Monday, 11 February 2013

'Now' music video analysis

Paramore recently released the music video for their new single 'Now', directed by the amazing Daniel Cloud Campos. You can watch the video below if you haven't already seen it. I decided to analyse the video for 'Now', just in case anyone needs some help in grasping its meaning!

From the very opening shot, we are presented with two opposing forces:
Paramore (represented by Hayley) and the enemy who constantly tries to take them down (represented by a character that director Daniel Cloud Campos refers to as the Captain).

Both of them are still, just waiting for the other to make their move. The Captain reacts first by throwing a grenade at Hayley. Hayley doesn't react to this display of violence, other than closing her eyes to brace herself from the blast. There's been a number of comments about her make-up in the video. It's very bare, probably to reflect her vulnerability and honesty at this present moment in time. As for the bleached eyebrows and white mascara/eyeliner, I think it was used in order to limit the amount of facial expressions Hayley could make in the video, although someone has also suggested that it was used to mimic the effect of Maalox. Maalox is supposed to help reduce the effect of teargas, but can result in the side-effect of white paste covered eyes. Either way, the make up hints that Hayley is trying to hide her pain (regardless of whether the pain takes the form of facial expressions or tears) from the world.

It's only through this act of violence that the music starts. The harmony is destroyed, and the chaos begins.

The blast has clearly knocked Hayley unconscious, and when she regains consciousness, she realises that an all out war has erupted. It's anarchy, with strange figures attacking each-other with batons. The batons, the attire... it all indicates that the enemy are in fact riot police. Of course, the band have strong ties with the word riot, their second album was named 'Riot!' due to the way the creative energy during the album's creation seemed to burst out of them uncontrollably. So here we are, six years later, where instead of helping to strengthen the band and their relationship with their fans, a riot is threatening to tear it all apart. 

Hayley is just lying on the ground whilst all of this goes on around her, not making any effort to stand up and stop what is happening, or even defend herself. It's not until Jeremy hurries over to check that she is okay that Hayley allows herself to sit up. 

Jeremy doesn't wait around to help her up fully however, even though the way Hayley grabs hold of his jacket indicates that she would like him to stay. Jeremy quickly runs off to try tackling one of the enemies, only to be cast aside. 

The enemy turns his attention on Hayley, who is still in a vulnerable state on the ground. She doesn't want to fight him. She just looks up at him in despondency. He sees how vulnerable she is, and seems to appreciate the way that she chooses not to fight back, slowly lowering his baton, no longer wanting to threaten her. Taylor helps his friend out by tackling the guy, just in case he changes his mind. He also helps pick her up. She wouldn't be standing right now if it weren't for Jeremy and Taylor.

Hayley looks hurt and confused by the chaos happening around her. She spots the Captain from across the battlefield, and begins to walk towards him, not consumed by hatred or vengeance. She is calm and collected. Despite explosions and savage beatings happening feet away from her. She knows what she has to do to stop the fighting, and sets about to do it.

Whilst Hayley's walking towards the Captain, the fighting doesn't stop. In fact, the enemy would love nothing more than to drag Hayley into it. Countless men go to beat Hayley, with someone diving in to prevent them from doing so each and every time they try to do so. Hayley doesn't even flinch whilst this is happening.

It's then that Hayley makes her first attempt to fight back... with powdered smoke. I consider it to be symbolic of creativity and love. She's not going to fight back with words or actions, she's going to fight back in a constructive manner, by using the struggles she's faced to fuel her art. The low angle looking up at Hayley in the sunlight as the light the flare shows just how powerful she is for choosing this method of 'fighting back' rather than violence. Some of the enemies are struggling to breathe due to the smoke, and take off their armour accordingly. Soon, all of the allies are using this approach.

The gas masked enemies represent what I believe to be the people who  refuse to listen to what the band have to say, and won't stop until they no longer have to press their fingers against their ears to do so. The ones with such hatred in their hearts, that they cannot stand the toxic fumes of love, and therefore need to take special precautions in order to take the people who release those fumes down.

The fighting escalates. Hayley is still focused on the figure of the Captain. One of the enemies makes a grab for her and only manages to get her coat. They are trying to strip her down to her core, and Hayley will allow them to do so. She staggers on, with holes in her clothing. Her battle gear is the clothes she's wearing just now. She's not dressed for battle because she didn't anticipate one.

The fighting really begins to get bloody at this point. Powdered smoke fills the air, the same powdered smoke that is representative of the blood lost during this horrific fight. Jeremy gets hits and stream of it comes out. Same with Taylor. All of the allies lose some blood at the hands of the enemies, and Hayley is seen getting increasingly distressed by this carnage. The allies are all thrown to the ground, Jeremy and Taylor included, and it seems as though all hope is lost. 

