Taylor Swift‘s music videos often work overtime to infuse the everyday with the effervescent, mixing staid reality with fantastic, fairytale-like escapes. The same can be said for her music, too, which is why her latest single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is such a welcome departure: It’s a bread-and-butter breakup song, only without the hope of a story-book ending.
Which is probably why, when it came time to film a video for the song, Swift realized she couldn’t stray very far from the fantastic. “Never Ever,” which debuted on MTV Thursday (August 30), makes no attempts at portraying reality. Instead, it plays out like one gigantic pop-up book, all handmade scenery, bright colors and sweeping camera turns. It may or may not have been recorded in one single take (as is often the case with these things, directors have ways of hiding a seamless break in the action, like in OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” ), and plays out across a multitude of fast-changing sets with a dizzying delight. Shoot, she even made the choice to dress her band members up as cuddly animals — a slight they seem determined to pay her back for by mugging it up in supremely cloying fashion. If this is reality, it’s certainly not one I’ve ever witnessed (at least not sober).
There is a capricious, childlike quality to the clip, one that recalls the best work of French director Michel Gondry. And I’m not just talking in spirit either; from the cardboard cars to the use of television screens to break up the action to the whole “disappearing bed” trick, it sure seems like director Declan Whitebloom — who did Swift’s equally eye-catching “Mean” video — wore out his copy of Gondry’s “Director’s Series” DVD while doing research for the video. Though, while Gondry’s dreamlike work sometimes blurs into pure nightmare (see some of the later scenes in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” for proof), Whitebloom never veers off the bright and sunny path. He knows that Taylor hasn’t matured enough to get dark — at least not yet.
So while it may seem that with her defiant new single, Swift may be venturing into more mature territory (aside from the “cuz, likes”), her latest video should assuage her fans’ fears. Blissed-out and hyper-saturated, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is whimsical to the max, a treat for the eyes and a technical marvel to behold. Chalk it up as the most fantastical clip she’s ever made, one that show’s she not above taking a risk. Then again, I suppose it’s a calculated one: More often than not, reality can be a bummer, so let’s get surreal. Hey, it’s worked out pretty well for Michel Gondry.