This Week's Music Videos Will Melt Your (& Cate Blanchett's) Face
With the Rio Olympics taking over the news and presidential headlines so overblown that it’s no longer easy to discern The Onion from The Atlantic, it’s been a bit of a slow news week. Luckily, on the music video front, we’ve been blessed with an absolute avalanche of good tunes and visuals. From desi demigod ZAYN‘s neon-soaked pop, to Massive Attack‘s slice of digitized body horror, this week has brought all the music you could desire. Unless you desired Frank Ocean’s album, in which case you’re still waiting in line with the rest of us. But I digress; here’s this week’s musical crème de la crème.
ZAYN Drops a Zinger with “Cruel”
British electronica duo Snakehips have successfully made the transition from Hype Machine remixes to full-blown pop sensations. Their sharp ear for gloomy pop hits, in combination with their powerhouse collaborations with artists like Tinashe, Chance the Rapper, Anderson.Paak, and now, ZAYN, has had them skyrocketing up the charts in the U.K. and abroad. “Cruel” is a distillation of their sound and style—the aesthetics of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner over infectious synth-pop. It’s a smart update to the boyband sound, keeping ZAYN in the conversation with fellow glo’d up teeny-bopper, Justin Bieber. “Cruel” checks all the requisite boxes for pop in 2016: pitched vocals, neon lights in every conceivable corner, and old-school video distortion effects. As ZAYN urges, keep it loopin’ “like CCTV.”
Let’s Talk About Kamaiyah’s Hoodie in “How You Want It”
To be honest, this video, along with the Snakehips one above, just show how formulaic music videos have become. Despite not sharing notes, the visuals for Kamaiyah’s single are almost exactly the same as Snakehip’s “Cruel.” Fog, neon lights, a long white hallway, and some VHS-style dithering are present in both. But I’ll tell you what ZAYN does not have: that badass Rugrats Susie Carmichael hoodie. The Rugrats reference is apt, too—Kamaiyah goes like Reptar on this beat, chomping into the bass-heavy throwback beat with ease. Now please tell us where you got that hoodie.
Kehlani Makes an Uncomfortable Video for Suicide Squad
Okay, first thing’s first: Kehlani’s “Gangsta” is, by all means, a catchy, dance-worthy, dark-pop song. But, by interspersing scenes from the music video with scenes from Suicide Squad, “Gangsta” draws some uncomfortable analogues between Kehlani and Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn. Juxtaposing the fictionalized—and, if some critics are to believed, misogynistic—portrayal of Harley Quinn’s abuse, to Kehlani’s very real and very public trauma is a tough pill to swallow. Watching the video, I couldn’t help but revisit Bria Smith’s prophetic declaration in her meditation on black girl sadness, “We will strip Kehlani of her blackness.” Of course, the delineation between Harley Quinn and Kehlani could very well be a consequence of cross-promotional material, as opposed to a purposeful metaphor. Regardless, such symbolism is unnecessary. Kehlani’s incredible voice and artistry is enough.
Cate Blanchett Digitally Deteriorates in Massive Attack’s “The Spoils”
Since the early 1990s, Massive Attack has made their name combining ominous trip-hop with a barrage of arresting music videos. “The Spoils” follows in fine tradition, with Cate Blanchett‘s face cast under low lights, slowly getting recast and digitized into something more akin to Cronenbergian body horror. All the while, singer/songwriter Hope Sandoval lends her softly-toned vocals to the mix. It all adds up to some wonderfully creepy cognitive dissonance, and the creepiest video we’ve seen since the Peeping Tom voyeurism of Kanye West’s “Famous.”
Young Thug Teams Up With Middle-Aged Usher in “No Limit”
Is “No Limit” about Usher’s age? At 37 years old, Usher absolutely refuses to grow old. In “No Limit,” he gives the midlife crisis the middle finger, dancing and signing with the new generation. His wrinkle-less moves are accompanied by a new school of dancers, from elementary-age kids all the way up to 24-year-old Young Thug. Thug, ever the model, rocks a Peruvian poncho sweater and somehow pulls it off. The “No Limit” music video is an expression so joyful that even Gucci Mane’s porcelain-white teeth make an appearance. Please enjoy.
Image courtesy of Pitchfork Media/VEVO.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Music Video appreciation.