Sugarland knows how to make a dramatic return, and the duo pulled out all the stops for the juicy, glamorous clip for their current single, “Babe.”
“Babe” marks the first proper music video from Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles since 2011’s “Tonight,” and the clip is a beautifully-orchestrated piece of 1960s mod. Nettles stars as a devoted housewife who discovers her husband has an office mistress (played by pop superstar Taylor Swift, who co-penned the song with Pat Monahan). The video chronicles the effects of the philanderer’s actions on both women.
If the video gives off serious Mad Men vibes, that’s because it was filmed partially on the set of the hit television show, over the course of two days. Every piece of the video, from the set to the actual vintage clothing, was meant to be authentic.
“If you want to be in the throwback of mid-century mod, that was right in the heart of it,” Nettles says. “Another part of the video was the house we were in, which seemed like this preserved time capsule, except the owner actually lived there. She was a dame for sure, and was a Hollywood socialite back in the day. She preserved it exactly like it was in the ‘60s, all the way down to clear plastic seat covers on the couch.” The house featured in the “Babe” video also looks strikingly like the one used in Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” video from 2013.
“Babe,” both the song and the video, were a gift from BMLG labelmate Swift. Swift offered guest vocals on the track, and offered the idea for the treatment. “That was all Taylor,” Nettles says.
“She was like, ‘I have an idea for the video,’ but her idea was this fully-formed video treatment,” Bush says. From there, Sugarland and Swift swapped emails and pictures, nailing down details for the shoot.
Swift also suggested actor Brandon Routh, known for his role as Superman in Superman Returns, for the role of the cheating husband.
“Not only does he look like Superman, but he has that clean, all-American man look for that era,” Nettles says. “Even from the top of the video, when we are saying our goodbyes, and there is a shot of him in his fedora and you see the little tip of his hat, it’s just gorgeous.”
Bush appears in multiple roles, from the next-door neighbor to the weatherman.
“I’m totally the Dave Grohl in this video. Remember when he did that video with all the people in that airplane? Once we started talking about it we just kept adding in characters. It’s like ‘Where’s Waldo?’”
Nettles loves the way the drama builds throughout the piece. “I loved the scene where all the secretaries are typing away and all the looks that are thrown back and forth when Taylor makes her way to his office and then I come in, like ‘Uh oh, this stuff is about to go down.’ All that interplay was super fun.”
And that dramatic climax when the mistress (played by Swift) gives a death stare to the hopeful housewife (Nettles) as they meet in the office suite? Swift and Nettles played off each other, live.
“We filmed it together on purpose,” Nettles says. “We figured everyone would be like, ‘Oh, they shot this separately and never got to interact.’ Also, because of the nature of the treatment, it’s like, ‘When are the wife and the mistress going to have a chance to see each other? Thankfully the director came up with the solution for how to get us in the room at the same time for that big reveal moment. It’s a pretty powerful scene.”
Bush was among those watching the playback for the scene.
“Everyone just kind of took a step back, like, ‘I hope I never get looked at like that.’”
“Taylor was mentioning that she’s never done a video like this narrative where she gets to play this villainous character,” Nettles says. “With the look she gives me in the office, to display that kind of character I think was a lot of fun for her, too.”
Of course, there can be comedy in drama, and Nettles walks this fine line effortlessly as her character turns to a few too many martinis to cope with her husband’s betrayal.
“My favorite was what I called watering the pool, which is when she’s had a couple of martinis in the afternoon, and she’s supposed to be watering the plants, but ends up watering the pool in her despair. I would love to do a whole movie based on who she is…”
The “Babe” video plays as a mini-movie; there is no performance sequence.
“It’s a beautiful format, and a lot of times, especially in country music, I think it has tended to move away from the more narrative stuff because quite frankly, it’s just more costly, but it is such a beautiful genre,” Nettles says. “I hope that we can continue storytelling in such a way. I definitely enjoy it and I think it adds to another layer and another dimension to the song.”
“It’s a great way to put a new spin on a conversation that you are already listening to on radio.”
“Babe” is the second single from the duo’s newly-released album Bigger.
- CMA Honors Robert Deaton With Chairman’s Award - December 4, 2020
- Nashville Symphony, Nashville Musicians Association Reach Agreement - December 4, 2020
- Zach Williams’ “Chain Breaker” Is Most-Added On ‘MusicRow’ CountryBreakout Radio Chart - December 4, 2020