It’s been more than four decades since the launch of MTV and the beginning of the music video era. Since then, there’ve been countless music videos made. Yet it’s arguable that the clip as an art form has never been better than it was in those early days. The visual language established in the ’80s has been supplemented, reinterpreted, and complicated, but it’s never been improved upon. Warmth, imagination, humor, innocence, personality: the first generation of video had all of that in spades. Musicians continue to draw on the aesthetic of early MTV, and nobody is doing it with more confidence — or more attention to detail — than Andrew X.
The North Carolina singer-songwriter isn’t just an imitator. He’s a carrier of the torch. Through his gorgeous, melodic, and fundamentally optimistic music, he demonstrates a deep understanding of the elements that made ’80s pop-rock so delicious and so hard to resist. Naturally, he’s making videos to match, and “Miracles,” smartly directed by Luke Pilgrim and Brad Kennedy, is a delicious throwback to the first-generation clips that continue to inspire us.
“Miracles” is the wildly hopeful and blissfully romantic centerpiece of Driving at Sunset, a radiant full-length that introduces Andrew X as a pop-rock traditionalist with plenty to say to modern listeners. He’s found collaborators with a similar knack for timelessness: Anberlin and Copeland producer Matt Goldman and Killers and Imagine Dragons mixing engineer Mark Needham. They’ve given Andrew X’s tales of longing and wishes enough muscle for a contemporary playlist and amplified the elements that anchor these songs to pop-rock’s glorious past. The result is an album that feels like the soundtrack to the best coming-of-age movie never made — one where the hero gets the girl in the end, of course.
The sly, wonderfully sweet “Miracles” clip ends happily, too. The protagonist is a man obsessed with an infomercial host and a dedicated consumer of all the projects she sells. Yet she’s more than just a pretty girl on a screen. In ’80s romantic comedy style, she’s a young woman with dreams — and a bit of a dreamer herself. Will these two lovers step out of their fantasies and find each other? Well, of course they will: anything else would be an affront to the source material. Pilgrim and Kennedy decorate the clip in ’80s colors, dress the actors in period fashion, and shoot the whole thing exactly as Phil Collins or Steve Winwood might have. The computers and televisions are old-fashioned CRT monitors, and there’s hardly a cellphone in sight. For three glorious minutes, you’re right back in the heyday of MTV, and that’s exactly where Andrew X wants you to be.
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