There's a reason Beck has been so hush-hush about the video for his new single, "Hell Yes." Actually, there are four reasons.
They're called QRIOs, so-called "dream robots" developed by Sony Japan as high-tech playthings for children. The QRIO can carry on conversations, adapt to a multitude of environments and — most importantly — mimic human movements, including complex dance routines. Currently, there are only four working QRIOs in the world. And all of them appear in the "Hell Yes" video.
"They're not due for three or four years, but we were able to get them for the video thanks to the good people of Sony Japan," director Garth Jennings laughed. "They have such an unbelievably fluid range of motions, so Beck and I just had to work out an elaborately choreographed number for them. I think it took the programmers in Japan about three weeks to program the routine into each robot."
According to Jennings — who rose to fame as one half of British directorial duo Hammer & Tongs and just this year helmed the big-screen adaptation of Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" — Beck had been kicking around the idea of a video featuring the QRIOs for more than a year now, but it took an impressive amount of wrangling to actually land the robots, which is why he was tightlipped with MTV News when we asked him about the clip back in September (see "Beck, Spike Jonze Hard At Work On Mysterious, 'Weird' Clip For 'Hell Yes'").
"They ended up bringing the robots to us, and we shot them in one afternoon in Los Angeles," Jennings added. "Most of the people who have seen the video come away thinking that there's no way the QRIOs are real. They think they're like people in robot suits or something."
No doubt, the pint-sized 'bots — they stand a shade under 2 feet tall — are the stars of the clip, performing a synchronized dance routine before what appears to be a room full of reporters. Beck himself barely makes an appearance in the video, floating as a ghostly hologram above the QRIOS. And no, actress Christina Ricci, whose voice appears on the track, does not appear in the video (see "Beck's Next Single Features Christina Ricci, A.K.A. 'Kurisuti-na' ").
"I didn't even know that was her on the song until we finished shooting the video!" Jennings said. "We had a lovely Japanese woman perform the lines instead. And we already had these amazing robots in the video. I think anything more would've been overkill."