Fame can’t take NYC out of these New Yorkers. Recognizable faces sing of their neighborhood pride in “Still New York,” a music video that blends skyline views and selfies in a nearly four-minute tribute to the city.
The track by emerging pop artist MAX, of “Lights Down Low” fame, dropped last month. A proud Hell’s Kitchen-born performer, he managed to enlist the help of an impressive group of NYC natives who agree on one thing: “I’m still New York, (it’s) the only home that I’ll ever know.”
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brooklyn-born rapper Joey BadA$$ and Manhattan pop duo The Chainsmokers, among others, all make cameo appearances in the music video, singing selfie-style in front of their favorite local spots.
“We wanted to keep that New York feel throughout,” says videographer Kevin Gutierrez, 23, who edited the project. “MAX called me back in April and said he had this idea for the music video already, and wanted to do it because he’s made so many friends in New York along the way and has lived there his whole life.”
The video was a unique task for the California-based videographer, who’s been commissioned to accompany artists like MAX and Panic! At the Disco on their tours to film. Almost all of the footage — the exception being city shots from above the SoHo Grand Hotel and Central Park — was shot on an iPhone and emailed to Gutierrez.
“People were asked to send a video of themselves singing the ‘I’m still New York’ verse because it’s repeated so much in the song,” Gutierrez says, admitting much of the talent included recordings sent of themselves speaking [not singing]. Clips were sped up or slowed down in production to match the speed of the track.
“For some, we sent them four lines from the song and asked them to pick one line, singing it and send it back to us,” he recalls. “A lot of times they went above and beyond and sent us a video of the whole thing.”
Each line in the song oozes NYC pride: “I want the Yankees 99 and the Knicks on a sold-out night, where the curtains close and the Broadway streets are alive . . . I see your subway cars and your old graffiti.”
To keep track of who’d sing which line, Gutierrez and MAX worked for months on a shared document listing dozens of names next to the verses.
“It was a bit of a tricky process to make sure we had everything set,” Gutierrez says. “We started hitting people up in April and it was finished the day before the video came out . . . literally, we worked on it until the day before we got the final submission we needed.”
With Gutierrez based in Long Beach, California, and MAX performing gigs around the country, the duo worked on cuts via email to evolve seven drafts of the video into the final take.
“He’s always on the road touring and he had horrible service at times. It was a little bit stressful, but we sent it back and forth,” Gutierrez says.
Aside from the physical — skyline shots, a glimpse of Times Square, singalongs with the NYPD and the city’s shelter pups at Animal Care Centers of NYC — MAX and Gutierrez looked to incorporate the city’s bustle and aspirational vibe in the video.
Gutierrez kept the editing casual to establish a connection among the city’s residents and the viewers.
He added an “LED screen and VHS interface” look over the clips to give it an old-time video effect. Bonus: It helped mask lower quality videos shot on older iPhones.
“We wanted to go for the home video look; it’s also very popular and trendy right now, but it felt right for a homey feel,” he says.
Opening the video with solo shots, the track’s visuals gradually build up to seven selfie clips overlapping, with MAX at the center, near the three-minute mark.
“An epic end,” as Gutierrez puts it.
MAX, born Max Schneider, says he plans to donate all proceeds from his “Still New York” track and video to city-based charities.
The singer heads out on a world tour next month with fellow New Yorker Bryce Vine and Scottish artist Nina Nesbitt. The “House of Divine” tour stops at Irving Plaza Nov 13.