PRETTYMUCH, Simon Cowell's latest vocal group, dropped the music video for their debut single, "Would You Mind," last Friday. As fans know, the five guys have been making videos themselves on YouTube for months now, but the "Would You Mind" clip is notable for being their proper debut.
That's why it's directed by Emil Nava, who also helmed the visuals for Calvin Harris' "Feels," Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud," Selena Gomez's "Kill Em With Kindness," and dozens of others. From the beginning, Nava knew he was faced with a unique challenge: How do you unveil the group as a unit while preserving the five members' individual styles?
"The thing that I wanted to do, and what I said in my treatment right from the onset, is I really want to become one of the band, almost like the sixth member," Nava told MTV News over the phone. "I'm definitely a lot older than them, but I still feel pretty young. I wanted to become one of them and I wanted them to feel like I was one of them so I could push them as far as I needed to."
So Nava actually embedded himself with the five guys in PRETTYMUCH — Brandon Arreaga, 17; Zion Kuwonu, 18; Edwin Honoret, 18; Nick Mara, 19; and Austin Porter, 19 — for a few days before the shoot kicked off. The six of them palled around and filmed preliminary footage on a Handycam and an iPhone fitted with a fisheye lens. Some of that ended up in the final video, along with scenes from a fateful road trip the six took, one that made Nava feel he'd been let into the group's tight circle.
"We drove to the top of the Malibu Canyon [Road] and we had this big people carrier [truck] and we basically went so far that the people carrier got stuck and we all got out to push this truck," Nava said. (He shows up briefly in the video, sitting in the front passenger seat of this very truck.) "That moment, when we were running up this mountain chasing the truck that we had just pushed off this cliff edge, it was like, 'You are one of us!' And that was kind of the moment I knew."
That camaraderie let Nava connect to the five band members, and as he prepared the rest of the shoot, he met with each one individually to get a sense of their personalities. On set, they assumed their positions.
Brandon, who's edited the band's visuals in the past, stuck close to the cameras. Zion took up DJing as the crew filmed one of the wilder scenes, hanging out the side of the moving truck. Edwin clung to the wilder fashion options Nava presented to show off in the video, while Nick bonded with the director over their shared Italian upbringings. And avid skateboarder Austin contributed his deck as a mobile directing unit for some essential shots.
That sense of youth and adventure among the five guys inspired Nava the same way that the seminal boy-band videos of the late 1990s and early 2000s — think Backstreet Boys' "We've Got It Goin' On" and NSYNC's "I Want You Back" — nurtured his early impulses to become a director. It's echoes of these videos you might notice in "Would You Mind," especially in one particular moment involving a rain machine that happens around 2:43 in.
"My production team kept joking 'cause I just kept saying, 'Get the rain, get the rain!' I just wanted everything. I wanted it to literally be our playground," Nava said.
For the entire four-minute runtime of the "Would You Mind" video, the five guys dance and leapfrog over each other in unvisited alleys and empty stretches that fill the frame. Here, PRETTYMUCH oozes the kind of fun you're simply not allowed to have anymore once you hit a certain age — or so they tell you.
"I think a big part of me wanting to throw back to those eras [was that] they were such seminal moments, those Backstreet Boys and NSYNC videos," Nava said, "almost referencing those old Beastie Boys videos, where it just feels so raucous and free."