged behind gilded bars where the clip takes on added, uh, significance. Shaki shakes and struts, proves she’s probably double-jointed, and pumps her posterior to eye-popping volume. Like the song, it’s a bit pulpy, a tad glittery and just slightly cheesy, but all in the best possible way.
Beyonce featuring Jay-Z, “Crazy in Love”
A breakneck song requires an equally breakneck video, and on “Crazy,” Nava keeps the camera moving so quickly that it nearly gives the viewer whiplash. A hyperkinetic, hyper-colored joy ride that matches the song’s blissed-out sentiments (and then some), it’s one of Beyonce’s best, especially the bit where she karate kicks the top off a fire hydrant. Or when a car inexplicably bursts into flames. It’s a testament to Nava that, when the situation demands it, he can get as over-the-top as anyone.
Britney Spears, “My Prerogative”
At one point, Britney drives a Porsche into a swimming pool. What else do you need to know?