For a video as forward-thinking as Usher’s “OMG” — with its laser beams and light flashes — director Anthony Mandler actually looked back for inspiration.
“The original idea was kind of Max Headroom,” Mandler told MTV News, citing the animated science-fiction character from ’80s British TV. “That’s where it came from — the TV flickering on and there’s this character. We just wanted to bring it up to date.”
“Max Headroom was always in his room,” he continued, “this unidentifiable room, ’80s shapes. I used that for inspiration.”
The formula worked: “OMG” is among the Best Male Video nominees for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. The clip is up against Drake’s “Find Your Love,” Jason Derülo’s “In My Head,” Eminem’s “Not Afraid” and B.o.B’s “Airplanes.” Mandler is a multiple nominee, having also helmed Drake’s video.
“OMG” is the first time Usher and Mandler — who has worked with Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna — collaborated on a project.
Usher said he knew the video would be a challenge and wanted to make sure the director was up to the task.
“When I first shot the song to him, I was like, ‘Are you sure you’re gonna be able to catch this one?’ And he said, ‘I got it,’ ” Usher explained.
“We wanted to bring Will.I.Am (the song’s producer) into my world,” he continued. “Obviously, the international sound and look and feel has already been set, but we wanted to do something theatrical, fun and energetic to show us working off of each other and playing off of each other as artists, but the cinematography would be artistic and incredible.”
Mandler described the visuals as “Hitchcock-ian.” Though the style of the shot was important to the director, he had a simpler goal in mind: to capture Usher in his element. He said the key to the clip was simply letting Usher’s talent take over.
“The concept was to create a world where we put Usher in a space where he does what I think he does better than anyone else in the world, which is perform at a level and magnitude of a superstar and take us, the viewer, whether audible or visually, on a journey, not a ride,” the director said. “And, in that, I wanted to create an unpredictability, so one set leads to another and another, and you never know what’s gonna happen. Along the way, Usher becomes our guide. We’re so focused on him, we don’t notice the change. The thing is unfolding little by little, and you can’t quite see far enough ahead to know what’s gonna come next.”
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12. The party starts with MTV News’ VMA Pre-Show at 8 p.m., followed by the main event at 9 p.m. ET.