Elton John and Bernie Taupin, one of pop music’s most acclaimed songwriting teams, recently worked with YouTube for a global competition seeking music videos for three of their most iconic early Seventies hits: “Rocket Man,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “Tiny Dancer.” The duo revealed the winning submissions at the Cannes Film Festival, marking the 50th anniversary of their musical partnership.
John said he was “moved and amazed” at both the videos and the overall process. “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,” he said.
Majid Adin’s animated “Rocket Man” clip brilliantly re-contextualizes Taupin’s lyrics about a lonely astronaut with a visual tale that draws on his past experience as an Iranian refugee traveling to England. (The animator, a fine art university graduate in animation production, journeyed through Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis and spent time in the Calais Jungle camp before earning asylum in the U.K.) Taupin’s words take on a more melancholy spin in this vivid setting, particularly the line “I think it’s gonna be a long, long time,” repeated as the protagonist dwells on his uncertain future.
With their experimental treatment of “Bennie and the Jets,” director Jack Whitley and choreographer Laura Brownhill imagine the formation of Bennie and Her Jets. With the clip’s black-and-white visuals and elaborate movements, the duo drew inspiration from Busby Berkeley’s old Hollywood musicals and Fritz Lang’s 1927 innovative sci-fi movie, Metropolis.
Of all the winners, director Max Weiland took the simplest approach with his “Tiny Dancer” video. It celebrates the eclecticism of Los Angeles and proves that John’s 1971 hit may be the ultimate road song. The clip cuts back and forth between numerous scenes, following people as they drive through the city eating licorice, smoking weed, breastfeeding babies and posing for selfies. The one commonality: They’re all blasting “Tiny Dancer” and singing along.
John’s Cannes spot marked his first public appearance since being hospitalized for a bacterial infection in April, E! reports. During the event, the singer argued that, arriving before the MTV era, he and Taupin were “real artists,” noting that the “MTV generation brought along a lot of people who were great but a lot of people who just made videos.”
It’s worth noting, however, that John has been an avid supporter of new bands and artists. He was an early advocate of Fall Out Boy in the 2000s and more recently, has lauded acts like the Lemon Twigs and Swedish pop singer, Dagny.