Tag Archives: frank ocean

Meet the High5Collective, masters of the unofficial video

“We make videos for artists that inspire us.”

That simple credo comes from the High5Collective. If you don’t know their name yet, you soon will. While music video directors CANADA use the traditional, artist-commissioned model, the High5Collective (or H5C) is trying something different: producing high-quality – but unofficial – videos on spec. Coupled with a low-information mystique and a reliance on social media like Tumblr, H5C is firmly in touch with the zeitgeist.

H5C appeared out of nowhere about a month ago, with a video for The Weeknd’s “The Morning.” Like the song, the clip is a lurid tribute to debauchery, complete with half-dressed club rats and expansive shots of the desert. Straying from form, however, is the video’s dip into darkness: a metaphorical take on the psychic damage that the club lifestyle entails.


The collective has also tackled songs by the Internet driven, crew-of-the-moment, Odd Future. H5C’s video for Frank Ocean’s “We All Believe” continues the visual feel of “The Morning,” even if there isn’t as strong a thread from song to video. Like a better version of Rihanna’s “Man Down,” the clip is a tale of assault, revenge, and murder. Again, H5C opts for a sinister narrative and an unsettling conclusion.


Their recently released video for Tyler, the Creator’s “Transylvania” attempts to capture the spirit of the earliest Odd Future clips (notably “EARL“). “Transylvania,” one of the hardest songs on Goblin, is the perfect soundtrack for some wolf gang-esque mayhem: skateboarding, drug-use, underage drinking, violence, theft, and eventually (and predictably), date rape. Like KIDS, it’s shocking because of its verisimilitude.


Rounding out the collective’s output is a clip for Sander Kleinenberg’s electrohouse anthem “T.I.O.N.” The video is straight-forward but effective: one of those mythic parties of youth, with enough oddly colored drinks and sexual experimentation to go around. Also, body paint.


Will the High5Collective be able to convert unofficial videos into official ones? In an age where Kreayshawn gets a $1 million contract after one video goes viral, the right combination of talent and savvy goes a long way. The High5Collective is blessed with both.

Video Rundown: Brenmar / The Weeknd / Tyler the Creator

Here are three new videos that challenge the concept of sexuality in the format. Audiences are used to dancers, models, and objects of affection in clips; what happens when these sex objects are taken out of their element?

Brenmar – Taking It Down

The video for Brenmar’s “Taking It Down” flips the concept of the lap dance: the dancer keeps her clothes on as she takes off Brenmar’s… hair. Intercut with scenes from a dreamlike, after-hours rave in the barber shop, the clip complements the Marques Houston-sampling slice of rhythm and bass. Who knew a straight razor shave could be so sexy?

The Weeknd – The Morning

From the High 5 Collective comes another unofficial – yet slickly produced – video for a song by the Weeknd. Like the clip for “What You Need,” this one for “The Morning” features semi-dressed club girls during the morning after. But as these four wander home from partying in the desert, things take a turn for the weird. Models, cocaine, the Devil – what doesn’t this video have?


Tyler the Creator – She (feat. Frank Ocean)

Odd Future has come a long way from lo-fi skate videos. The clip for Tyler’s “She” actually has a narrative, albeit an OFWGKTA-approved one about stalking and violence. Tyler (who also directed) appears as the ski-mask and Supreme clad Goblin, stalking Frank Ocean’s girlfriend. The twisted tale of high school devotion ends with Tyler smiling and practically winking at the camera, acknowledging that the video – and the Odd Future MO – are both fantasies.

Video Rundown: Creep / James Blake / Frank Ocean

Here are a trio of videos that start to fill in the blanks around buzzworthy – yet mysterious – artists.

With only one official release to their name (“Days”), it was difficult to pinpoint the sound of CREEP; it takes more than a single point to define an artist. But with the release of the video for “You,” the points are beginning to form a line.

The video for “You” is a study in duality, in the same way that the’s goth-tinged R&B balances light and dark. The stark, black and white clip intersperses images of both duos responsible for the song – CREEP and twin sister vocalists Nina Sky. CREEP is mostly shown in silhouette or out-of-focus, practically stalking Nina Sky down an otherworldy hallway. There is a sensuality to the clip that matches its eeriness; what’s with the stigmata imagery?

