Beyonce’s VMA-Nominated ‘Single Ladies’ Video Began As An Afterthought

Video director Jake Nava talks about the video's less-is-more style in Behind the Lens.

The most amazing thing about
[artist id="1236911"]Beyoncé′s[/artist] “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video isn’t the dancing, the leotards, the mesmerizing movement of the Queen B’s hips or the set’s eerie minimalism (though, all of those things are pretty epic). No, what’s most amazing is that it was never meant to be a hit at all.

Seems “Single Ladies” — which is nominated for nine Moonmen at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year — was basically an afterthought. Director Jake Nava got around to it only after wrapping production on “If I Were a Boy,” a higher-gloss, higher-profile video that was originally intended to be the main attraction of B’s first two I Am … Sasha Fierce singles.

“The video was shot back-to-back with ‘If I Were a Boy’ in New York City, but as soon as we finished the edit, I realized it was special,” Nava wrote to MTV News in an e-mail. “I don’t think any of us predicted the amount of parodies it would attract. It’s a testament to Beyoncé’s mind-boggling talent and to the fact that sometimes, less really can be more.”

Nava isn’t kidding. Unlike any other VMA-nominated clip, “Single Ladies” exudes a lo-fi, sorta-DIY charm. In a lot of ways, it appears like it was custom-made for the YouTube generation, which probably explains why making homages became a worldwide phenomenon. Justin Timberlake and Joe Jonas donned black leotards for much-publicized parody versions. Barack Obama mimicked B’s hand moves during his inauguration weekend. And online, everyone from portly gentlemen to precocious toddlers put a ring on it.

A lot of that can be attributed to the song — which, if you ask us , is pretty great — and Beyoncé’s moves, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give some props to Nava’s team too. From the purposely long takes and the deft edits to the now-classic choreography and the hyper-glam styling, “Single Ladies” is very much a technical accomplishment that looks deceptively simple to the casual observer.

“Although I wanted the video to feel like it was one continuous take, on the shoot day we decided to split the song into three parts. I deliberately let the shots be long so viewers would connect with the human endeavor of Beyoncé’s awe-inspiring dance, which was inspired by an old-school Bob Fosse routine,” Nava wrote. “The styling was inspired by a Vogue photo shoot. All the changes in look and lighting were executed ‘in camera,’ because I wanted to keep the feel very organic and ungimmicky.”

Sometimes, less really is more. And “Single Ladies” is proof.

Go Behind the Lens of other Video of the Year nominees:
» Eminem Turns Method Actor In VMA-Nominated ‘We Made You’ Clip
» Lady Gaga’s VMA-Nominated ‘Poker Face’ Video Almost Went To The Dogs
» Kanye West’s VMA-Nominated ‘Love Lockdown’ — The Video You Almost Didn’t See

Watch the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Preshow this Sunday, September 13, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the big event, live at 9 p.m. Check out our interactive map of New York to see how the city is celebrating the VMAs all week long, and stay tuned for party coverage, concert reports, behind-the-scenes updates and more.