The Grammys Made an 'Evolving Music Video' That Gets Crazier the More People Watch It

Ever-escalating renditions of Ella Mai's 'Boo'd Up'

The Recording Academy has launched a fun interactive project ahead of Sunday's Grammy Awards, featuring a music video starring Ella Mai that evolves into a bigger and bigger musical extravaganza as more and more people watch it. 

The Evolving Music Video, as it's being called, stars Grammy-nominated artist Ella Mai singing her hit "Boo'd Up." The first version of the video, which you can see below, features stark, black-and-white visuals and an a cappella rendition of the song. As the view count rises, it triggers new versions of both the video and song—culminating in a dynamic film that's far from the initial stripped-down version. 

You can see the current version of the video at grammysevolving.com.

TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, which has worked with the Recording Academy for years, helped create the video. It was directed by Tool of North America's James Frost. We spoke to TBWA\C\D creative director Jason Karley about the process. 

Muse: Where did the idea come from for an evolving video, and why does the concept fit the Grammys brand?
Jason Karley: Each year to promote the Grammys we create at least one piece that's big and stirs culture in a larger way than a typical promotional 30-second spot. Last year we did this with Play the City on the streets of New York, and this year the tagline "Let's Hear It" led us to the idea of having to share and/or view something to see and hear more of it. 

How did you choose Ella Mai and her song "Boo'd Up" as the anchor for this?
We like to pick an artist who's on the rise and especially relevant to that year's Grammys. In the past we've partnered with Kendrick and Anderson Paak, so with Ella Mai having two Grammy nominations this year—including Song of the Year—she was a perfect fit.

What can you tell us about how the video evolves? 
The video starts with a beautiful black-and-white a cappella version of Ella Mai's hit song "Boo'd Up." Each evolution adds new layers of audio and visuals that evolve the more fans watch and engage with it—from color, to piano, dancers, more instruments and then something a bit bigger and grand in the end. Every video includes a new version of "Boo'd Up" that fans have never heard before.

How many videos are there in all, and can you tell us at what point a new version gets triggered?
The goal is for the viewer to feel like there is just one video that's growing and evolving over the course of the next few days, but there are technically four evolutions. We're looking to create calculations based on Ella and The Recording Academy's follower count, factoring in engagement across platforms. We will then use that metric to advise when to change the video and continue the evolution. Because this has never been done before, we're staying flexible on the viewpoint triggers to ensure fans get to see the final evolution before the Grammys on Sunday night. 

Was it a tricky thing technically to pull off? I assume you worked with YouTube on that?
The choreography and logistical mapping out of the evolving film itself was just as tricky as the digital side. YouTube doesn't allow videos to be updated on the same link so we had to do some workarounds to make the viewer experience as seamless as possible. 

This feels like a fascinating mirror into the nature of viral video itself—having the content itself get more exciting as the excitement around it grows. Can you talk about the meta nature of that, and why the music world is a good venue for such an experiment? 
It seems like YouTube gave a bit of life back to the music video. OK Go and Arcade Fire really set the tone for inventiveness and interactivity so it's exciting to see artists and the Grammys themselves continue to push the form forward.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards.