Since hitting YouTube in late June, Miley Cyrus' fast-paced, non-sequitur-packed clip for her hit single "We Can't Stop" has racked up more than 45 million views and counting. The video's origins date back to a conversation that Brooklyn-based director Diane Martel – who also oversaw the much-debated clip for Robin Thicke's smash "Blurred Lines" – had with Cyrus earlier this year. After the two were introduced by Pharrell Williams, Cyrus told the director about a four-day party she threw with a few of her closest friends, helping inspire the video.
"It's like a giant, fucked-up selfie," says Martel, who wrote the video treatment with her friend Aramis Israel. "We wanted the video to be full of blog-worthy moments, but it ended up being about Miley sharing herself with her audience in a crazed way. It's exhibitionistic, and she's absolutely taking the piss out of being in a pop video." Here, Martel explains 10 of the wildest images from the video:
The Product Placement (0:02)
The video opens with a shot of Cyrus slicing off an ankle bracelet with a giant pair of pink scissors, followed by a similarly colored Beats By Dre branded Pill speaker. "Beats By Dre contributed to our budget in exchange for a product shot," Martel explains. "I think the pill looked nice and matched the scissors Miley cut her house-arrest bracelet off with."
The Gold Teeth (0:08)
As the music gains steam, Cyrus attaches a grill to her front teeth and gnashes for the camera. "Miley owns a few beautiful pairs of fronts," says Martel. "She wanted to wear some, so I thought the video should start with her like Iron Man, gearing up."
The Smoke Dicks (0:17, 0:36, 2:01)
In three separate instances, overjoyed characters party in a dark room with what looks like smoke bombs going off in their pants. Martel and her team called this effect "smoke dick."
The Mountain of White Bread (0:27, 2:26 3:11)
One character in "We Can't Stop" chews on a white bread sandwich with cash as its filling, while another rolls around in a massive mound of bread and eats a slice in ecstasy. "I got obsessed with having a pile of bread in the kitchen, like a fucked-up version of party food/chips," says Martel. "Sometimes, I just want to put something in a video, and this time, it was bread."
The French-Fry Skull (0:34, 0:38)
The single most arresting visual in the clip is a human skull built out of French fries, which is quickly crushed by a falling sneaker. The image was suggested by Cyrus, who found a photo of a very similar sculpture by artist Christopher Chiappa and showed it to Martel. "We didn't know until after the video was shot," Martel says of the original work's creator. "He was nice and he let us use our version of his art."
The Severed Fingers (0:59)
A woman uses a chef's knife to slice off all the fingers on her left hand, which promptly begins oozing bubblegum-pink goo. Notes Martel, "Scouting in the kitchen, I thought, 'Oh, someone has to cut off their fingers.'"
The Teddy Bears (starting at 1:06; 1:37)
Art director Georgia Walker found the teddy-bear backpacks work by Cyrus and her backup dancers in a prop shop. The same goes for the two "sad little taxidermy dudes" in sunglasses and a gold necklace that Cyrus carries around. "Miley likes taxidermy," Martel adds, "and there is awesome taxidermy at prop shops."
The Giant Doll (1:44, 1:49)
Cyrus and a huge Barbie-like doll pose in a swimming pool, and then Cyrus tongues the toy. Martel calls the doll "another nasty prop-shop find." After she saw that Cyrus was fond of it, the director insisted that the doll be dressed in a swimsuit that matches Cyrus'. "We gave Miley the doll in the pool and she did some improvisational doll performance."
The Hot-Dog-Filled Piñata (2:37)
Food appears again as Cyrus takes a bat to a big, yellow piñata, spilling hot dogs all over the floor. The singer and her friends happily retrieve the eats. "Miley had a birthday party for her brother, and they had weird shit in a piñata," says Martel. "She requested that we have hot dogs and blunts in one in the video. No one has noticed the giant blunts on the rug."
What Didn't Make The Cut
For all the crazy visuals in the final clip, there are a few more things Martel wishes she'd been able to include. "The image I wish we had time to shoot is one I've wanted to shoot for a while: ghost wigs [and] floating giant hairstyles wearing sunglasses," Martel says. "The scene was going to be this kid sitting in a room looking spaced-out as two ghost wigs floated by above her head, [with a] nine-foot Grim Reaper with really lo-fi, trippy lights gently caressing it and Miley riding a painted horse." There's still a chance for these absurd concepts: Martel says that she and Cyrus are planning to make another short film/music video that nods to cult directors John Waters and Paul Morrissey.