Mark Romanek: Jay Z – 99 Problems & Coldplay – Speed of Sound

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Anthony Szymaniak

Mark Romanek, director of Jay Z’s 99 Problems and Coldplay’s Speed of Sound shows similar elements and qualities in each of his music videos. Coldplay and Jay Z, completely different genres of artist, even in their music videos, you wouldn’t believe that you would find similarities between the two.

Coldplay’s Speed of Sound is a performance based music video with only the band on display, behind a large light display, which is what often captures the attention of the audience. The video starts with the leader singer, Chris Martin, in complete darkness, apart from the dim light placed to his right. Several camera angles are used at this point, from a mid shot to a close up of his hands playing the piano and of his face. It is easy to see that the opening and like much of Speed of Sound is filmed with a handheld camera, this give the video a feel that it is of epic proportion, as the noticeable shakes of the camera make it feel like an authentic performance.

The clothing of each member of Coldplay is pretty bland, each member is wearing dark clothes. This shows Mark Romanek helps to add to the mise-en-scene, this is because the light show behind the band is mesmerising to the audience, and helps to build up the fast paced action. A good editing technique is also used to show the Members of Coldplay as silhouettes, this makes the light display in the background look better and but our attention is switched between that of the lights and Coldplay performing. The use of lighting adds to the mise-en-scene as the lyrics of the song refer to speed, and speed is measured to light.

Midway through the video, the use of the hand held camera, is used to the extreme and the editing is made even quicker. A low canted angle is used at points to show the tension building and the video is shown to have an epic feel. The video ends after the music has stopped just like many of Romanek’s videos do. The band members are shown to together in the same shot for the only, with the camera fading to black, to tell us the video has ended.

Jay Z’s 99 problems does differ to Coldplay’s Speed of Sound, in terms of the genre of music. But Romanek’s ideas and classic traits are easily noticeable and recognisable in both videos. 99 Problems, shown in black and white has a visible mise-en-scene in the themes to do with street life in run down areas such as Brooklyn, New York which is the setting for Romanek’s video.

Like Speed of Sound, Romanek has chosen to use for 99 Problems, fast paced editing, to give the video more fluency allowing it switch between the Performer Jay Z. the video is filmed in many different shots and angles such as Close ups, mid shots, and angles such as the canted angle, this is similar to Coldplay’s video. another technique that is used in both videos is the handheld camera which, gives the video a documentary feel in this case that we are seeing Jay Z in a troubled neighbourhood dealing with his 99 problems, such as being stopped by Police Officers for being “Young and Black.” This brings us onto the next point that narration in Coldplay’s Speed of Sound is not seen whereas Jay Z is seen as well as narration, this allows Romanek to use techniques such as match on dialogue, so when the lyric “paparazzi” we see prisoners having mugshots taken of them.

In conclusion the techniques that Mark Romanek likes the most are so easy to decipher as they are seen prominently throughout the music video’s he has directed, and 99 Problems and Speed of Sound offer no exception. The videos show similarities but also show uniqueness that makes each video new and fresh.


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