Hayley gets hit on the back of the head with such force that it brings her to her knees. But it's not an expression of physical pain that is spread on her face. It's that of emotional pain. It looks like she can't take anymore of this. She looks around nervously in an attempt to find her bandmates, who just stare at her helplessly.

"There's a time and a place to die, but this ain't it" Hayley sings, as she leaps to her feet and charges towards the Captain. She won't submit to this violence and hurt. She's not going to stand around and watch the people she loves get hurt anymore. She's going to do something about it...

She gets captured by two enemies before she can carry on much further however, much to the dismay of Jeremy and Taylor. All three of them fight furiously against this force, fighting not for their own freedom, but for their right to protect their friends. The Captain gets out his baton, ready to strike Hayley with the fatal blow. He looks furious. Merciless. 

Hayley manages to break free from the enemies grip by losing another layer of clothes, which represents the way she is emotionally exposing herself and making herself vulnerable by doing what she does next.

In an unexpected turn, Hayley embraces the Captain. If you look closely, the colours of the video seem to perk up, as if the world has brightened, or become a more vibrant place, due to her display of love. Everyone looks confused. How could she embrace a man so desperate to hurt her and her friends? But as the baton slides out of the Captain's hands and to the floor, we realise that it has worked. This one act of forgiveness has stopped the fighting. Jeremy is overcome with a sense of relief. Taylor seems delighted that he no longer has to fight. And in the middle of it all? Hayley and the Captain in an embrace, featuring a background reminiscent of a sunrise. We’ve entered into a new dawn.

She grips tightly onto the Captain's jackets, hands covered in what is symbolic of her blood in this video, also symbolic for the one positive thing this fighting has resulted in: the release of creativity. Her facial expression in the initial shots of her during the embrace is still that of hurt. One small gesture of kindness and forgiveness in the face of a series of abuse will not erase the wounds inflicted during it, but it's a start. And it's the first chapter in a new story, a story that does not include hatred or fighting.

The two armies

I think that one of the most recurring questions fans tend to have about the video is who the enemy represents, and more specifically, who the Captain represents. There are a number of different theories, the main ones being that he represents Josh or the media who seem so willingly to rip the band apart with their negativity.

Either way, it's safe to say, the Captain is the epitome of negativity, and fighting only helps fuel his burning desire to rip the band to pieces. It's like that classic Martin Luther King Jr. quote: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that." You can fight and fight against this force, but it will only fuel more attacks. It's only by opening up your heart and showing that you're willing to embrace the flaws of the person sending this landslide of negativity your way that you will stop this madness. 

In general, I believe that the enemy are a mixed bunch. I think that they are made up of the media who try to cash in on the band's pain over the past few years, the friends who have sadly turned into enemies and just plain haters who would love to see Paramore fail, for no apparent reason. Who knows? Maybe there's even a bit of self-hatred there too. Regardless, he army trying to oppose Paramore are a negative force, not caring who they hurt.

I believe that the allies represent another mixed bunch, made up predominately by us: the fans. Fans, friends, family... anyone who has tried to protect Paramore and its members over the past few years could qualify as being one of the allies. The way the allies will hurl themselves at the enemy to protect Hayley as she makes her way through the battlefield initially made me think of the way fans will throw themselves wholeheartedly into protecting the people they look up to. Hence why the allies fight with the coloured smoke. We're not here to start fights, we're here to fuel the band's creativity and protect their well-being with our love for its members.

Powdered smoke

The powdered smoke could represent a number of things: creativity, life, love, or more literally, the blood of the allies that has been spilt during this fierce battle. If you want it's intended meaning, director Daniel Cloud Campos wrote this message on his instagram below a photo of silhouettes in the smoke:
"Smoke of love. Toxic to those who have hate in their hearts."
Daniel Cloud Campos wanted it to represent love, but really, it could symbolise anything, as long as it’s positive. 

If you have any questions about the video, feel free to leave them in the comments box below, and I’ll see if I can answer them for you.

Sorry for the long-winded analysis. I’m doing a course on television production and I like to be thorough!


Anonymous said...

Good analysis lauren. A bit "Wordy" for a short video, but good nevertheless. To me i think the video summaries the will of forgiveness and how hard it is to forgive...when others settle it with fight, when mercy is Not an option anymore....intil that one "David" trys to reason with the "Goliath"(in the opposite direction). Well thatz my thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

As for the video itself....very heart-warming ending, brilliant storytelling, Taylor's face and Jeremy's awesome tackling.

Francy said...

Awesome, you were really thorough and I loved reading it.. I have to admit I didn't understand anything at all of what the real meaning of the video was. It took me 4 hours to read it all because I'm italian and I don't understand very well, but it was really worth it! THANK YOU SO MUCH :D
Just one thing, I noticed that in the video the two colors, orange and blue are in opposition (orange represents love, creativity, as you said, while blue represents coldness and aloofness of the people), and they are also complementary colors, and this increases the opposition... Anyway thank you so much, again, it was really useful :)

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