Art or Insensitivity?

Pop is expected to be easy. You hear a song once and you know the story almost instantly. However, when it deviates from the norm and becomes complex, it’s difficult to delve past the surface.

My initial exposure to Anohni’s “Drone Bomb Me” was a viewing of the music video and after watching, I was confused. The video clearly wants to emphasize pain. Throughout the beginning scenes of the video when Noami Campbell is sitting in the chair her expression is one of manic glee – happiness for finally ending her pain. There is symbolism in who Naomi Campbell plays. Maybe I read too much into the video, but you clearly see her wearing a Rosary and thorny headpiece, which could to be a reference to Jesus. Campbell symbolizes a desire to end pain with the sacrifice of her life so that others will not have to? There is also the unmissable depiction of the cross when Campbell horizontally outstretches her arms. All in all, there is something unsettling about this video.

Listening for the first time, I thought the song was about tragic love and perhaps there is truth in that assumption, but my scope was too small. My initial thought was that the song had been inspired by Anohni’s struggle dealing with the reminder of lost love – relief could only be reached by death, and more specifically death by drone. It was a morbid conclusion, but the video was anything but optimistic, so I thought my superficial interpretation was correct. Operating under this pretense, the song did not sit well with me. How could Anohni (and all those involved)  be so insensitive? To wish for a drone bomb was disrespectful and inappropriate.

Turns out, Anohni isn’t insensitive. The song represents the bleak and desperate yearnings of a girl living in Afghanistan who has witnessed the death and destruction of her family members as the result of drone bombings. There is nothing else for this girl, but to wish for the very same fate as her family. The music video, although visually beautiful (Riccardo Tisci is the creative director), does not explicitly indicate the true source of inspiration, but now that I’m aware of Anohni’s political message, I can listen to the song and try to build a sliver of understanding and empathy.

The “Drone Bomb Me,” music video is below. I will take the week to listen to the rest of the album and organize my thoughts. Clearly, I’m late in reviewing this album, but I know it will be moving and I’d love for us to share whatever feelings surface while listening.