Anohni‘s live performance of her jaggedly political, yet polished electro-pop album Hopelessness shared many of the album’s intriguing dualities: presenting danceable music but denying the audience the catharsis of seeing her face or connecting to live performers; placing a music-less intro of Naomi Campbell slow-dancing — which lasted so long it started to seem cruel — in front of the performance everyone was anticipating; having the only noteworthy visual be the very confrontational image of women — and mostly women of color — crying on a giant screen as they lip-synced her lyrics. Her just-released “Crisis” video is all footage from one such session: a performer named Storm Lever emotively mouths the lyrics and begins crying in close-up midway through.
But when stripped of the dualities of trying to bring tension and confrontation to the mass excitement and release of concerts — and without the added complexity of Anohni appearing as a veiled, faceless figure — the music video alone starts to illuminate some of the qualities of the performance that were frustrating without the artistic payoff: predominantly the uncomfortable sense of ventriloquy of the women onscreen and the heavy-handedness of the series of tears accompanying the protest music. (Naomi Campbell also cried — a lot — in the video for “Drone Bomb Me.”)
Similarly, “Crisis” the song works because through Anohni’s consistent “I’m sorry-s'” — uttered to people in the Middle East whose families have been killed with drones — there seems to be a self-aware sense of the insufficiency, smallness and failure accompanying the complete earnestness of the words, “I’m sorry.” I’m not sure if the video entirely captures that complex aspect of it.
Anohni said in a statement accompanying the video (shared on Pitchfork):
De-escalation cannot occur until we truly account for what the United States has done. I wanted to model what that might look like on a personal level as an American citizen. There is an unspoken sense that the atrocities our country has committed in the Middle East are too grave to really acknowledge or account for. And yet for peace to really take hold, there is no other road forward.
Still, regardless of what you may think of the video, or what the video says about the song, the song alone remains arrestingly potent.
Here’s the video: