Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s perennial daydreaming of vacation; or maybe it’s that special time of year when all of summer’s first flings turn sour, and we’re trying to teach ourselves a lesson for next time. Whatever the reason may be, everyone you know has been watching the video for London-born Kosovar-Albanian pop star Dua Lipa’s breakup anthem “New Rules” on repeat. In the five days since it went live, the video — a Miami-based fever dream that doubles as an all-girl hotel sleepover — has been viewed over 8 million times.
Lorde loves it. Tegan and Sara love it. One fourth of Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello, loves it. And apparently, so does everyone else. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Lipa’s rules for the brokenhearted — “Don’t let him in, don’t pick up the phone, don’t be his friend” — embroidered on decorative pillows by Bastille Day. Have you suddenly had the urge to buy a set of pastel robes for you and your eight best friends? Are you forcibly deleting the contact info of all your friends’ exes from their phones for them? According to Lipa, her plan is working.
“I had saved pictures on my phone to use as reference points for the video,” the 21-year-old singer told the Cut about the video’s provenance over the phone on Tuesday, when it was at about 8.5 million views and rising. “There was an image I’d saved of Naomi Campbell in the ‘80s — I think it was a Versace campaign — where she is basically holding another girl on her back. I loved the idea of girls looking after each other like that, holding each other, that sense of humility, that sense of strength.”
Lipa invited Caviar.TV video director Henry Scholfield over for a cup of tea in London, where she lives, so they could brainstorm some more on this theme. “She said she wanted to do something with girls whispering in each other’s ears,” Scholfield, who worked with Lipa on her previous video, “Lost in Your Light,” explained by phone. “So we worked to bring that narrative of togetherness and empowerment into our choreography.” Scholfield got in touch with L.A.-based choreographer Teresa Barcelo, who is known for a smooth style of contemporary dance, and arranged to have the nine women’s moves — at one point they grasp each other’s hands as they shuffle in a tight circle — convey trust and sisterhood. “Casting was very important for a video like this. We wanted real girls who could dance and move, who had truth and texture in their personalities.”
Scholfield made sure to have the camera do some of the physical work, too, which is why there are so many uninterrupted single takes in the four-minute clip. “The camera is always dancing with them,” he said. “You as the observer must be right in there. It can be difficult to get that seamlessness as a director, but once you imagine that the camera is just another dance partner, it becomes much easier. Long takes work well for that because then you’re not always breaking the flow.”
When Lipa spoke to the Cut in April, she inferred that her “dark pop” was often inspired by women’s autonomy: “Now more than ever, women have the opportunity to express themselves creatively, wear what they want to wear, and lead their lives how they want to,” she said. In the “New Rules” video, Lipa’s character goes from nearly succumbing to the siren song of the “U up?” text to being bolstered by her friends insisting she shouldn’t respond to then turning around and helping her friend cut off the boy who was breaking her heart. “It’s no longer about the guy being the main part of the story,” Lipa said on Tuesday. “It’s about girls looking after each other.”
That might be why both Scholfield and Lipa said their favorite shot from the video is at the end, when the women are pulling each other in closer, in an unbreakable ring of limbs. “That wrapped up the whole story for me,” Scholfield said. “The viewer is on the outside, but that choreography pulls you into them, and makes you a part of that connection, too.”
Though, Lipa pointed out, she took some inspiration for the video from the natural world. The final shot isn’t of the female friends, but of a group of flamingos, flaunting by a pool. “I wanted them to be a part of the video because they really fit in aesthetically,” she said. And of course, while flamingos are a classic Miami symbol, in “New Rules,” Lipa wanted them to represent something bigger. “Flamingos live in large groups, they’re very social animals,” she said. “They’re good representatives of female friendship.”