Gabber, deepfakes and bodybuilders: inside Sevdaliza’s new music video

Directed by Willems Kantine, the artist’s latest single features Grimes, Madonna, Julia Fox and A$AP Ferg as bodybuilding deepfakes

Anyone keeping up with socials this past week will likely have come across the mysterious billboard for Sevdaliza’s ravey new single “Nothing Lasts Forever”. Under the track artwork, a futuristic rendering of the Iranian-Dutch artist as a muscular marble sculpture, is a list of names: Grimes, Madonna, Julia Fox and A$AP Ferg. 

Now, the secret’s out: they’re all starring in the artist’s music video – well, kinda. Using deepfakes, the video – directed by Willem Kantine – takes viewers on a trip through uncanny valley, reimagining the celebrities as bulked-out bodybuilders in an empty warehouse, while touching on themes of female masculinity and machismo culture.

Inspired by the Netherlands’ vibrant gabber scene, which emerged in the mid-90s in Rotterdam, the music video takes cues from old hardcore videos, usually associated with hyper-masc underground scenes, while also subverting traditional gender roles by placing a swagged-out Sevdaliza in front of an 80s Benz – “what’s the difference between a rap artist in front of such a vehicle and a female artist?” asks Kantine.

“Sevdaliza and I have a love for gabber-style videos. The hardcore and techno scene in general is a huge inspiration – and the Rotterdam hardcore scene,” he explains. “The whole concept of the visual is to let the creatives go into detail. No location changes, just an empty warehouse, backdrop, wires in the frame. Focus on message, delivery and entertainment, in contrast to striving to create a feature film in a three-minute music format.”

Intended to draw the viewers in gradually, the video is intentionally paired-back, placing the celebrities – or their deepfakes – front and centre. “The project has a simple aesthetic, but complex in its build and depth. The videos are slow-paced and meant to draw the viewers in, but it is up to them to continue watching,” Kantine elaborates. “In a way, the project is a visual workout that triggers a ‘what in the world is Sevdaliza up to this time?’”

“With the rise of TikTok and other trends the actual time consumers watch videos like ours has been steadily declining,” he adds. “Our project is a response to this phenomenon and challenges the notion that art needs to cater to a specific audience to be successful.”

It’s no secret that Sevdaliza has been exploring the transformative potential of future technologies for a while now – she debuted her own ‘femenoid robot’ last year, before launching her own AI voice model Dahlia back in August. It’s an interest she shares with Grimes, who features on “Nothing Lasts Forever”, and whose dedicated website Elf.Tech invites fans to deepfake her own voice.

“I wanted to create an iconic moment with all Sevdaliza’s fans. A moment that like the title of the song, that does not last forever,” concludes Kantine. “Deepfakes gets a lot of hate and love. Deepfaking icons on a body that obviously doesn’t belong to the artist involved. It becomes a tool rather than specifically focussing on deepfake as sort of a gimmick.”