Snap Judgment: Paul McCartney's YouTube video premiere

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper may be rapidly approaching its 40th birthday, and the guy who sang "When I’m 64" on that disc, Sir Paul McCartney, is closing in on his own 65th. But don’t think for a second that he’s lost touch with pop culture’s cutting edge over the decades — or at least, don’t say so to his face. Sir Paul has been going to great lengths lately to show that he’s still way hip, after all. First, he decided to ditch the archaic major-label system and release his new album Memory Almost Full (due June 5) on Hear Music, the upstart label created by Starbucks. And yesterday, he announced that the video for Memory‘s first single, "Dance Tonight"  — directed by of-the-moment helmer Michel Gondry and co-starring the similarly au courant Natalie Portman — would get its world premiere via YouTube. (That’s right, folks, even the Beatles know what YouTube is. Maybe Ringo’s watching your webcam diary right now!) The clip’s already up, a few hours ahead of schedule. So is it any good, or just a gimmick? (Check it out below, then click through for PopWatch’s insta-take after the jump.)

First things first: This isn’t some amateurish viral clip — I’m looking at you, Diddy.This is a full-fledged collaboration with Gondry, one of the mosttalented directors working today. (Sir Paul agrees: In a press release,he says he thought Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind "had agood sense of humour and was a very well-made film." Quite so.) Andthis video is pure Gondry. It opens with a few quick music-free scenesbetween Macca and a package-delivery guy, whose thoroughly awkwardinteractions recall Gondry’s The Science of Sleep. Soon enough,McCartney’s unwrapping a brand-new mandolin and beginning to play thesweetly melodic "Dance Tonight." From there, as so often in Gondry’swork, things take a distinctly dreamlike turn. Gondry uses the samevideo-projection technique he deployed in the White Stripes’ "DeadLeaves and the Dirty Ground" video to sprinkle a few gamboling ghostson the screen; one of them is Portman, though I didn’t even recognizeher on first watch. The delivery guy freaks out right away, butMcCartney seems quite content as he wanders through his increasinglysurreal home, accompanied by a growing conga line of translucently-projected guests.

Overall, it’s something of a retread for Gondry — there are none of themind-boggling visual twists that show up in his best work — but that’sstill not half-bad. Gondry’s warmed-up leftovers, after all, are stillhotter than most directors’ fresh meals. And the low-key tone turns outto be a great fit for McCartney’s song. Those ethereal dancers, presentbut intangible, dramatize his themes of time and loss without gettingtoo maudlin. When Sir Paul himself becomes one of the video ghosts inthe clip’s final scenes, it’s a perfect nod to his own slow progresstoward memoryhood. And given that McCartney hasn’t made a music videoworth watching since — I dunno, "Ebony and Ivory"? — this one is adefinite treat.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Will you be clicking again on SirPaul’s digital delight? Does this make you more or less excited for Memory Almost Full — or do you even care at all what McCartney’s doing these days?


Comments (115 total) Add your comment
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  • Nancy Walker

    I love Paul,but this video is so painful to watch. I hate the song too. If this is what he is doing these days, it is time to retire. Some artists just don’t know when it is over. His voice is not bad it is the song.

  • dre

    There are very few artists whose art ages well. Paul McCartney is not one of them. His albums get progressively worse as the years roll on. Really, his only good post Beatles albums are “McCartney” and “Ram” and his only good Wings album is “Band on the Run.” This song, the video, and the album are far from the genius we’re shown in the previously mentioned albums. As a side note, McCartney’s post Beatles albums are still better than Lennon’s. I think ol’ Jonny boy was way too into smack during his first couple of solo albums and the effects are all too obvious if you listen to the albums.

  • Nat X

    The dudes with antlers scared the pyss outta me. For a song about dancing, it’s not very danceable. And it’s painfully repetitive. Ugh, Starbucks. Ugh, YouTube. Maybe I would like this whole thing if I were my parents’ age. Probably not.

  • Boo

    Paul,please stop hurting your reputation. This is not one of your best projects. This is truly awful! Beatles and Wings were the best years for your art. It is best to go out at the top of your game;your time has come. The fiasco with the blonde gold digger was bad enough!

  • Hi

    Come on, the “package-delivery guy” is Gareth from The Office! It’s good to see Mackenzie Crook again. The song is nice and harmless in that McCartney kinda way. The video is disappointing and dull. What’s the point of using Natalie Portman like that? She’s barely in it.

  • Anonymous

    Sir Paul still knows how to write a hook whether we like it or not. Trust me, this song will get stuck in your head and won’t get out. I think the video is truly inventive and fun to watch. At least he’s still trying to do new things and not doing the Dinosaur Repetition Rolling Review. Thumbs up Macca!

  • Tino

    It was actually better than I was expecting, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless, love the inclusion of Gareth.

  • Haley Henderson

    WHA?! Of course we still care! Macca is a living legend still making great music today. I’ve been hearing a different song on the radio “My Ever Present Past,” which is more catchy then this one but I like this one a lot too. All the fansites and reviews for the new album are citing it to be his best since Band on the Run. I ordered it on Amazon when I heard it on KFOG my station in San Francisco. I’m really looking forward to it. This is just too British like a video, but it reminds me of George Harrison’s “I Got My Mind Set On You,” and I loved that one too. Everyone is a critic. I’m a fan!

  • Sparkey

    Ok the beginning is way goofy and should have subtitles. But damn! Sir Paul looks great. Still sounds the same too. How can he still sound the same?! The song is kinda sweet, kinda redundant. At least he isn’t standing there singing into a mike and boring us all. Consider this three out of five stars!

  • Chris Willman

    The whole album is quite good. I wouldn’t necessarily say best since “Band on the Run”… but best since “Flowers in the Dirt,” yes.

  • Chris Richards

    I liked it. it waqs the kind of soft, lilting ditty that he was always so good at peppering albums with. Not exactly a When I’m 64 or Lovely Rita, but still an enjoyable, bouncy song. I still love me some Paul!!!

  • Agree with Nat X

    Cute, safe, and repetitive. and sorry, I didn’t get the video.

  • Jakeem

    I like it better than Jordin Sparks’ brand-new song!

  • A. Campbell

    Yep, it’s Mackenzie Crook- and while it at first appears to be the same trick from Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, Gondry uses it in a different way. I like the imagination, and it’s appropriately sprightly & slight, just like the typical McCartney song.

  • Beatles1219

    Stop hating on Macca..he is a musical genius and always will be…I agree..he can write a hook! You WILL be humming this song sometime today after listening to it! Can’t wait to get the new CD. I am so glad my kids (16, 13 and yes 8) ALL love Macca and the Beatles – it’s about the past, present and future, not just what is a “trend”.

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