powerful in pink: 5 music videos embracing 'radical softness'
Be prepared to feel all the feels.
Screenshot via YouTube
A rising crop of artists are challenging outdated ideas like "pink is just for girls" and "only wimps cry" by taking part in the internet-birthed aesthetic "radical softness." The recently-coined term refers to works of art with an unabashed focus on emotionality. Take a quick scroll through the radical softness tag on Tumblr and you'll see "pretty" things like flowers, teddy bears, and pastel colors act as prominent motifs. People are using the aesthetic to curate profiles filled with dainty pictures, softly lit selfies, and emotional quotes. It's "the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and [a] way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness," poet and artist Lora Mathis (one of the aesthetic's most popular participants) explained in a 2015 interview. Over the past two years, the aesthetic has touched almost every crevice of pop culture — from sharing poetry on Instagram to millennial pink Stan Smiths.
Perhaps the biggest medium radical softness has dominated is the pop video. One of the strongest examples of radical softness came in the form of Solange's "Cranes in the Sky" visual last year. There Solange sits in the opening frame, wearing a ruffled, hushed-pink jacket that looks softer than a cloud. As the soul singer croons about battling depression and coming out stronger (while existing peacefully in nature) she drives home the core message of radical softness: there is strength to be found in fragility.
Artists like Kesha and Selena Gomez have also been illustrating this to the world with their candy-hued videos. Fans think an eating disorder served as Selena Gomez's inspiration for the "Fetish" music video. Directed by Petra Collins, the pop star sticks a variety of objects in her mouth, including a detergent-blue bar of soap and an eyelash curler. In the end, however, there's a strange beauty to "Fetish": it shows that everyone tackles personal demons during their off time, even pop stars.
In a world where boys are continually told to "toughen up," here are five visuals that remind us it's okay — and powerful — to be soft sometimes.
Chance the Rapper - "Same Drugs"
Directed by Jake Schreir, Chance and a human-sized puppet perform a ballad at a piano together in "Same Drugs." As cute as the puppet may be, "Same Drugs" is actually pretty depressing. "Where did you go to end up right back here," the Chicago rapper sings. "When did you start to forget how to fly?" *Heart pang.*
Adding the sweet to bittersweet, cuteness runs amok in the video. It's shot in a nostalgia-inducing square ratio, there's a 70s-esque magenta backdrop, and, when the song hits its gospel-tinged crescendo, snowflakes rain down. It's rare to see any popular artist stock their video with puppets, much less a black male currently reigning the testosterone-heavy world of rap. Chance's choice to populate his video with furry creatures goes beyond aesthetics, though. Most rappers just want to be seen as rich, sexy, and intimidating. But in "Same Drugs," Chance just wants to be cute and vulnerable.
Charli XCX - "Boys"
In this video, Charli XCX flips the male gaze around. However, unlike most video vixens, these "video boys" are allowed to be carefree. What results is a video free of toxic masculinity and one filled with scenes of boys just being boys. Featuring cameos from Joe Jonas, Diplo, and Tom Daley, Charli's #MCMs gluttonously take part in all the things society discourages young boys from doing (like, playing teddy bears, wearing pink, and dousing themselves in glitter). With its catchy refrain, "Boys" shows that radical softness can actually be kind of sexy. Take note, boys.
Selena Gomez - "Fetish"
Selena Gomez lets the public grab a voyeuristic seat in "Fetish." The video begins blissfully, Gomez walking around suburbia wearing a vintage yellow dress and holding a bag full of groceries. But things quickly spiral downward, the pop star violently smashing around dishes and food in her kitchen. In the vid, Gomez does things that most people would rather keep behind closed doors. As a viewer, you frequently feel pangs of shame for sitting back and watching Gomez perform such personal, raw moments to the world. But that's exactly the point. Women are rarely allowed to demonstrate such a blatant lack of inhibition when it comes to expressing how they feel.
Lil Yachty - "Keep Sailing"
In this 14-minute long docu-musical film, Lil Yachty recounts the story of his atmospheric rise to fame. Directed by Petra Collins again, the dreamy, blurred visual mixes reality and fantasy. It includes honest interviews with those close to Yachty and documents him getting his Kool-Aid red braids done. The fantasy enters in the form of Yachty acting as myriad slapstick characters, becoming an old man with a red mustache. Shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio (which is now associated with iPhone vids), "Keep Sailing" possess a poignant and charming amateur touch to it.
"I was probably the popularest kind on campus, but in the worst way," Lil Yachty says during one of the video's "real" sections. "I was a laughingstock. I was a joke because of my hair."
Coming from a rapper who delivers lines like, "I can't love no bitch, every single ho is trife," Yachty allowing a female to capture 14 minutes of pure vulnerability and joy from him is a pretty big deal.
Lady Gaga - "Million Reasons"
Gaga has always explored the dichotomy between the manic euphoria of good times ("Just Dance," "Telephone") and the depressive lows that commonly follows them ("Dope," "Speechless"). But in "Million Reasons," Gaga really goes for it by picking up where she left off with "Perfect Illusion" (dancing in the desert, hallucinating a rager, and then passing out). She lays there on the desert floor, completely spent. What follows is a group of fans suddenly appearing and picking Gaga up, carrying her into a black SUV and embracing her as she lets it all out. It's Gaga saying she depends on her fans, not the glitz and the glamour, to get through life. And if someone who wore a meat dress feels insecure sometimes, then who doesn't?
"Million Reasons" is one of the most subdued visuals Gaga has given the world. It's simple: the star playing her guitar and singing about using prayer to regain emotional strength. After wearing bras that shoot fire and pepsi cans as hair rollers, and creating schizophrenic dance anthems, Gaga shows us that maybe the most shocking thing you can do in today's loud landscape is this: be yourself.
Also, peep that head-to-toe millennial pink outfit.