Saturday, February 1, 2014

Music Video Interpretation: Clarity - Zedd, ft. Foxes

            I am not sure I have ever seen a more complicated music video paired with more riddled lyrics than “Clarity” by Zedd, featuring Foxes. Foxes is actually the one who provides all the vocals (and beautifully at that), save the “heys”; but it is Zedd that, for the most part, wrote the song and produced the music video, as well as created all of the music for it. Hence he is listed as the song’s principle artist. When I first heard the song, I found it one that I can listen to over and over. Upon investigating the lyrics, I realized that it was well-written and not full of garbage like much other music is today. But it was when I first saw the music video that my mind was completely blown.
            The music video (I will explain it in depth, but here is a link; you must watch it to fully understand: is a unique one in that it tells a story through its symbolism, as well as a handful of seemingly unrelated scenes among the same actors. When I first saw it, I wasn’t sure if Zedd was on LSD or if I was watching a masterpiece. Upon researching him, I found that Zedd has a special talent in this area. The music video stars Foxes and small-time actor AJ English (representing the Americans -- Foxes is British and Zedd is German-Russian) as a couple in a somewhat complicated relationship. Zedd also has a few odd appearances himself, which I will attempt to explain later.
            The fact that the relationship between Foxes’ and English’s characters is complicated can be seen immediately. (If you need lyrics, here they are:
            “High dive into frozen waves where the past comes back to life.” This could be a reference to recalling memories, but judging from the rest of the verse, I believe it means that they have once again plunged into something in which they are, unfortunately, experienced in. “Fight fear for the selfish pain it was worth it every time.” As you can see, this is not a onetime thing. Even though they both have their faults and it is a painful road, from the female character’s perspective, it is all worthwhile. This is important to establish as we move into the song. “Hold still right before we crash ‘cause we both know how this ends.” We will soon see the “crash” to which she is referring; she states that in the end they know what the result will be, because they’ve been there. We will have to wait about four minutes. “A clock ticks ‘til it breaks your glass and I drown in you again.” After time, he will let down his guard and pursue after her again, and she will fall for him again.
            By this point in the music video we have been introduced to the major scenery as well as our two characters and their general background. We have seen the foreshadowing of the desert. Note that they are both traveling in their own separate, pretty nice cars. They at this point are satisfied with the way things are. But their initial collision is coming.
            Now the song gets to the climb. “’Cause you are the piece of me I wish I didn’t need.” She wishes she didn’t have to rely on him -- not in a “daddy gotta get me food” sense, but in the sense that they belong together. They know they need each other, but it causes them a lot of heartache. “Chasing relentlessly; Still fight and I don’t know why.” It is he that always is chasing her; not in a Michael Meyers sense, but in a committed relationship that has problems sense. He is the one that every time goes running after her, and she is always trying to fight him. And, well, she doesn’t know why. But so often we do things, especially in this area, that we can’t quite explain.
            You can see the two of them together, but you can also see them apart. All of the drills around Foxes is preparing for the big collision that is about to happen.
            These next two lines are the crux of the song. “If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy?” They may appear to be living a tragedy. Others may proclaim them a failure. But if they are a tragedy then they are each other’s very remedy to the tragedy. If it is a paradox, so be it. If it is impossible, then it must not really be a tragedy. We also have seen, multiple times, the corner building where this couple first meets. Tears rolling down Foxes’ face, which will become even more significant later, can be seen, showing just how hard their relationship is for her.
            “If our love’s insanity why are you my clarity?” Again, she poses a question. If their love is indeed insanity, which is seems to be, and will soon appear even more to be, then why are they the very clarity to that insanity for each other? So as they are the remedy to this tragedy, they are also the only ones that can make sense of the very insanity they have gotten themselves into. Then why do they even bother with each other, you ask? Remember, they need each other.
            Their cars begin to speed up; a couple quick scenes show English and Foxes standing next to each other as if in conversation, showing their first meeting. Then the music video itself really starts to take over the message of the song, to the background of some kickin’ music from Zedd.
