Ariana Grande Director Hannah Lux Davis Breaks Down The Emotion Behind ‘Breathin’

Back in 2016 — which might as well be 6,000 years ago at this point — Ariana Grande teamed up with Nicki Minaj for “Side to Side,” a wonderful trop-pop ode to knockin’ boots so vigorously that you wobble when you walk afterward. The song’s instantly iconic video took the playfulness of the title more literally though, placing the two leads on exercise bikes and letting them spin — a vision they also brought to the stage at that year’s VMAs.

The video’s director, Hannah Lux Davis, has a long history of partnership with Grande, helming the clips for several of her songs, including “Focus,” “Bang Bang,” and “Into You.” For “Side to Side,” she said the original idea came from a simple message from Grande herself. “I’m just thinking… spin bikes,” Ari told Davis, as she recently recalled to Billboard.

Earlier this month, Davis also helped bring Ari’s cathartic “Breathin” to life with a cloudy, mystical visual that helped illustrate the emotional opacity found in the song’s lyrics.

“She really let me take the reins for it,” Davis said later in the interview. “The song is obviously about anxiety, and feeling so out-of-touch and out-of-sync and out of alignment with everything in the world around you, and feeling like you’re just not connected. So I had this idea of doing motion control, which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I’m really glad that I ended up doing it on this project. It’s the effect that we did to shoot her in a different frame rate, in a different speed, and other people in the frame that are moving quickly around her. That was through the effect of motion control.”

Davis also shared some deep-in-the-trenches stories about the vid’s nearly impossible turnaround time, which she oversaw herself as, like she says, Davis edits “90 percent of my videos.” “Shot and delivered in two weeks, which is insane, considering that every single shot was an effects shot, and it’s Ariana Grande, so it has to be perfect,” she said. “I cut the video literally in a day, sent it to her on her phone, she loved it. The next day, she came over with all her friends to watch it, and we locked it down the cut then.”

Read the full interview over at Billboard. For more on Davis’s process and how her hard work comes together behind the scenes, watch MTV News’s 2018 doc Seen & Heard below.

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