WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — The man who recreated the White Stripes with Legos has transformed Adam Levine into a Macy's security guard.
"This sounds weird, but it's kind of a surrealistic Christmas world that Macy's becomes," the Maroon 5 singer said of director Michel Gondry's video for Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say," which features Levine as a guard. "I let Kanye and his family in, after hours, to spend the night. And he's got three kids with him and they're running around and I'm chasing them."
Kanye and Michel have collaborated before — West performs in Gondry's upcoming documentary, "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," and the director actually played drums on the rapper's "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" (see " 'Can He Do It Again?' — Kanye West Says New LP Backs Up His Bragging") — but "Heard 'Em Say" marks their first video together. The clip is also Levine's first with Gondry, who is best known for his innovative videos with the White Stripes and Björk, as well as for last year's feature film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."
"I've been dying to work with him forever," Levine said. "I was just blown away that I got the opportunity. Then I read the treatment and I found out that I would being a little bit of, you know, video acting, which is funny."
Jon Brion, who co-produced the song, also appears in the video, playing a miniature piano in the store's toy section, but the true star is Gondry, who created a "Mary Poppins"-inspired fantasy world inside the department store, where Kanye and his fictional kids run amok. Utilizing his signature special effects, the director created a seemingly endless race track that comes together piece by piece within seconds, sofa beds that fold and unfold to the beat, and more.
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"There's this one scene where we're driving, like, a police-car bed," Levine said. "It's so weird! There's dancing suits in the men's section, all kinds of craziness, but I'm excited about it."
Gondry shot the video in the Macy's flagship store on 34th Street in New York, working overnight while the store was closed.
"That was an experience, culturally — and being there doing what we were doing was just so fun," Levine said. "It's inspirational to push yourself past what you're used to. It's nice to be a little bit uncomfortable if it can yield more interesting, unique results."
Adam and Kanye first worked together when Maroon 5 commissioned West to remix "This Love," and their friendship blossomed when they sat together on a flight to Rome for last year's MTV Europe Music Awards.
"He started playing me stuff on his iPod — which was far fancier than my iPod — all this new material for his record, and I was really excited about it in general," Levine recalled. "Then he played me this song that was kind of what 'Heard 'Em Say' eventually became. He was rhyming over it, and I had just written a hook that was so perfect for it. It was one of those natural collaborations where you're so excited because it's all very pure and very easy."
For a full-length feature on Kanye West, check out "All Eyes On Kanye West."