Dave Meyers might not be a household name, but since starting his music video directing career in the late ’90s — when he lensed clips for Korn, Juvenile, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock — he’s become one of the most influential (and in-demand) visual architects of the pop and hip-hop world.
Meyers has worked with current superstars when they were trying to launch their careers (Kelly Clarkson’s Breakaway, SZA’s Drew Barrymore), artists on the brink of a breakthrough (Jennifer Lopez’s I’m Real), and musicians aiming for career reinventions (No Doubt’s Hey Baby). However, he’s also forged long-term relationships with boundary-pushing acts such as Missy Elliott and Pink, which illustrates his ability to grow and evolve along with his collaborators, and underscores a generous collaborative spirit.
Here are six videos that demonstrate Meyers’ breadth and depth as a music video director.
Britney Spears — Lucky (2000)
In the “Lucky” episode of MTV’s Making The Video, Meyers noted that he felt like he was directing “the video [Spears] wants to mature with. It’s the first step of the maturing Britney.” It was a rather prescient statement: The clip — which deliberately references old-school ’40s and ’50s cinematic glamour — finds Spears portraying both a famous-but-melancholy movie star (named “Lucky,” natch) and a lightly fictionalised version of her down-to-earth Louisiana self. The latter character is an “overseer of the lonely star,” Meyers said, while Spears characterises her as “a ghost.” The video ended up a rather sophisticated take on the fame-as-a-fishbowl concept — and did indeed show Spears had range beyond teen-pop.
Ja Rule and Ashanti — Always On Time (2001)
Meyers’ ability to get out of the way and highlight the personality of his subjects shines through on this early ’00s classic, which pairs the charming, swaggering Ja Rule and the cool-and-collected Ashanti. The video shines because of its subtlety, both in the plotline — Ja Rule portrays a man who learns to clean up his act after a car accident, and embrace the love of a good woman — and imagery. The rapper alternates between wearing white and black outfits to signify the two sides of his personality, while there are religious undertones to several scenes that add meaningful depth.
Missy Elliott — Work It (2002)
The video partnership between Meyers and Elliott dates back to 2001’s Get Ur Freak On, and is distinguished by the pair’s same-wavelength brains. “It’s a back and forth of pitching and collaborating and creating the environments and setups that most resonate,” Meyers told Fortune back in August of their creative process. “It’s a curation process — I’m pitching and she’s curating.” For the decade-defining Work It, he adds, Elliott “was like ‘I see this beauty salon. We should do something with beauty salons.'”
The resulting clip does indeed feature a salon, albeit one that’s suffused by sci-fi visual effects such as the scene flashing into a photographic negative. This moment illustrates the video’s cutting-edge flourishes — which include proto-Boomerang camera tricks that mimic the song’s circuitous beats — and penchant for iconic scenes, such as dancing prodigy Alyson Stoner busting out moves on an apocalyptic playground, and real bees swarming around the stone-faced rapper as she DJs. Elliott’s videos always inhabit their own universe — and the world conjured by Work It is both futuristic and visually stunning.
Kendrick Lamar — HUMBLE. (2017)
HUMBLE. has taken home multiple awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Music Video and Video Of The Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. The accolades are well-earned: the cinematic clip’s rich symbolism is striking, while the camera nuances — such as capturing all 360 degrees of a Lamar bike ride via a GoPro Omni and sequencing them like a globe — add even more thematic layers.
Although HUMBLE. was co-directed with the Little Homies (a.k.a. Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment president Dave Free), Meyers is quick to credit his collaborators as being integral to the clip’s execution. “Co-directing isn’t really what you think it is,” he told The Atlantic. “Any time I’ve shared co-direction, it’s always usually an acknowledgment that the artist is there and present in the creativity. So I’m in a sense collaborating with him in the creation of the idea.”
Travis Scott — Sicko Mode (2018)
Sicko Mode, which Meyers co-directed with Scott, captures the horror-meets-fun-house vibe of Astroworld. The mesmerising clip plays liberally with perspectives — at one point, the rapper gets larger and smaller, Alice In Wonderland-style, as the camera wobbles, while guest Drake is filmed hurtling through computerised space and someone else is crushed by an asteroid — and surreal scenes, such as a woman shrouded in blacklight paint and computer effects that render Scott blurry and dissolving.
Billie Eilish — Bad Guy (2019)
Meyers draws on inspiration from his entire body of work for the Bad Guy video. Its dazzling backdrops and blocky color schemes exude cartoonish ’90s vibes, while Eilish’s confidence and defiant attitude conjure his larger-than-life, early ’00s hip-hop clips. Best of all, Meyers’ ensures Eilish’s personality shines through: The pop star — who sports an array of oversized fashions in rainbow hues, to match the scenes — is sullen and playful, and darkly funny as she waterboards a guy with milk, nonchalantly sings with a bloody nose, and sasses every adult in her path. It’s both very 2019 and also retro — a perfect encapsulation of Eilish’s own musical approach.