Jay Z’s really taking this #newrules thing to heart. Having already released his album on Samsung phones and partnered with Budweiser on the Made in America festival, he’s now joined forces with Facebook for the exclusive (for 24 hours, at least) premiere of his “Holy Grail” video … not even collaborator Justin Timberlake’s allegiances to MySpace could change his mind.
And Jay didn’t stop there. Because while “Holy Grail” is most certainly a video befitting of its two marquee stars — big and beautiful, full of cinematic flourishes like flames, ghostly dancers and glass shattering in slow-motion, played out on massive sets and bathed in moody lighting — it also has the artful audacity to try something entirely new: Namely, mess with the source material.
In this case, that means the song, which folks seem to like very much in its current form (it’s a fixture in Billboard’s Hot 100 Top 10). But in the hands of Hov and director Anthony Mandler, “Holy Grail” becomes little more than a narrative device. They re-arrange verses and repeatedly slow the track down until it practically stops entirely, stretching Timberlake’s vocals to the breaking point and adding extra heft to Jay’s little verses. It’s a trick that gives the entire video a colossal, almost monolithic weight … the scenes feel massive, glacial. They do not move so much as the slowly drift, filling the viewer with a subtle, yet palpable sense of the magnitude of not just the track’s stars, but its subject matter, too.
It would be easier to make a flashy, quick-moving clip, and if “Holy Grail” was recorded by any other two superstars, and directed by anyone else, that’s probably how this video would have ended up. But here, the song is malleable, the visuals monumental, almost as if they were carved in granite. It’s one thing to come right out and say how big of a deal this is, it’s something else entirely to make the viewer feel it. #Newrules indeed.