This month’s best visuals see Charli XCX recruit every boy you can ever think of, while Kelela pays homage to 90s R&B futurism
Not to focus on the negatives, but there have been a few high profile stinkers in the music video department this month. Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” are both indescribably embarrassing; they’re ugly visually and the performances are awkward. It’s sort of amazing that these things get greenlit, given the size of the respective artists’ teams and budgets, but thankfully this month has seen a lot of ingenuity from musicians with far more modest aims. LCD Soundsystem’s “Tonite” visual is no-frills yet beautifully simple, while Larry B’s “Fake Molly Love” conveys an awful lot without saying that much. They’re all worth your time, even if they didn’t quite make our top five this month. Otherwise, here are our picks of the best new videos.
ALEX CAMERON – “STRANGER’S KISS” (FEAT. ANGEL OLSEN)
Jemima Kirke – or ‘Jessa from Girls’ as she’ll be known to most people – helmed the narcissistic new video from Australian oddball Alex Cameron. Cameron describes “Stranger’s Kiss” as a strange type of love song, where a couple in the middle of a relationship breakdown taunt one another out of a subconscious concern over what their own independence will look like. “The video Jemima wrote and directed brings the tenderness of love within the song to the surface – two people obsessed with who they want to be,” he told The FADER. “Clinging onto chemical love regardless of destitution. We see blind idolisation. The two each give the other what they always wanted and needed. And that is a type of strange love. No matter how unhealthy, superficial or unsustainable that dynamic may be – this love offers brief but blissful moments of relief for whatever pains a person can endure.”
ALICE GLASS – “WITHOUT LOVE”
Floria Sigismondi’s credits include episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Kristen Stewart-starring Joan Jett biopic The Runaways, and music videos for Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, and Christina Aguilera. Her stunning, high concept video for Alice Glass’s solo single “Without Love” takes place in a garden with a mind of its own. “This beautiful, dangerous garden needed to be in unexpected places: a bedroom, an abandoned car, the bottom of an empty pool,” the director explained to The FADER, who co-produced the video.
“The manipulation (is shown) in the bedroom. The car represents freedom, which she (Alice Glass) definitely does not have, as the car is buried in a flower bush, a rose pierced through her hand. At the end, she’s drawn deep into a womb-shaped pool where the flowers are waiting for her until they totally take her and transform her into something new… She had the concept based around being tortured in a beautiful garden as a metaphor for being in love in a painful relationship.”
CHARLI XCX – “BOYS”
Charli XCX’s “Boys” video features just about every famous boy you can think of, from Diplo to Stormzy, Mac DeMarco to Marc Ronson. “It’s about making boys the ‘sexy’ part of a pop video for once, instead of the girls,” Charli told us recently. The male gaze-flipping visual was directed by the musician herself, who recruited the stars both by consulting her own extensive rolodex and through a few more unorthodox means. “Most of them are friends or people I know or have worked with,” she said. “However, I did join a stupid funny celebrity dating app so I could meet a few more boys and talk them into the video. That was pretty funny, but I won’t say who I met on there!”
KELELA – “LMK”
Andrew Thomas Huang has helmed visuals for Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace that have married futuristic imagery with broader conceptual ideas. His video for Kelela’s “LMK” has a strong intellectual backbone, but it works as a purely sensory experience, its vivid colours, sci-fi visual style, and impeccable choreography recalling the heydey of 90s R&B futurism.
“The video is essentially a grand unveiling featuring Kelela wearing different wigs and guises as she pushes through the club with her friends, ultimately revealing herself at the end of the video,” Huang said in a press release. “The message of this video is empowerment: it’s for the girls, for anyone whose heart has been trampled on and deserves to go out and feel good about themselves. It’s a call to action, demanding to be taken and to be quick about it. This is the reason why we love Kelela – she’s making herself vulnerable and kicking down doors in the process.”
XENOULA – “CHIEF OF TIN”
“Xenoula is a female, silver-skinned, humanoid octuplet,” according to the YouTube description on “Chief of Tin”. She was sent to Earth on a comet 9,000 years ago, where she sealed herself inside a diamond sphere. She laid in this pod in a swamp in New Guinea for thousands of years, awakening only when the liquid keeping her alive was polluted.
In reality, Xenoula is a musician raised in South Africa and based in Wales. But her fictional story is captured beautifully in the visually arresting clip of “Chief of Tin”, which depicts her wandering a forest and eventually discovering a box that lets her see into time. It’s quite mad as a concept, but it’s short with an earthy naturalism that matches her music.