Erykah Badu premiered the video for her new single “Window Seat” the other day to a fair Internet furore. The video depicts Badu walking the streets of Dallas as she takes off item by item of clothing until she ends up naked, mock-shot, in a spot near where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
Filmed in one day and one take on March 13, this clip more than anything is an exercise in, and example of, how to do an immediately eye-catching and memorable video with minimum budget and minimum “story.” Not for Badu ostentatious effects or dance routines. She doesn’t even bother to lip-sync to the song, a superior slice of sophisticated soul. Yet it’s easily one of 2010’s most inventive and unique clips. Lady GaGa does the video “event” incredibly well, but Badu really does it equally well here – via a completely different method and effect.
The video has attracted some controversy, but really, is it so controversial? It is 2010. Is the sight of a female nude in 2010 so shocking? Maybe it is, to some. But this video is another example of Badu’s artistic fearlessness and honesty and she deserves some credit for it. The people in the video are not paid actors or extras, they’re real people walking on the same streets at the same time. Badu has said she was “too busy looking for cops” to be embarrassed by her nudity; even when she spotted children, she stuck to her guns and kept on with the take. Again, artistic fearlessness.
Badu has also said of the video: “I’ve been naked all along in my words, actions, and deeds. That’s the real vulnerable place.” That puts into context the absurdity of the furore surrounding a video clip of a naked woman. Of course, there are public decency rules, and Badu has told how some passers-by shouted at her that she should be “ashamed” of herself for stripping in a public place, but I’d hardly deem it overly offensive. It’s a music video. Let’s think about that for a moment.
There’s not necessarily much correlation between the song itself and the video (although Badu has said that the song “is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution”), but ultimately “Window Seat” has the potential to join the ranks of some great iconic video clips. It puts me in mind of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy,” and in its sheer honesty and bravery and raw lack of polish, also recalls Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” As a bid for gaining extra exposure for Badu’s new album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, it’s certainly done its job. A cynical ploy to get attention and album sales? Well, maybe. But it worked.