“Fun fact,” tweeted Taylor Swift before last night’s premiere of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” proud to have you know that the wheEEEE-msical new video — which includes five costume changes, multiple dance parties, and a boyfriend very dismissed — was shot in one continuous and unedited shot. And as she should be, as the latest to pull-off the one-shot feat.
A particular fixture of the 90s, this sort of one-shot music video was popularized by Michel Gondry, and includes classics like Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You)” and Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song).” But the one-shot seems to have fallen out of favor as late, computers generally being the video-director’s preferred trick. It’s nice to see reviving this old one. And so, in celebration of Taylor’s entry into the One-Shot Club, let’s take a look back at five other important one-shot videos:
Bob Dylan‘s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” 1965
The First: Directed by D. A. Pennebaker and shot in an alley way behind the Savoy Hotel in London, where apparently Allen Ginsberg lurks, this video might not look overly-ambitious by today’s standards, but it is often cited as one of the first modern music videos. This might also be the first-ever lyric video, which has only recently become an official thing.)
Back then, shooting the whole thing in one take saved the time and trouble of editing pre-computers; these days, one shot usually means extra choreography and a lot of discarded takes. Taylor, for one, says it took her 17 tries to get “Never Ever” just right.
Lucas‘ “Lucas With The Lid Off,” 1994
The Master: In the beginning, one-shot music videos were the province of quirky French director Michel Gondry. First, there was this video, and Gondry would later repeat the trick with Cibo Matto, Radiohead, Kylie Minogue, The White Stripes, and Gary Jules. James Montgomery of MTV points out that “Never Ever” has a “capricious, childlike quality” that “recalls the best work” of Gondry, and — cardboard cars and human-like creatures and a single take — we would have to agree.
Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” 1996
Out of the art houses and into the mainstream: The Spice Girls brought in someone most known for his commercial work to direct their debut video, and he let them run loose like they wont be. They sing and dance and back flipped their way to the top of the video charts and a VMA. The one-shot trick is not just a thing of the art house, it works well for pop stars, too. We also imagine that this was an important one-shot inspiration for Taylor, who was a young girl in the 90s. Zig-a-zig-ahh!
D’Angelo‘s “How Does It Feel,” 2000
No need to get fancy: D’Angelo turns up the temp with one, tantalizing shot. The famously steamy clip proves that sometimes keeping things simple is the most interesting and powerful way to go.
OK Go‘s “Here It Goes Again,” 2006
But sometimes, get fancy: Only a band so practiced in the one-shot as OK Go (see also: “A Million Ways,” “WTF,” “White Knuckles,” and “This Too Shall Pass,” which was only sort of one-take) should attempt something so tricky as this. The choreography for “Never Ever” might not have been so dangerous as OK Go’s treadmill dance, but it certainly wasn’t much easier either. Taylor had five costumes, multiple dance parties, and a whole break-up to convey in just three-minutes, and it was no easy dance. “It was crazy,” she says. “At one point, I had a breaking point. ‘I can’t do five costume changes, there’s not enough time!’ but we ended up being able to do it.”