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Half a year after “god is a woman” became part of the cultural vernacular, Lauren Jauregui has taken that concept one step further by embodying a real goddess. The singer-songwriter has been steadily introducing herself to the world as a solo artist, and thus far, she’s given us a pair of singles, “Expectations” and “More Than That,” which hint at her promising star power.
The common thread between those two videos is creative and director Lauren Dunn, whom Jauregui trusted to bring her precise artistic vision to life. For “More Than That,” released last week, that meant chronicling the goddess Aphrodite’s visit to Earth, following her through a strip club to convey a message of female empowerment.
“Aphrodite is the ultimate celebration of femininity and beauty and sexuality in an empowering way,” Dunn told MTV News. “When we think of a strip club, it’s often darkly lit and seedy and secretive and you don’t tell people you’re going. It’s not a place you envision women getting together and going to to celebrate other women.”
In the video, though, Jauregui’s Aphrodite — along with a crowd of entranced women — admire the dancers in front of them and eventually join in on the celebration. Dunn said the video was partially inspired by the Renaissance painting La Primavera, in which the goddess Venus stands among a trio of women dancing around her. Those are the three women flanking Jauregui as she enters the club (aptly titled “Olympus”), and their ethereal wardrobe takes cues from the women’s gowns in the painting.
The dancers, too, had their own feminine approach to what you would wear to pole dance, and the video’s stylist worked with each one of them to pick the outfit that made them feel the most empowered. The result, Dunn said, is seeing exotic dancers in a way we’re not used to.
“The dancers we hired — it’s just amazing to watch them move. It was like magic; you can’t believe the things they can do,” she explained. “We don’t see them in that light as often as we should.”
She added, “Ultimately, it’s just a celebration of women’s power and beauty, in every form. Every body type, every colour. Because that’s where real beauty lies, is diversity. Lauren’s life mantra is celebrating women, and we just wanted to literally see these women in a new light.”
Even more impressive, the focus on femininity onscreen was heavily mirrored offscreen. The video’s entire post-production team — including the editor, colourist, and art director, as well as the lead production designer — were all women. Dunn explained, “I would like to say it’s probably intentional that we end up working with women because the energy is there. We sort of brought this thing to life together.”
Besides wardrobe and a diverse cast, the key to the video, Dunn said, was visual design; in other words, creating the world of Aphrodite. The director and her team spared no details, packing the video with symbolism galore. Those stage lights illuminating the dancers? They’re classic theatre lights shaped like shells, one of the most commonly associated symbols of Aphrodite. The pomegranates, wine, and golden apple covering the table in front of Jauregui? They’re all symbols of Aphrodite, too. And the video’s colour palette, comprised mostly of seafoam green, rose, and light blue? You guessed it — they’re all colours associated with the goddess.
Some of those symbols can also be seen on the single’s cover art, which recreates the classic painting The Birth of Venus, and which was gorgeously brought to life in the video — though it proved to be a herculean task.
“That was the scariest photo I’ve ever taken,” Dunn said of the cover art, explaining that she used a “really old-school Pentax camera” and soft, low light to pull off the admittedly “risky” shot. She also bought upwards of 500 flowers, which were meticulously arranged around Jauregui in a way that mirrored classic art.
“I had to get up on a scissor lift, and I was strapped in and dangling over Lauren,” Dunn recalled. “I had decided I wanted to shoot through some vintage filters, which is why you get that kind of soft glow. I’m leaning over, and you’re hoping your hand doesn’t shake as you fire the shot. Everyone on set was quiet — we had a crew of probably 30 or 40 people and no one was speaking; everybody knew how scary of a moment it was for me. But after we got the shot, I was like, ‘That’s it, I know that’s the one.'”
Drawing inspiration from those famous pieces of artwork was “a very bold thing to do,” Dunn admitted, but she was relieved that fans could immediately identify the references and understand her intentions. Plus, her collaborator — in all her glowing glory — demands nothing less than the best.
“It’s legendary art and you don’t want to not do it justice,” Dunn explained. “But when you’ve got a subject like Lauren, she literally looks like a Renaissance painting brought to life.”
Jauregui is credited as a creative director and co-editor on the video, and Dunn chalked that up to the way the 22-year-old approaches her art and “builds her own world” in her music and her videos.
“She is inspiring because from even writing the song to editing the video with us, she’s so hands-on and has such a vision for who she is,” Dunn said. “She makes such a mood with her music. A lot of great music feels cinematic, and a lot of what she writes has that energy to it.”
What Jauregui’s next video will look like is still anyone’s guess, but fans may be able to look at her last two for clues. Though Dunn said there’s not an explicit connection between “Expectations” and “More Than That,” she did explain, “We used some of the imagery from [“Expectations”] and re-referenced it in a new way [in “More Than That”]. Some of the symbols that are associated with Aphrodite, like doves and roses, we had so much of that in the first video and we wanted to sprinkle some of that in the new one, to sort of keep a through line of the goddess that is Lauren.”
She added, “The narrative has evolved and they each are standalone videos, but we really wanted to have some sort of visual connection that made sense.”
That awesome attention to detail is a testament to how stunningly Jauregui is navigating her debut solo era. And much like those clubgoers stood entranced by her moves in the “More Than That” video, we’ll be watching closely to see what she does next.