Atwood Magazine’s Viewfinder column revolves around music videos, and how a piece of music is synergistically enhanced by well-produced visuals.
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With the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, it has never been easier to explore different countries and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Naturally, many artists have embraced social media as a direct way of connecting with fans, providing an unprecedented look at the person behind the music. Still, most celebrities and influencers opt to maintain an extremely cultivated image, only posting carefully selected images or tweets.
However, it seems like most up-and-coming artists know how to expertly straddle the line between being too guarded and oversharing, interspersing professionally shot photos or promotional materials with more personal, off-the-cuff content. Sometimes, this unguarded nature also extends to the artist’s work and seeps into their lyrics. While some artists purposefully keep their lyrics vague, Jessie Reyez and Amber Mark have both shared deeply personal songs that are also reflected in their accompanying visuals.
On her debut EP Kiddo, Jessie Reyez weaves intensely intimate lyrics over seven tracks spanning a gamut of styles. Not one to underestimate the power of visuals,
Reyez has released a video for all the songs off Kiddo except the 43 second “Colombian King and Queen” skit. Like the tracks on her EP, her videos range in style from the unsettling “Shutter Island” and sobering “Gatekeeper,” to the more light-hearted video for “Blue Ribbon.”
Reyez worked with director Peter Huang on three of the moodier visuals, collaborating on the videos for “Shutter Island,” “Great One,” and the standout short film for “Gatekeeper.” The recently released video for “Great One” is perhaps her most uplifting one yet, and was shot in Cali, Colombia, where Reyez’s family is from.
Watch: “Great One” – Jessie Reyez
In a “Vevo Footnotes” video, Reyez explains that the plot for the “Great One” video was based on a series of dreams experienced by Reyez and her family members in which they had conversations with people who had passed away. According to the “Vevo Footnotes” video, Huang was also inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, a novel written in the magical realist style which is also set in Colombia and contains themes of family and spirituality.
Reyez clarified that her video was meant to convey the message of “expressing gratitude for the people in your life,” which perfectly complements the lyrics “Everything is nothing without you” that she sings repeatedly throughout the track.
Like Reyez, singer and producer Amber Mark released her debut EP 3:33am in 2017. Having spent time in New York, Germany, Brazil, India, and Nepal, Mark’s tracks are an amalgamation of the cultures and musical styles accrued from her nomadic upbringing. This multicultural melting pot of sounds is what makes Mark’s music so refreshing and hard to categorize; sitars and eastern melodic scales sit at the same table as synths and house beats.
In an interview with Noisey, Mark revealed that her biggest musical influence is her mother, stating “My mother definitely plays a big role in my life and in my work. The majority of what I’ve created has to do with her passing and how I dealt with losing the most important person in my life. It’s almost an ode to her.”
Of all the tracks on 3:33am, “Monsoon” is perhaps the most overt tribute to her mother. The song starts off slow, over lingering piano chords and the sound of rain, before fully blossoming with upbeat layers of percussion, vocal harmonies, and sitar riffs. It also features touching snippets of her mother talking interwoven throughout the latter half of song.
Directed by Joe Alexander, the video accompanying the track is no less poignant. Inspired by Mark and her late mother’s previous travels through Rajasthan, India, it’s a kaleidoscopic riot of color dedicated to her mother. In an interview with Fader, Mark said “When I wrote “Monsoon,” I always imagined the music video being shot in India. The song had so much to do with my time in India with my mother as well as leaving her in India during the monsoon season to visit my family in NY.”
Watch: “Monsoon” – Amber Mark
In both videos, the viewer is taken on a journey of discovery as we wander through a city with the artists who act as virtual tour guides. The videos show vibrant aspects of the Colombian and Indian cultures. We watch as Reyez dances with her uncle to a performing cumbia band, and as Mark celebrates the Holi festival with people on the street. Both videos also pinpoint the weight of cultural heritage and family on a person’s identity, asserting that we would be nothing without the love of our family.
Instead of shying away from heavy topics that have impacted their lives, Reyez and Mark seem to be part of a new crop of talent making gripping music by drawing from intensely personal experiences. In the process of creating their music, they’ve stayed grounded and grateful. Having already made waves with their EPs, their future in the music industry looks very bright.
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