Hiiii, I know I spent a lot of time talking about the Jonas Brothers earlier this week, but I'm actually not ready to stop. I had to physically restrain myself from talking about the "Cake By The Ocean" video, so I might as well make a whole post about it.
Because... am I the only one confused by this??
If you aren't aware, "Cake By The Ocean" is the only successful single of Joe's side project DNCE. The lyrics, on paper, are a bit hard to parse because of the song's inherent silliness combined with that trademark Jonas clunkiness. But that doesn't matter, because it's a an impossibly fun party song. It was co-written with Justin Tranter, so you know it's gonna be catchy, and it was produced by Mattman & Robin, so you know it's gonna slap!
A deep analysis of the song reveals a pretty simple premise: abandon all worries when you could be fucking Joe Jonas on a beach. Realheads know that Joe is the hottest Jonas, so this message shouldn't be hard to convey.
And yet, this music video is a classic case of too many ideas. None of them are particularly good. The first bad idea was probably letting Joe's then-girlfriend Gigi Hadid co-direct the thing. Gigi was the "Naomi" to Joe's "Diddy," as mentioned in the lyrics, though I can't help but wonder if there was a more apt musician-model relationship Joe could have used as a reference. ("I'll be Billy, you're Christie Brinkley?" "You're my Pam and I'll be your Tommy?" Pamela was known for being sexy on a beach!)
“She’s always had a high creative eye so she came up with concept and we rolled with it,” Joe said of Gigi in an interview, which I imagine is code for "Gigi rattled off a whole bunch of ideas over coffee one morning and we realized we'd get more press if we listed her as a co-director." I'm not saying that hot girls can't be funny, but sometimes hot girls want to think they're funny when they should just settle for being really hot. I'm sure Gigi Hadid followed the Fat Jewish, the professional joke-stealer reviled by comedians and writers, and found him hilarious. She probably thought it would be so random to have girls in bikinis throwing handfuls of cake at him. Sometimes being in a relationship means having to say "Babe, that's such a good idea, but maybe for the next video."
I can't confirm the extent of Gigi's involvement, probably because the marketing ploy worked. Most coverage of the video's release names Gigi as the director without much examination. ("You NEED to Watch the Music Video Gigi Hadid Directed for BF Joe Jonas's Band DNCE," gushed the Seventeen article about it. "All signs are pointing to one swoon-worthy conclusion: Gigi Hadid and Joe Jonas are like way in love.") But it was actually directed by "Gigi Hadid and Black Coffee." Some digging revealed that Black Coffee is the name of a directing duo comprised of Josh Rimmey and Zach Williams and their associated production team, blackcoff.ee. In the only interview I could find on the subject, they validated my suspicions about Gigi's involvement. Rimmey said that Gigi's "connections within the modeling industry helped bring a lot of talent out to be in the video," while the video's DP said that they had a meeting with Joe and Gigi to riff on some ideas, and "it definitely wouldn’t have been the same without her input."
I don't want to disparage Black Coffee, who seem like actual professionals, but, as with Gigi, I have some questions about how they got the gig. The bulk of their early career is JoBro-adjacent work, with music videos, tour footage, and promotional spots Nick, Joe, and their frequent collaborator Demi Lovato. (Note, however, that they aren't responsible for any of the big-budget Jonas Brothers or Demi Lovato videos.) My guess is that Josh and Zach were up-and-coming director dudes in LA who became friends with the Jonases. Nepotism all around! Maybe. Regardless of whether my suspicion is true, Josh and Zach did a fine job with what they were given, which seems to be a whole bunch of nonsense concepts and the need to include as much blatant product placement as possible.
Cramming in too many ideas is a great way to blow your budget on a mess of a music video. See, for instance, Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down," a music video that attempts to convey the following messages:
- The snake thing doesn't even bother me anymore, which is why I mention it in the lyrics and visually to show you how over it I am
- Haters are gonna hate and I continue to shake it off as per usual
- Being queer is fine and being homophobic is bad
- So many famous people love me
- I'm friends with Katy Perry again
"Cake By The Ocean," thank God, isn't trying to say anything, but the production team does make the rookie mistake of having one or two images in your mind and writing a dumb story to justify including them. (You could argue that this is the same fallacy that takes a funny malapropism – the drink order "sex on the beach" misremembered as "cake by the ocean" by one of the Swedish producers – and doubles down with lyrics about "lickin' frosting from your own hands" and "candy on the dry land.")
Models throwing cake at each other is a fine image for a song that uses cake as a sex metaphor! The video treatment did not need to invent an international cake fighting championship to justify it. It's supposed to be a sport – D-N-C-E is like ESPN, get it? – and yet there don't seem to be any rules, and one team has 30 people on it while the other is just the Fat Jewish.
In the interview mentioned above, the video's DP Nathan Larimer said:
We had a meeting with [Joe and Gigi] to hear their idea for the Cake music video and riff on some ideas. From there it went through five or six major revisions until we landed on the cake model beach dodgeball idea... Joe and Gigi approached us with a kind of rough idea involving a bunch of models and a massive slice of cake. I think in the beginning we were trying to set a world record for biggest cake, too, but that didn’t get too far. Once we knew the video would have models, a beach, and a big cake, myself and the other three guys in blackcoff.ee just workshopped a ton of ideas along with Joe, the band, their manager, and the record labels. A lot of people had ideas along the way, and things they liked, and things they hated, that all needed to be considered. Up until the day of the shoot we were still tweaking and adjusting to make sure everyone involved was excited about its direction and that it was the right first look for DNCE.
Sounds about right! I wonder if anyone – Joe, the band, their manager, the record label, the other members of blackcoff.ee – ever said "Hey, you wanna step back for a second and come up with a treatment that actually makes sense?" It doesn't seem like it. They could have easily simplified the concept, with the Fat Jewish crashing a birthday party for some models that turned into a cake fight, to keep the same key images without a baffling framing device. They could have even included the giant piece of cake in a fantasy sequence if it was so important to them. Am I the fool here for overanalyzing the bikini-babes-on-the-beach music video for a party jam? Perhaps! But it was the directors' jobs to make a video that was so fun I wouldn't think about it too hard, and they failed!
You might be surprised to learn that to this day, "Cake by the Ocean " remains Gigi Hadid's only directing credit. Black Coffee is doing fine, though! They directed this quarantine video for the Jonas Brothers that's actually very cool.
Anyway, let me know if you have any connections to famous people I could date and/or befriend to get some directing gigs and put out music videos that make sense!