The first-ever results of videos to three iconic Elton John songs premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and Youtube. The videos were from an international competition search for the best in undiscovered visual talent for videos of “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man”, and “Bennie and the Jets” – released in 1971, 1972 and 1973 respectively.
Elton John and his lyrical teammate Bernie Taupin participated in an on-stage discussion at the Cannes premiere, which was moderated by Spike Lee, while with all the winners in attendance. The idea of the contest was to give creatives a grand platform to show off their abilities using the popular hits. The opportunity also allowed a breath of fresh, modern air to the songs, giving them a new meaning in 2017. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the writing partnership between Elton and Bernie.
Of the winners’ videos, Elton John says, “I’ve been moved and amazed by these re-imaginings of our songs and pretty humbled by the process overall. The future of creativity is clearly collaborative, fusing art and technology and it’s been fantastic to open up our work to the next generation of creative talent and to share that process with the world on YouTube.”
Each video makes use of three different performances and mediums. Majid Adin, creator of the “Rocket Man” video used animation. Adin took a personal approach, applying his experience as an Iranian refugee leaving for England. The meaning of the song went along a brand new perspective, while still following along with the song’s theme of travel and being alone.
The interpretation of the “Bennie and the Jets” video, created by Jack Whiteley and Laura Brownhill is presented as a quirky, futuristic talent show. “Jack and Laura’s choreography submission was full of wonderful things,” Elton John said of the submission. The video took inspiration from the 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis, while the choreography was a nod to Busby Berkeley films. The black and white style also paid homage to early Hollywood.
As a tribute to Los Angeles, “Tiny Dancer” shows the simplicity and depth of the everyday lives of the city’s inhabitants. When talking about the video and what they were looking for, Bernie said that they “wanted something that had the spirit and colour of the time.”
However, the “tiny dancer” part had remained a mystery and never showcased one singular person. We see people’s lives as they live in and experience life in Los Angeles. There is no glitz, no Hollywood, but the less-than-iconic places that people see every day. There is constant movement from the cars the featuring faces are inside of, yet the lyrics are bonding everyone together. It conjures up the idea of the scene in Almost Famous, as one-by-one everyone chimes in to sing the lyrics.
Bernie Taupin explains what exactly the “tiny dancer” is referring to. He wrote the lyrics while John arranged the music after a fall trip to California in 1970. “[I]t seemed like sunshine just radiated from the populace,” Taupin explained to American Soundwriter. “I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met, especially at the clothes stores and restaurants and bars all up and down the Sunset Strip. They were these free spirits, sexy, all hip-huggers and lacy blouses, very ethereal the way they moved.”
Read more about the contest, the videos and each creator’s process here.