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The Hidden Meaning in "War" Music Video by #WordsOrLess

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Yes, I'm guilty of using repeated themes in music videos, but I keep getting these songs laid on my timeline about breakups and heartbreak. Although the lyrics of this song focus more on the hardships endured during the relationship, and expresses a feeling of peace and enlightenment after the relationship has ended, in contrast to the subtext of "Wanna Be Alone" by Guys On A Bus which was directly the opposite.

I went a different direction with this Music Video than most, using several distinct looking locations. I'm usually more a fan of a more minimalist approach; one, maybe two locations that have the same lighting/feel. But since the song incorporated a lot of different elements, it made sense that the video should as well.

It also captures the conflicting emotions after leaving a bad relationship. On one hand, it feels dark, empty and cold, I symbolized this using mist falling down on the artist before an empty, dark backdrop and aggressive, jerking camera movements. On the other hand, its a new beginning, almost like getting out of the woods, so it made sense to shoot much of the video in a forest setting complete with foliage just sprouting at the base of the trees and create a high-key look to contrast the grim, dark lighting in juxtaposed shots.

While this wasn't my first rap music video, I still wasn't sure how my low-key, high contrast, widescreen approach would pair with this genre of music. It worked once, I wasn't sure how well it would work again, and honestly, this has kind of had to grow on me. I looked back at Dave Meyers/Kendrick Lamar collaborations to try to pick out what it is that works so well about those videos, and those two names got brought up a few times in pre-production.

I hope it wasn't too heavy handed the way that we used a straight jacket to reference being "Trapped" in a relationship, and then once the relationship ends he manages to wiggle his way out of the straight jacket. I searched for ways to draw attention away from the straight jacket element so it wasn't so on the nose, but ultimately fell back on my principles of minimalism and the use of the color black. I lit this scene like an interrogation room, placing one high-contrast light directly above the artist. I hoped to give it a feel like he was in a stereotypical institution, like you're totally removed from the rest of the world.

I was very drawn to the idea of one of the two artists playing a dead body that opens his mouth and raps in time with the music. Since this breakup felt like murder it seemed appropriate to include a cadaver.

Who could forget the blow-up doll. I was approached with this idea to use the blow-up doll to symbolize a relationship solely rooted in sex. And throwing the sex doll into a big fire to express the idea of rejecting that lifestyle. I liked the idea, because it was provocative (Not all that subtle) but still, something to set this feature apart. I took it a step forward, and censored the blow-up doll's eyes, and this was for a few reasons: I didn't want to give off the idea that the sex doll was meant to represent the woman featured in the video, or any person at all, so by removing the eyes, it took most of the humanity away from the object, and provided clarity that it only represents an idea. I also meant for the censored eyes to visualize the way that sexuality blinds us from the important elements in a relationship, people tend to choose someone with better looks over someone with whom they're more compatible. As one half of the duo drives away from his last date with this woman, his eyes are illuminated by a rectangular gleam of light, meaning he has now come to understand this.

We sprinkled a number of other elements in throughout the video to bring home the idea that this relationship being described, was like being at war. One of the artists holds a shotgun, the other a pistol. The pair wear camouflage and march through the woods. Once the relationship has ended, and the artist has "won", they partake in celebratory cigars and wine (It was actually wine used in those shots. Not my decision).

The music video ends with the fire raging on. This is to say that the philosophy of "Personality over Looks" is still held, and if you point your attention to the stump to the left side of the frame, you'll notice that the shotgun and pistol have been set down, since they're no longer needed. As well as the wine and a cigar, since they've moved on to something better. This music video is anything but clean and neat, it features a lot of handheld camera movement, and the place settings are disorganized. Rather than a symmetrical fire made out of perfectly arranged logs, we opted for a fire made out of trash and pallets strewn about recklessly. Instead of official looking uniforms, our wardrobe was made up of thrift shop finds, paint and clunky sewing. This is in direct contrast with the date scene, which is made up of very steady and under control shots, even lighting and I made sure to follow the 180 degree rule tightly. This is meant to contrast the difference between being your own messy, true self and letting people see you for who you are, opposed to the clean, fake version of yourself thats eventually going to be exposed. You do whatever you want with that information.

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