Nick Jonas and Justin Bieber, two hopeful heirs to Justin Timberlake’s tear-stained pop throne, each released videos last night for “Levels” and “What Do You Mean?” respectively. Let’s compare, shall we?
Nick Jonas’ dropped the clip for “Levels,” which he also performed during the MTV Video Music Awards pre-show. It was so chaotic you might’ve missed it, or decided to ignore it when he started grinding on Kelly Osborne.
Jonas generally makes good songs but releases erratic corresponding videos that don’t really make sense with his song’s lyrics. With “Levels,” he is singing about a woman to whom he’d really like to give increasingly better orgasms. Cool, but it’s tough to glean that erotic message from his video. He doesn’t even take his shirt off. What kind of a “sexy” video is this?
Inexplicable things in “Levels”:
A sledgehammer wielded by a model wearing feathers
More scantily clad models with spikes on their nails, humping chairs
A model biting a dirty rope
Nick Jonas doing a sort of embarrassing, very unsexy breakdancing move
Things that make sense in “Levels”:
Next time, it’d be great if the video’s concept actually meshed with the song. How easy would it have been to have models dancing in elevators, stairwells or on escalators? Or switch the whole concept and make them patients in a hospital with Jonas as a sexy doctor who makes his clients’ hearts race when he appears? Do better, Team Jonas.
On the other hand, let’s dissect Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” video, which is really a vehicle for Calvin Klein underwear and the singer’s new Kate Gosselin-inspired hair cut. The lyrics could be translated to “I’m dating a girl who can’t make up her mind whether she wants to date or dump me but I love the emotional roller coster because I, too, thirst for drama.” It must be mentioned that a lot of songs describing a woman’s “indecision” remind us of rape culture, though I don’t think that’s what Bieber intended here.
The concept is a kidnapping, for fun! I am not joking. Bieber pays actor John Leguizamo (John, you’re better than this!) to kidnap him and his girlfriend from a motel room and tie them up in a warehouse. The two break out of the ropes with a lighter—so Indiana Jones!—and then jump out of a door to nowhere because Bieber asks ol’ girl whether she “trusts him.” Guess where they end up? On a billowing stunt air mattress, in the middle of a skateboarding party. OK.
Inexplicable things in “What Do You Mean?”:
Leguizamo’s spider tattoo
Bieber and Leguizamo standing in the fake rain with no umbrellas (no one actually does this)
Awkward Calvin Klein underwear product placement
“Sexy” moments between Bieber and his girl while they’re locked in a trunk and she’s in fear for her life
The girl’s ’This is so fun!’ face after she realizes she wasn’t kidnapped—Justin was just playing a trick on her
The entire “kidnapping is fun” plotline
Things that make sense in “What Do You Mean?”:
Bieber looking like a extra from My Own Private Idaho
Bieber’s sullen face
Nope, this video doesn’t make sense with the concept unless Bieber is trying to scare his girlfriend into trusting him by paying people to put her in a car trunk to ultimately out-crazy her crazy, which doesn’t inspire loyalty? Maybe I am not unstable enough to enjoy this.
In conclusion, neither of these videos jibe well with their songs, despite both being decently catchy. If we’re honest, “Levels” is better than “What Do You Mean?”—but without a good visual component, everyone loses.
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.