What do you need to make a video that really stays with people in the Instagram age? Expensive lighting? A jaw-dropping location (perhaps a scenic vista or a grimy, fear-inducing cavern)? A bunch of attention-grabbing guest stars and protagonists, and a treasure chest full of sparkling designer bling?
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Absolutely none of it. In a time when we’re constantly being reminded that there’s no money in music, unlike the good old days, Kim Gordon is here to prove you don’t need to spend bucketloads of cash to make something funny, smart and engaging to accompany your songs. Her video for ‘Air BnB’ is all three of those things, hooking you early on and making you wonder what’s going to happen next, all without using any images at all.
“This video was going to be shot in an Air Bnb,” it begins, white typeface glaring out from a black void as it explains the pretty obvious starting treatment for a song with its title. “There wasn’t any money though to make it.” While the idea of someone as legendary as Gordon, a former member of Sonic Youth and noise rock hero, not having the budget to go all out – or even halfway there – on a four-minute music video is sad, it has gifted us this, a prime contender for one of the videos of the year.
Using only the written word, ‘Air BnB’ effortlessly dismantles the standard tropes you find in music videos these days – arty black-and-white, pristine luxury homes, women crawling around and rubbing up against things – all while taking a swipe at society’s desire for Instagram-ready, obsessively curated habitats. No opinion is explicitly expressed about any scene of the proposed video, but the tone of the track itself, serrated, barked, and disdainful, suggests Gordon isn’t losing any sleep about not getting to shoot in a “faux mid-century modern on the top of the Hollywood Hills”.
The video’s comedy is in both the details and the timing. Its points are laboured over and the narration is broken up into bites, flashed up on screen one at a time. “It’s black and white,” we’re told a minute in. “All the décor in the living room.” New screen. “The couch…” New screen. “the artwork”. New screen. “The tables are either black or white.” New screen. “The artwork is black and white.” New screen. “The dog is back and white.” New screen.
By the time it gets to the part where Gordon is describing her rubbing her guitar on the couch, the floor, the lights, the chair, the walls, it feels like you’re in a conversation with her and her only. You can picture her explaining how she would take off her red leather cape “at some point” flippantly and with a shrug, and that’s where its genius lies. The imagery she’s taking down often keeps us at arm’s length – here’s what you could have, how your life could be – but she’s inviting us in.