When Ava Max showed up to the VMAs last night dressed as a caped superhero, it was actually a sneaky tease for her next big release: the video for "Torn," which arrived Tuesday (August 27) in all its dazzling, high-flying glory.
The new visual was directed by Joseph Kahn, the mastermind behind such pop classics as Britney Spears's "Toxic" and Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." For "Torn," Kahn and Max teamed up to take the disco-tinged single's comic book-inspired lyric video and kick it up several notches. Max stars as "a woman scorned," who, in the video's first chapter, goes undercover as a hero (with that now-iconic haircut, naturally) who kicks the shit out of some masked villains — including her shady boyfriend.
Max's secret identity becomes her means of enduring a venomous relationship, and after a betrayal knocks her off her feet, she finally musters up the power to fight back. It all comes to a head with a stormy showdown in the sky that, as she told MTV News, symbolizes "the woman finding her strength in a relationship that's unhealthy [and doing] what's best for her."
"I saw the visuals while I was recording the song," Max recalled of the vid's elaborate concept. "I knew exactly what I wanted — in my head, I saw myself flying in the air to the song, saving the day.
"I remember sitting down with [Kahn], and I asked him if he could make me a superhero," she continued. "I was half kidding; I wasn't, like, 100 percent serious, because a superhero is really crazy and hard to do. And he looked at me and he goes, 'I've always wanted to do that.'"
Together, they shot the "Torn" video over the summer during four long days in Milan, Italy. Max said she didn't sleep for three days, but it was all worth it to fulfill her dream of becoming "an actual avenger" who, impressively, did all her own stunts.
"I did have a stuntwoman there, but I think the only thing she did was a backflip," she said. "Everything else, all the choreographed fighting scenes, I did. I woke up at six in the morning and learned them all before the shooting began at 11 a.m."
That kind of all-consuming dedication is also the attitude Max is bringing to her upcoming debut album, which she promises is in the works. Not that her fans are going hungry — in early July, she released a remix of the anthemic "So Am I" featuring K-Pop superstars NCT 127, and later that month, she dropped a double dose of new tunes, "Freaking Me Out" and "Blood, Sweat & Tears."
"I have to say, we have a lot of songs and now it's a matter of putting them into an album and putting it out," the 25-year-old said of the upcoming project. "So I think for me personally, I'm in no rush and I just want to give people great songs to jam to and basically get empowered to.
"The entire album is very, very empowering," she continued. "Aside from some wild cards like 'Freaking Me Out' and this other song that I can't name yet, it's mainly super powerful and they're very anthemic songs."
In the meantime, the "Torn" video is easily Max's biggest and boldest move yet — and a celebration of sorts after the singer just slayed her first-ever VMA appearance. Relive her red carpet pre-show performance of "Sweet But Psycho" and "Torn" below (stunts and ass-kicking not included).