The band filmed on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, from 2 a.m. until just after sunrise, before the public was admitted. There was a helicopter camera crew to capture the prancing and dancing. Oh, and of course, the video director Patrick Daughters was afraid of heights.
"Despair" is from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs's fourth studio album, Mosquito. As you might imagine, the song starts out in bummer-town, but it gets pretty ecstatic partway through, especially when the sun rises at a great height. The leaping, romping enjoyment at 1454 feet does create a nice evocation of the elation of heightened emotions.
Despite prevalence in certain romantic comedies, no bands had met the production requirements to film a music video on the 102-story building, according to Anthony Malkin, the president of the Empire State operators. He's still surprised that it's been 84 years before a music video was able to shoot there, noting: "Credit to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for having the gumption to ask."
Beginning at a dingy dive bar with a lazy disco ball, into a subway train and cab, and moving to iconic architecture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs front-woman Karen O says the music video might be a metaphor for the bands trajectory. She told the NYT:
"It's like the American dream for us, singing your song on top of the Empire State Building. It's hard to do something like that and not feel like it's symbolic … Feeling like: man, where were we 10 years ago, when we were sitting around in some punk-rock dive bar, thinking about what to name our band … and now here we are at the top."