Select one of the following music videos and argue why/how it communicates with its audience. Does the work subvert cultural ideas? Is the video a form of protest? Do you see any complicity and critique?
Select one of the following music videos and argue why/how it communicates with its audience. Does the work subvert cultural ideas? Is the video a form of protest? Do you see any complicity and critique? You must try to draw on ideas from Chapters 4 and 5, but you especially need to offer detailed examples from the video, both the song and the lyrics. If links below don’t work, google the song title. Options: • Childish Gambino, “This is America” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY • Ariana Grande, “Thank you Next” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl1aHhXnN1k • Lady Gaga, “Til It Happens to You” https://www.youtube.com/watch
So instead, try directing your attention on all that’s happening in the background as Childish Gambino – the musical moniker of multi-hyphenate artist Donald Glover – moves through a spare industrial space in a succession of meditative tracking shots that serve as steady foundation for the frenetic action they capture.
There are children in school uniforms doing dances of African and American origin. There is a white horse with a hooded rider. There are police. There are people running across the upper level of the space that looks increasingly like a prison as the video progresses. There are chickens, girls on bicycles, money in the air, mobs running in riot-like pandemonium. There are kids lost in their cellphones, car fires, SZA sitting on the hood of what appears to be a 1986 Camry.
While Childish Gambino is surely the star – playing the role some have suggested is America itself – viewed in context of the background action, the video is dizzying, hypnotic treatise on racism, gun violence, joy, spirituality, hip-hop and entertainment in the United States. Its symbolism has been linked to Jim Crow, Michael Jackson and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. YouTube videos investigating these Easter eggs have more views than many actual music videos.
Since debuting This Is America during last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live – for which he served as host and musical guest – Glover has refused to reveal the video’s message, telling TMZ “that’s not for me to say.” What’s certain is that This Is America is a brilliant, career-defining moment.
“This is one of the great performers in modern America,” says TV host Touré, whose books include 2012’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? “He’s showing a really interesting ability to do soul music, television, movies, comedy and drama and to make art that has political substance, but not so much that it becomes propagandist or preachy.”
This Is America has dared us to decide what to make of it. The video’s background action commences immediately after the video hits it pivot point: Childish Gambino pulling a gun from his pants and shooting a hooded man in the back of the head, execution style. This is when he declares the song’s guiding principle: “This is America.”