Three bonafide classics of the rock ‘n’ roll canon are one step closer to getting their long-awaited official music videos!
Last December, in celebration of the legendary Elton John‘s 50-year songwriting partnership with master lyricist Bernie Taupin, the duo launched ‘Elton John: The Cut,’ in partnership with YouTube. The competition gave undiscovered talent across the globe an opportunity to create music videos for three of John’s best loved tracks—“Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Bennie and the Jets”—all released before the advent of MTV.
Now, PEOPLE can exclusively announce the winners.
Ninety-second video treatments were submitted from over 50 countries in January. Applicants were limited only by their imagination, and a small provision: “Rocket Man” entries needed to utilize animation, “Tiny Dancer” treatments needed to utilize live-action and “Bennie and the Jets” clips needed to utilize choreography.
The entries were first reviewed by three prominent YouTube mentors for each category: Kurt Hugo Schneider for live action pieces, Parris Goebel for choreography and PES for animation. On Feb. 28, they presented their short list to an executive panel of judges consisting of Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins, Dreamworks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas—plus John and Taupin themselves.
The group selected a final winner for each category. They are all, as Taupin says, “too talented to fail.”
The win earns them the opportunity to make the official music video and $10,000 to support an addition creative endeavor of their choosing in the future.
“It was very clear [they all had] really thought through the idea — taken the essence of the song, the essence of the brief — and manifested it in their own voices,” says Jenkins. “To me, that was the thing that united all the winners.”
Max Weiland has been tapped to direct the live action video for “Tiny Dancer,” a standout track from John’s 1971 album Madman Across the Water. “Max just gave us the best treatment possible,” says John. “He just captured the essence of what the song’s about. And he was nearly chosen for the choreography category as well, so he’s clearly a very talented young man.”
Director Jack Whiteley and chroeographer Laura Brownhill will create the visuals for “Bennie and the Jets,” John’s smash single from his 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. “I was really impressed by [Jack and Laura’s] references and their knowledge of music and history and art,” explains Matsoukas. “Everyone immediately seemed to gravitate towards their idea.”
Finally, Majid Adin was chosen to animate “Rocket Man,” from 1972’s Honky Chateau. “In the animation category, I was particularly blown away,” says Katzenberg. “[Majid] found in the song something so important and relatable to him in his life and his journey. I’ve never thought of the song in that context and he did something really quite special and moving with it.”
The final videos will be revealed in full later this month. Watch highlights from the judging session in the video above.