            At the end of the chorus, the two cars have a head on collision. They have met for the first time, but it is not any normal meeting. They have been thrown together in violent fashion, and it will take a lot to pull them apart. As Zedd’s “hey”s reverberate in the background, a plethora of violent collisions flash by. There is smoke, fire, sparks, explosions- even glass breaking. These two are now stuck together, but are held together by a struggle that will take a lot out of both of them.
            So why the heck is Zedd in the music video? Yeah, he’s the young guy in the screen of drills (or whatever they are). This was one of the last things I figured out. The relationship is not only hard for Foxes’ character. It is hard for English’s as well. It takes a lot out of both of them, but he receives more of the punishment because it is he that is always chasing. Running is a sport of the young -- seeking is often done by the more mature (not to say every relationship works this way, ladies, but this one in particular does). So when we see Zedd at their point of meeting, what we are actually seeing is the younger version of English’s character. Now I believe that this couple is similar in age, but having to chase after Foxes time and again has aged English. This could just be in the symbolic sense; perhaps if this were a real story, he would look younger. But having to seek his lady has taken its toll on our male character.
            Notice a couple other special objects that have collisions during this segment. The lightbulbs, showing that the relationship is dangerous but still is electric and has a spark. And an eclipse between two blood-colored circular objects (I am not quite sure what they are) right at the end, revealing to us that there was some sort of a semi-stable bond formed as these two became one, although it is still a bloody conflict.
            All the while while the chorus: “If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy? If our love’s insanity why are you my clarity?” (note the namesake of the song, if you did not already) is being repeated, the two lovers are thrown apart. Far apart. Through the sky. My thoughts on the sky is that it is very conspicuous, as is their splitting, likely. That and the crashing down is painful. Regardless, soon after they have been violently thrown together, they are violently thrown apart. Foxes is again seen crying, but this time her tears drop next to her significant other.
            This begins the only other verse and only new lyrics of the song, but they are crucial. Notice the simplicity of the falling tear in contrast to much of the rest of the video. For the next minute and 20 seconds or so, a story is told through the actors alone and the scenery around them, without any additional imagery. The tear of the female character drops next to the male one and rouses him out of his unconsciousness that their fall has caused. Remember, this story is allegorical of the problems in their relationship.
            “Walk on through a red parade and refuse to make amends.” The red parade is a reference to the how their battle has left them. They aren’t currently together, or at least are emotionally and psychologically distant, but they continue to trod on with their daily lives. However, as will soon be seen, they are leaving a trail of blood behind them from the wounds they have received. Despite the pain of this, they refuse to make any changes right now.
            As we can see in this first line, English’s character wakes up in a cavern. A cavern is dark and cold normally. But this one has light. Since there is no natural light in a cavern, there has to be an exit near. Despite them initially seeming to be dreary places, caverns usually have magnificent beauty, as this one does. Still, he is alone.
            “It cuts deep through our ground and makes us forget all common sense.” This can perhaps be seen in the desert at the beginning and soon in this mini-story. Their “parade” of running cuts into the foundation of their relationship and makes them lose their senses -- that they are meant for one another. (This was a really hard line to chew on.)
            Notice the cavern getting larger, growing into a cave. English is nothing compared to its size. He knows he has to get out, not because of any imminent danger, but because he can’t function properly in it by himself.
            This shows a contrast between life in the city and life in the wilderness. The city is where the couple meets; it is where they are happy. Whenever they are in the wilderness (the cavern or desert), that is when the man has to chase the woman.
            “Don’t speak as I try to leave ‘cause we both know what we’ll choose.” A bit easier to understand, she is telling him not to bother to say anything because they know what they will do -- she will run and he will pursue. (I’m sorry that’s such a morbid way to put it, but it is in a positive manner.)
            This line is perfectly timed for when English’s character discovers Foxes in the cavern. Hence why she sings that statement to him in the song. Note the look of both relief and worry on his face. He knows what is about to happen. Her face shows distress. She wants to give in, but her nature has always been to run (“Still fight and I don’t know why”).
