Run Away With Realiti: Texture in the Music Video

Realiti and Run Away With Me open with introductions that clearly define the shape of the song and the music video to come. Realiti is like a city-made watercolour painting dripping with cerulean, tangerine, mauve, lemon, periwinkle and navy. The establishing shot of Grimes amidst the eastern architecture has an effervescent quality from the musician’s starburst bangs and amethyst sunglasses down to the swirls and tails on the kimono pictured behind. This attention to colour creates texture of vibrancy which directly contrasts the chilly atmosphere of the song, but effectively embodies the soul of the music. Run Away With Me’s video begins with something a little more sweeping and epic. The image of Carly Rae Jepsen twirling in a summer dress on a park bench has a forever quality that resembles attic memories and eternal love. It pairs perfectly with the epic horns and promises of tomorrow. Jepsen dares viewers to come with her as an outstretched male hand clasps her own and they’re off.

After these rather different establishing moments that reveal the tone of their music videos Realiti and Run Away With Me intertwine and follow a similar path conveying an idea of freedom through movement. Both videos introduce a city, and a landmark where Jepsen and Grimes perform respectively.

The major difference between the two is that Jepsen is among people and Grimes is solitary, which speaks to the different moods created in the songs. Realiti is a song of internal recollection while Run Away With Me is an underneath the bleachers-star soaked sky-track of deeper love and possibility. Run Away With Me is a song of the present and Realiti is a song of the past. Jepsen grasps a hand. Grimes cradles herself.

Run Away With Me is strong at cultivating a mood of ample freedom and careless anarchy that’s only possible when you’re head over heels in love. Realiti is a little trickier, with an ever-present wistfulness and lyrics that more closely resemble Bjork’s Hyperballad. Realiti is a composite of tour footage and quickly thrown together performance, but like Run Away With Me it’s a sensory experience tied to the action of a memory. For Grimes it is an actual tour and for Rae Jepsen it’s narrative.

Both women use their bodies through dance to further the texture of their music videos. Grimes’ dancing is more solitary and keeps in tune with her song. She rocks her shoulders from side to side on an electronic beat, she glides her hips when the synths slither into position for the chorus and jumps when the chorus reaches its climax. The editing of the video is pristine in combining these shots into a cohesive full picture of various settings (Fountain, Forest, Cave, City, Boardwalk) that are united through the dancing created by this song.

The forward momentum created by the jostling camera, Grimes dancing and the window-shots of cities through cars in movement make the video feel like its a living, breathing organism, and the colours are amoeba-like and comforting, always resting in a present glow as if the lights never go off. It’s Michael Mann-esque in its execution of the digital nightlife of the city as a place of pure beauty. In Realiti the city doesn’t sleep, because the city is alive. It’s as much of a statement for the architecture of cultures as it is a snapshot of tourism during Grimes tour of Asia.

Similar patterns arise in Run Away With Me, but because dance is a subjective outlet for expression Jepsen favours something more direct, running & spinning. In Frances Ha during one key moment of expression Frances runs to her then apartment accompanied by David Bowie’s “Modern Love”. It’s an exhilarating moment cloaked in a loose bit of irony, but when Frances runs she spins, because her expression of happiness is to twirl. Jepsen does the same thing here, but without the irony.

Like in Realiti architecture is used to show the depth and beauty of the world, but in Run Away With Me the world is made small by falling in love. The structure of the song oozes longing and need over verses that come together in the falling stars and fireworks of a chorus that delivers a promise that the world can hold us and we can make that world ours. That the barriers could slip away and everything would be attainable in an act of self-declaration. “I’ll Be Your Sinner in Secret. Run Away With Me“.

