It was inevitable that the music video for Jay Z’s Magna Carta opener “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake would be big and cinematic, yet Anthony Mandler’s rendering of the hit surprises us with its almost monolithic proportions. In the Believe director’s hands, the “Legends of Summer” duo forgo the expected display of model castings, sports cars, and lucrative product placements. Instead, the artful video gives us a glimpse of Jay Z looking inward at his 99 problems from the shadowed corners of a dilapidated mansion.
When JT first appears on screen, it’s almost as if the clip holds its breath, as he delivers the melody against a background of languid, moody visuals. Mandler somehow inspires claustrophobia within the massive, shadowed interior, as scintillations of light reveal visions of an overturned car in flames, dancers draped in sheets and the (particularly heartbreaking) image of a champagne tower shattering in slow-motion.
Not only disarming us visually, the clip breaks from the song’s musical form, too. Jay Z and Timberlake give us a new iteration by rearranging the order of the verses, and the skittering and slowing of the beats; giving the song a weightier, moodier feeling to match its visual power.
True to Jay Z’s self-established #newrules (“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”) “Holy Grail” is the first to premiere exclusively on Facebook’s new video platform – where it aired for a full 24-hour window before being unleashed onto other social media outlets. With several million views within the first hours, Jay and JT will soon let the entire world know just how heavy the crown is.