            “If you pull then I’ll push too deep and I’ll fall right back to you.” If he does indeed do the pulling, in attempt to get her back, then she will push back, trying to get away. But in doing so she will push too hard, and give up pushing, give up fighting, and come back to him. And you know he will pull.
            It is important to note the physical evidence for their bloody and violent struggle (remembering this is allegorical, they’re not actually abusing each other). English is quite dirty, and both have visible cuts to their faces. After their brief encounter, Foxes’ character runs, as expected. English’s character pursues after her, and this leads him outside the cavern and into the desert.
            After this the song goes back into its climb. The male half of this couple travels a great distance over the desert’s sand dunes, leaving his tracks behind (“cuts deep through our ground”?). The female half is seen a little ways ahead, further distressed than she was before and repeating to herself that she does indeed need him though she wishes she didn’t. English’s character continues his trek across the desert, and comes upon blood on the ground -- further proof of the great struggle they have been in. Not only that, but as Foxes has ran, it has opened up old wounds for her as she remembers what they have went through in the past. However, remembering these and her love for her significant other increases her desire to be found -- which helps English track her better.
            As the chorus begins, English has redoubled his effort, following the footprints of Foxes. Foxes, on the other hand, is getting weaker and beginning to stumble. His willingness to seek her has slowed her down and allowed him to gain on her.
            English crosses dunes high and low. His eagerness to be reunited with his lover is apparent. Foxes continues to walk at a much slower pace and eventually stops. She is ready to be reunited as well, but is too weak to do anything on her own. Plus, it is always he that pursues.
            As the “hey”s ring out, English runs to within view of Foxes. The two finally meet by three pyramids: pyramids provide stable bases in the shifting sands of the desert. They both exchange glances. English must be wondering what her move is going to be, since the last time she ran.
            But this time she falls down. Exhausted from running, and no longer willing to run, she gives in. English’s character immediately takes off toward her. He cares for her. As symbols begin to flood the video again, glass breaks. Everything runs back through its sequence as it did during their first encounter. This flood of emotions begins to reveal itself between the two, as things speed up, come together and break back apart. All the while, Foxes continues to repeat, “Why are you my clarity? Why are you my remedy?” She wonders why it is that he has been chosen for her, and why he is still there for her.
            The two are seen flying apart through the air again. This is not already a separation, but all the memories and emotions that are coming up as they are finally reunited. Another pyramid is seen. The flying eye, also a symbol used by the Egyptians, is visible several times. “The eye in the sky knows all and sees all,” this is similar to the familiar “all-seeing eye”. (Though I would not stretch this to say that Zedd is saying that God is watching over their relationship, he is saying something or someone is.) Lights flash. Zedd himself is seen again, as they remember English’s “younger self”. Now an entire hillside of pyramids is shown, showing more stability as they are moving out of this desert they have been stuck in.
            The blood colored circular shapes move together again and break glass. Now the drills move together. Then the car crash is shown again. They have fully been thrown together once more, having come out of their desert stronger.
            As the chorus begins one final time, the lovers stand face to face as sparks, fire, and explosions continue to occur. It looks like they are again being thrown apart through the sky, but they are actually headed on a collision course for each other. They are back together, inseparable.
            In the final scene (or really two scenes), Foxes and English are in a single convertible now. In one last beautiful piece of symbolism in a brilliantly and obviously pain-stakingly pieced together song, they drive out of a tunnel and appear on a bridge- from the darkness to the high. Neither one are bruised or bloody anymore. Foxes is no longer distressed, but instead stands up to enjoy the breeze, wearing a huge smile. English, keeping his eyes on the road as a good driver should, does turn and look at her, smiling back as the two make eye contact. All is forgiven.
            In the end, it is the female character that doesn’t want this relationship. But she knows she needs it. He brings clarity into the insanity of her romantic life. When she runs, when she pushes, the male character chases her, pulls her back. He is willing to put in the effort to get her every time because he cares about her. Whatever struggles they have, they are happy together. They will work them out because they know they belong together, and come out stronger as a result.

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