The music video can be a cinematic mirror to the song. Realiti and Run Away With Me find the soul of the music in the images they present, and project a clear visual interpretation of what the song means and what the song conveys. These videos elaborate on texture, movement and emotion to amplify certain elements of music to connect with the viewer. When music and cinema intertwine there is an inherent magic in the symbiosis of the two artforms coming together to maximize into one whole. Too frequently music videos try to be cinema by way of narrative storytelling, but the strongest music videos find reality in the abstraction of images coming together to evoke a feeling instead of a story. Realiti and Run Away With Me are striking in their visual similarities, but tonal differences. They follow similar structures and image progressions, but because the songs have different focal points the music videos feel differently despite their sameness. They are sister films, and two examples of the possibility of the music video as an art form of image based reflection.

Female Filmmaker Project: REALiTi (Claire Boucher, 2015)

 I still remember everything about arriving in St. Johns by airplane in September last year. I was on the way to finally live with the person whom I had been in a relationship with for years, and I distinctly recall the the feeling of purity that seemed to fill up my entire body. I’d check the time and know that with every passing minute I was another mile closer to the person that I loved, and reaching towards a place I could finally call home. For some reason I remember the chill on the windows of the aircraft and the fog that had crept over the city the most, and as it became darker and darker it felt like I was entering into a black hole, but when I came out on the other side I knew I’d be in paradise. The headphones that I had snuggly around my messy, blonde hair were feeding to me sounds of warmth, even if I was heading into an area more commonly associated with brutal cold. My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” swept over me in wave after wave of sonic distortion making my ears feel like pillows, and my body feel like mush in the airline seat. Still, I kept looking out the window knowing I’d soon be in a place where feelings of easiness, serenity, pleasure, and safety were boundless and the constrictions of growing up transgender in the American South would finally be unshackled from my subconscious. More importantly though, I’d feel his arms around me for the first time in my life. We skyped as often as we could, often drifting into a haze-y area of sleep as we watched each other through computer screens knowing someday this would all become physical. It would be the single greatest moment of my life. I built it up that way, and I knew it wasn’t going to disappoint me. I just had to get there. Cocteau Twins was next, and then something shimmered in the distance of the window through the impossible density of the fog, a tiny light, a slight burst of angel’s breath through the darkness telling me I was here. I couldn’t contain myself. The cliche of losing control of one’s body is not something I believed in until that moment when I started giggling to myself, and the smile didn’t seem to end on my face, but instead wrapped me up like a blanket. I still think back to this day of that music selection I had at the time, and the dissonance of feeling absolute warmth and stepping off the plane into a land of bitter cold. But I never felt the cold, because he was here. I was here. And his arms were as good as I thought they would be.

A funny thing happened the other night. I felt the shockwaves of that initial arrival once more, but it came with the images of a music video and a song that felt like a spiritual successor to the band I was listening to upon arrival in Newfoundland, and again I couldn’t push down the joy that seemed to be seeping out of my body. I felt that effervescent billowing of purity that I had only experienced once in my life. This music video triggered those feelings, and Claire Boucher’s stunning love letter to her fans in Asia is a testament to kindness and sincerity within art that felt connected to the type of love I was inundated with since arriving in Canada. REALiTi was never supposed to see the light of day, and this music video is mostly made up of shots Claire captured throughout her tour. It’s a scrapbook, but it’s also a statement to love, home, and people.

REALiTi is autumnal music. The kind of song that would play in a movie as two people desperately in love, clinging onto each other in this world finish their day and walk home. This is the essence of a hand outreaching for another or getting your hair pushed back long enough for a lover to bend in for a kiss. The anticipation of moments like that is REALiTi’s core structure musicially. Those hazing synths just eek out of the fibre of the song and Claire’s layered voice push everything up into the sky. Her voice is not one you can decipher lyrics from upon first listen, but words like scared, beautiful, love and home are enunciated and elevated for importance, and all those words connect to romance. Those words along with the icy, tenderness of the music paint REALiTi as something stunning. Claire never finished the song. She lost the original file so mixing and mastering never took place. It’s rough around the edges, and the chorus feels incomplete, but isn’t a pause important to the uncertainty of emotion? It only makes the song feel even more reflexive of humanity. And then there’s the video, a testament to colour, tone and architecture.

