What’s different now, says Gondry, is that the videos are often as important as the song. “MTV focused on the songs, even at the MTV Video Music Awards,” he says. “People call me an MTV darling, and that upsets me because I was always ignored by them. But now I feel like it’s coming back to early MTV, before the big-budget cranes, when it was creative and fun.” Better yet, it’s a lot more democratic: “The tools the nonprofessional can access for free are getting closer to the tools you use when you have tons of money,” says Gondry. That means the low-budget and fan-made are just as likely to blow up as an epic by Gaga.
In addition to MTV vets like Jonze (who recently directed the messy and hilarious “Drunk Girls,” for LCD Soundsystem), there’s a whole new wave of boundary-pushing auteurs coming up—provocateurs like Romain Gavras, the son of filmmaker Costa-Gavras, who directed the gory, banned-by-YouTube evocation of M.I.A.’s “Born Free,” and Vincent Moon, a French director with no interest in working for anything called an “industry.” He speaks for a lot of his peers when he says, “About the music industry, I have no fucking idea. Frankly, I think it’s dying. I really hope that it does, in fact.”