Somehow, the video for James Blake‘s “Lindisfarne” is creepier than Creep’s offering. The mellow, finger-picked song is accompanied by an uneasy, almost cultish video. Who are these misfit toys, with their strange rituals, both corporeal and metaphorical? I’m guessing most viewers will find the literal spit swapping gross, not nostalgic; this generation didn’t have the liberty of becoming blood brothers, or using any other bodily-fluid-swapping bonding. Still, the feelings of abuse and loss in a clip that – at first glance – could be out of a British coming of age film, are quite surprising.

Nothing about Frank Ocean or his associates in Odd Future is predictable, so when he released “Acura Integurl” as the lead video for Nostalgia, Ultra (instead of “Novacane”), no one should have been surprised. Despite not appearing on the mixtape version of the album, the piano ballad is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

The impossibly lush video features Ocean, lovelorn and driving an Acura down the highway. The video effects that obscure the rising heartthrob serve only to increase the mystery and allure that surround him. Nostalgia, Ultra is set to be re-released on May 31, after which he should be able to buy the video’s sports car.


The limits of genres: thoughts on Frank Ocean and The Weeknd

For the last month, two of the most buzzed about artists have been Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Both are previously-unknown musicians who released free mixtapes to quick critical praise: Nostalgia, Ultra and House of Balloons, respectively. Both are associated with fan favorites, as well: Frank Ocean with OFWGKTA and The Weeknd with Drake.

But in an unfortunate turn, both artists have been pigeonholed as “hipster R&B” or the more derisive “PBR&B.” The incessant need to tag nascent sounds with quirky genre names is nothing new (see: witch house, chillwave), but with this particular sound and name, it’s even more controversial than ever. Some have called it offensive, as Jozen Cummings did in The Awl, suggesting that:

Calling it “hipster R&B” is a nice way of saying it’s R&B that white people like (black hipsters notwithstanding), and here’s my problem with that: It’s myopic, lazy, and it sounds to me like a form of musical segregation that’s not entirely based on genre.

This is a similar issue to one I’ve thought about for some time (and wrote about when reviewing Janelle Monae): the inability or unwillingness of the music industry to classify and market black artists who don’t fit comfortably in the hip hop and R&B pigeonholes. For Cummings and others, the problem is calling Frank Ocean and The Weeknd R&B solely because they’re black, while white artists who mix the same influences are not.

In this case, I’m not totally sure that’s the problem. I hear R&B influences, however diffused, in the work of Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, in the same way I hear them in The XX and James Blake. However, I agree with Cummings’ conclusion, even if we are on different sides of the issue:

If we want to have a real discussion about R&B—where it’s at, where it’s going, who is doing it right, who is doing it weird, and who is really not doing it at all no matter what the critics say—let’s talk about all of these artists.

For some (I think Cummings included), the problem is that there is more traditional R&B being passed over in favor of these genre-defiers. My main problem with “hipster R&B” and “PBR&B” is that they denigrate the music without actually describing the sound. “Hipsters” and “PB&R” give a mise en scène separate from the music, and as limiting as genre classifications can be, shouldn’t they at least focus on the music?

Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra is brash and inventive, in an entirely different way than the rest of the Odd Future crew. Apart from the “Hotel California” and “Electric Feel” samples (“American Wedding,” “Nature Feel”), the compositions are original and run the gamut from sweeping ballads (“Strawberry Swing”) to soulful throwbacks (“Lovecrimes”).


From The Weeknd (the mysterious Abel Tesfaye) comes House of Balloons, which owes as much to xx as it does to So Far Gone. The downtempo mixtape finds Tesfaye crooning about hip hop trappings in a way that feels more natural than when done by emo rappers. The weeping guitar line and punchy drum and bass combo of “The Morning” are representative, but one hopes Tesfaye has another “What You Need” up his sleeve: whatever you call it, music needs songs that dark and sexy.


Download: Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra
Download: The Weeknd – House of Balloons