Meet the Directors Behind Beyoncé’s Visual Album

Beyoncé’s new self-titled album is a collection of 17 videos. FADER investigates who they are and what their unique styles brought to the project.

December 13, 2013

Bey knows how to keep a secret. Early this morning, the singer unexpectedly released her fifth album, Beyoncé , and it's a hefty package: 14 tracks produced in collaboration with Jay Z, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, The-Dream, Drake, Miguel, and, believe it or not, Blue Ivy. If that weren't enough, the album comes with an astounding 17 videos. Who are the directors that brought Beyoncé to life? The FADER investigates.

Melina Matsoukas: "Pretty Hurts"

Previous collaborators: Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Ciara, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears

In 2011, the AFI-graduate won a Grammy and an MTV VMA for her work on Rhianna's Trainspotting-inspired "We Found Love." With "Pretty Hurts," Matsoukas casts Bey as Miss 3rd Ward, a beauty pageant contestant forced to suffer all the humiliation and neurosis that comes with parading your body on stage. Hidden gems: an unexpected appearance by Harvey Keitel and a vintage talent show clip of Bey as a beybey.

Pierre Debusschere: "Ghost," "Mine"

Previous collaborative projects: "The Lake," "I Know Simply That The Sky Will Last Longer Than I"

Belgian-born Debusschere, 29, is a photographer and director who regularly contributes to Dazed and Confused. His productions are slow, eery and beautiful compositions. "Ghost" is a series of stark portraits of a blase Beyonce, slithering, perching and dancing against black and white backgrounds, finally smirking at the viewer: "Probably won't make no money off this--oh well." In "Mine," Beyonce and her dancers are draped in long sensuous fabrics, writhing in a desert nightscape, with the words "Mine" set ablaze above them.

Jonas Åkerlund: "Haunted," "Superpower"

Previous collaborators: Shakira, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Rammstein, Britney Spears, Madonna,Prodigy

The mastermind behind Madonna's Grammy-award-winning "Ray of Light" video, 48-year-old Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund was once a member of Bathory, a black metal group. Over the last 20 years, Åkerlund's made a name for himself by producing videos with strong narratives that often resemble short films. "Haunted" and "Superpower" both fit that bill: the former is the classic case of the innocent guest caught in ghost-infested hotel; in the latter, Beyonce plays an Occupy-style protest heroine leading a ragtag gang (which includes Kelly Rowland) toward a cordon of riot police.

Hype Williams: "Drunk in Love," "Blow"

Previous collaborators: Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, Coldplay, Robin Thicke, Lil Wayne, Miguel

As arguably the most successful and most recognizable video director of the last two decades, 43-year-old Hype Williams needs no introduction. In the black-and-white "Drunk in Love"--arguably the album's least ambitious video—Beyonce sashays across a beach in a bikini, until Jay Z makes an appearance, at which point a long bout of hugging ensues. "Blow," which features an appearance by Solange, has Beyonce pulling up to a roller disco on a lowrider bike--it's a colorful, kitschy, ’80s throwback full of blown out dos and air guitars.

@lilinternet: "No Angel"

Previous collaborators: Pictureplane, RiFF RAFF, Azealia Banks

New York-based producer, DJ, director, internet celebrity and Seapunk historian @lilinternet is known for producing dizzying, drug-soaked videos—his "Original Don Remix" video for RiFF RAFF, Major Lazer and Davoodi is a bad trip condensed into three minutes. For "No Angel," @lilinternet sobered up, sending Bey to Houston where she shines in an all-white get-up in the city's 4th Ward neighborhood.

Ricky Saiz: "Yoncé"

Previous collaborators: Hanni El Khatib, Kanye West

A 21st century renaissance man, Saiz is best known as the co-head designer at Supreme, though he's also served as a consultant for Kanye West and DONDA. With "Yoncé," Saiz delivers a hyper-sexualized vision of ruby-red lips, tongues, booty shorts and fish-net body suits. "There are a lot of references to nineties eroticism and Madonna videos," Saiz recently told New York. "We shot it against one wall for the most part, so I was looking a lot of Carlo Molino photos."

Jake Nava: "Partition," "Flawless," "Grown Woman"

Previous collaborators: Adele, Kanye West, Shakira, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, The Rolling Stones, Kylie Minogue, Usher, Mariah Carey

Best known for his work on Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" and "Single Ladies," London-born Nava's videos are slick, well-polished affairs. In "Partition," Nava casts Bey as jewel-encrusted aristocrat in desperate need of physical attention--replete with a True Lies-style strip scene. "Flawless" kicks off with archived Star Search footage of Girls Tyme, the Destiny's Child predecessor, before segueing to a sample of a monologue by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and finally shifting gears to a gritty club scene. But Nava also directed the strangest video of this album, "Grown Woman," in which the director used CGI to make baby Beyonce sing along to the song.

Todd Tourso: "Jealous," "Heaven"

Previous collaborative projects: Flaunt magazine, Lady Gaga's Fame perfume

Unlike many of the other directors on "Beyoncé," Tourso is new to the music video game. Before jumping behind the camera, Tourso was an art director at Warner Bros. Records and the creative director of Flaunt magazine. "Jealous" picks up where "Partition" left off, except Bey's lingering needs are transformed into a burning suspicion of infidelity. "I cooked this meal for you half-naked, so where the hell you at?" she croons before tossing a goblet of wine across a half-empty table for two. With "Heaven" Tourso offers appropriately sentimental fare, full of nostalgic scenes of better days gone by against shots of Bey mourning, but looking beautiful as ever.

Terry Richardson: "XO"

Previous collaborators: R. Kelly, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus

Notorious NYC photographer Terry Richardson's gratuitous touch is unmistakable, exemplified by his work on Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" video. But with Beyonce Richardson has evidently reigned himself in. His clip for "XO" is one of the album's most conventional: Bey, looking glorious, enjoying herself at New York's Coney Island. If anything, it's a little too safe.

Ed Burke & Bill Kirstein: "Rocket," "Blue"

Previous collaborators: Beyonce

Both Ed Burke and Bill Kirstein were deeply involved in the production of Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream. Kirstein was a producer and Burke was the director. Their close relationship with the singer is probably why they were given access to the two most intimate videos of the lot. In a collection full of erotic videos, "Rocket," with its heaving chests, bare thighs, bubble baths, and nails clawing at sheets, manages to stand apart as the steamiest of the bunch. "Blue," is equally intimate, but for other reasons: it's a touching nanny diary of two-year-old Blue vacationing in Rio.

Meet the Directors Behind Beyoncé’s Visual Album