Johnny Cash: “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”

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Here’s a music video that has perplexed us from the day it was released. In fact, the shear fact that it has us debating earned it the “most mysterious” music video label in our “Top 25 Music Videos of 2006″ write-up. The background on this video only makes it more bizarre. If you were to make a list of top 10 artist that are completely opposite of Johnny Cash, Justin Timberlake would be one of them; however, Timberlake is exactly the one who birthed the idea of this video via a conversation with Rick Rubin, who produced the album, American V , in which the song resides. The concept then moved forward through collaboration with Mark Romanek (director of Cash’s “Hurt”) and controversial British director Tony Kaye, who ended up officially directing the video.

Here’s the deal. On one hand, it’s a tad annoying. You can imagine the conversation: Timberlake: “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we got some A-listers to be in a Cash video? say… myself?” Kaye: “Yeah, and then we can make it look all artsy like your 99 Problems (Jay-Z) video, Mark. That cool?”

On the other hand, line the images of these artists, actors, and actresses and everything they represent midst the lyrics and the distinct and powerful voice of Cash and you have some significant yet enigmatic irony. As many might despise the overt use of celebritism midst this video, you cannot escape the notion that there is some “identification” taking place within this traditional song—both from the performers and the viewer… And thus the mystery. Why?

(note: Cash did not write this song; it’s an old traditional song.)