The bombast of the video’s colour palette in digital handheld cinematography is nothing short of extraordinary. Claire stands on a ledge at the beginning of the video only to be surrounded by lavish purples and golden street lights, her orange hair announces itself in the midst of all of the colour. As if it were her soul brightening in the face of all the mistiness surrounding her. There’s an abstract quality to her simply standing and existing within frame due to the offsetting colour of her hair and the decisions of her placement within the video. In another frame she stands with her back against a kimono painting that seems to swirl into her body that recalls the abstract. The most striking function of all the images throughout though is the relationship between nature and architecture. Grimes is shown dancing through jungle at some points, standing with the ocean to her back at others, and bathed in neon concert halls only moments later or shown moving up escalators into towering buildings. The beauty of what we have created and what we live in is not lost either way. Claire extends a level of interest in all of her subject matter and imagery finding them all equal of her lens as well as her body. Everything is worthy of being a dancehall or being shot on film with an eye for love, because this is our home, and she feels comfortable here among people with whom she’s never even met. That spark of humanity runs throughout the video, especially in the closing moments where specification on Grimes as a performer turns into Grimes as a uniter of people as they dance in the rotating yellow lights of a concert venue and join together in a singular moment of shared enjoyment.

There’s a moment in the video when everything begins to feel overwhelming where I get to the point where I’m about to cry and it’s closer to the end in the repeated lines “I go back alone” which sounds like “I go back home”. At this point Grimes is just dancing, moving her body to the music, and the video cuts to skyscrapers and fan reaction shots. Her music is her home, and the connection she has with these fans is the place where everything becomes perfect. I’m reminded of figuring out my place as well when watching this video. Since arriving in Newfoundland I’ve walked the streets, I’ve loved the people, and I found my place. My humanity was always locked up in this island rock of ice, because the person I feel truly connected to is located here. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a place separate from earth, like I lurched into some other existence that day, that I transcended my past life and was reborn into something different, because my heart’s full of love these days, and I had never felt that before. I want art that reflects the love I have for existence, and the warmth and joy we should have for the earth, each other, and the work we create right now, and Claire Boucher’s music video for REALiTi is informed by all of those things.

The Optimism of Zero

Synthesizers buzz and hum as she puts on her makeup and zips up her PVC outfit. She runs her hand down her bangs and grabs her leather jacket. Her initials are on the back and she slides it on. She stands behind a curtain waiting to show herself to the world. This is her look and she’s proud. She has one final unsure look on her face and then pulls the curtain back to rapturous applause and she struts down the empty street evolving into dance. The song soars in praise with her. It’s her life and her self-expression and she is showing it to everyone. All she can do in response is dance while others look on. They look a little surprised by her outfit and her attitude but they see that she’s happy and eventually she runs into people who smile upon seeing her.
In these four minutes The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Zero directed by Barney Clay is deeply humanistic in a completely optimistic and joyful way. In this world, self-expression equals true joy, and the only responsible way to act on joy is through dance as Karen O suggests here when she seems so happy that she dances on top of cars. We live in a cinematic world where the most prized stories are about tragedy and the films that make the most money, and therefore control the Hollywood system, are about the end of the world or general destruction with no consequences. Even in television the narratives are controlled by serial killers, cops, and bad men. The musical, screwball comedy, and romantic comedy are nearly all dead so where did good feelings go? We live in a scary enough world that we don’t always need it reflected back at us on screen but our avenues for escapism are dour. Zero was made a few years ago, but I think its joyfulness is still relevant today. It’s self-empowerment of expression through choice is vastly important and in a time where things like selfies are constantly criticized as being vain and narcissistic Zero presents a different idea. It’s happiness within self so much so that you just have to dance, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being happy. That’s what we all want. Isn’t it?