A Pulsating Hotline Bling

Talia Tabbara analyses the music video for Hotline Bling.

Released on Monday 20th October, Drake’s Hotline Bling music video was already resounding. Set at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, the video’s almost instant phenomenon comes as no surprise. Already the video appears to have inspired a series of memes and parodies, even casting a shadow on the Star Wars VII trailer that was released the same day.

Before commenting on the choreography, lets get to the source of the craze: the power of music videos today.

Why is videography a vital tool in fortifying something that is meant to strictly be a sensory experience? It is because we need to make sense of everything we see or hear. Videography helps us construct a story, one that we then associate to ourselves one way or another. The images that help us make sense of the music become ingrained in our memory, creating a new dimension to the sound.

So what is it about Drake’s moves in particular that have gotten everyone hypnotized? He exposes dancing taboos. He effortlessly marks time, except he’s not quite in time, he rejects the notion of dancing to anyone’s beat, not even his own. Drake sets new dancing standards and makes turtlenecks look sleek. Indeed his choreography is minimalistic and approachable. It’s rather refreshing to have someone as big as Drake dance like the majority of us, leaving behind a constructed choreography that would have most people shy away. It appeals to the masses because it represents the masses.

The song itself embodies a combination of music genres. There’s a faint background of ska riff that combines elements of Carribean mento and blues. This is reminiscent of the 2Tone era of The Specials band. But much predominant is the indelible riff of the Hammond organ that is sampled from Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Be Together”. Another song overlap is with D.R.A.M’s “Cha Cha”. Drake appears to have acknowledged this, equating his “creative process” to the modern rap equivalent of a dancehall artist recording his own spin on a hot riddim.

In the words of Ebe, a third year theology student “the video has a visually striking aesthetic”. Indeed, the fuchsia backdrop to Drake’s suave yet clumsy moves is a smooth reference to the hotline ladies who seem to be running the show. The contrasts between the neon lighting and Drake’s very organic moves only accentuate the paradox of needing to call a hotline to receive a basic human necessity, love and care.

The setting appears to be an echo to James Turrell’s “Breathing Light”, an art installation designed to entirely eliminate the viewer’s depth perception. The room seemingly lit by a pink rectangular orb with no defined boundaries cannot be described in literal terms. The most accurate description of standing in front of “Breathing Light” is to liken it to walking into clouds of colour.

The tonality is so immersive, that all rules of space and perspective are erased, replaced by the illusion of a pink mist. There is nothing concrete to grasp on to. There is only light. The idea of fleeting feelings in Drake’s video is accentuated by the ladies’ fleeting appearance, leaving us begging for more as Drake awaits the Hotline Bling.

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