Yesterday Rihanna released the music video for her new single, “Kiss It Better.” The four-minute clip features Rihanna set against a black background, writhing on the floor and contorting her body in ways that only she could make look easy.
Genius spoke to “Kiss It Better” director and fashion photographer Craig McDean about the one-night video shoot and how on earth Rih was able to balance a quadruple six between her legs.
How did you and Rihanna first sync up for this project?
Craig McDean: Patrick Lee from T Magazine commissioned me to shoot a cover for Rihanna. Since me and my creative partner Masha Vasyukova started Spoon Films together we decided to collaborate on a film for T and made a minute-and-a-half piece at the end of the shoot. We wanted to do something experimental, create an abstract space, and just play around with improvised props and light. And when the T video came out, Rihanna reached out to us to do her music video.
What did you think when you first heard the song? What were some of your initial ideas?
Craig McDean: We just listened to the song over and over again, and it has this beautiful pattern in it that repeats, and it reminded us of a Moebius strip—something timeless and disorienting in space, and that’s how the idea came around. We basically are constantly thinking of how to illustrate dreams into visuals and make them come life. Masha and I worked on several sets and props and thought, “How do we make it all come to life?” We were both inspired by Man Ray, French New Wave, Fellini, Cocteau, Pina Bausch, Pandora’s Box with Louise Brooks. Also, coming from photography I thought of beautiful silver prints.
What was working with Rihanna like?
Craig McDean: There was a constant dialogue with Rihanna and her wonderful and always available Ciarra Pardo [Rihanna’s creative director], juggling ideas between East and West Coast. It all came together really fast. There wasn’t even a week between the moment we got a call and the shoot day. Well, shoot night.
Did you shoot it all in one day? Where?
?Craig McDean: No, we shot it all in one night and then got on a plane to New York straight from the studio.?
Did any interesting challenges pop up during the shoot?
?Craig McDean: We had to practice the dice for a bit. It’s a hard rolling a quadruple six between your legs.
Was Rihanna cool with being on the floor the whole time?
Craig McDean: ?By the end of the night we were all on the floor and so happy. It was the most amazing time to be locked in the studio this time with Riri.? The plane ride home was a trip, and we hadn’t slept for 36 hours.