Veteran video director Brett Ratner has worked with Madonna, Mariah Carey, Diddy, Jessica Simpson, Wu-Tang Clan and many others. And he's got high praise for VMA Best New Artist nominee Miley Cyrus, whose "7 Things" clip he recently helmed.
"She reminded me a lot of Madonna," Ratner told MTV News. "And I hate saying that, but what I mean is, like Madonna, she can be hanging out and laughing, and then you put the camera on her and it's like, 'Holy sh--!' "
That effervescence actually made the simple performance video more difficult for the director. "It was the hardest video I've ever edited because every moment was great," he said. "Every moment that she was on camera, she was amazing. She's got an incredible quality about her. She gets the camera, and that's what it takes to make a great music video.
"She came out in these high-heel boots and I was going to say something to her about them," he continued, "but on her own she was like, 'I'd feel better in sneakers.' Her instincts are great. She has great charisma and personality."
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He recalled discussing the video with the young star during a visit to her home, where she told him how much the song — which she co-wrote — means to her, and said that it's about an ex-boyfriend. (Cyrus told MTV News last month that much of the album is about ex-boyfriends.)
While Ratner declined to reveal who exactly that ex is, he gave away a significant detail — perhaps inadvertently — that seems to confirm the song is about Nick Jonas. Cyrus recently admitted, after months of unconfirmed speculation, that she dated Jonas for two years.
"She had me come out to her house," Ratner recalled. "She started showing me all of her personal items from under her bed that her ex-boyfriend gave her. So she pulled out his dirty socks and a bunch of photographs.
"The necklace she's wearing in the video is the necklace he gave her," he said. "She's wearing his diabetes or medical necklace."
Nick recently made himself a de facto spokesperson for awareness of the disease: Earlier this month, the group held a press conference where he said the title track to their new LP, A Little Bit Longer — for which he wrote the lyrics — is a "life song" where he addresses his affliction.
For his part, Ratner said he believes Cyrus has the talent and the attitude to make her not only a Best New Artist, but a career artist.
"She was very down to earth, and it's kind of very popular for little girls in the entertainment industry to be kind of bratty," he said. "I couldn't believe how many people wanted to visit [the video set], and I've worked with people like Mariah and Madonna. She was very gracious and she's very smart. She really knows her stuff. Look, [whether] she wins or not, I think she'll make a great transition [from being a teen star]. She's very conscientious of her persona and of the crossover."
He also pointed out what he sees as her emotional maturity, and her comfort with being a 15-year-old superstar.
"She's not, like, frustrated with where she's at," he said. "You can tell by the lyrics that they're very personal and that's how she'll make that transition. The stuff she talks about in the video is clever and emotional and fun at the same time. You can be 18 and enjoy it too."