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6 Short Films Based Around Music

Pictured: Dijon

Many times in reading reviews of films or TV shows, you hear a cliche that is so vague it's hardly a compliment: “The music is almost its own character.” While it can be true in certain films, it can also diminish the music’s role as an independent art form. The relationship between music and film is usually seen as the auditory aiding the visual, as it is most commonly employed. Some artists have flipped this dynamic, using long form visuals as a way to better contextualize their music for their audience. Below are six short films created by musical artists that achieve the goal of full artistic expression through cooperating mediums, taking advantage of the strong, mutually-beneficial relationship between music and film. Even if their acting skills are lacking in some instances, these artists provide a 3D vision for their art like few other artists can accomplish.

UMI – “Introspection 🦋 The Movie” 

“I’m like a main character in my own story, but a background character in other people’s.” UMI goes on to characterize this feeling as introspection, an idea that became central to the Seattle artist’s 2020 EP of the same name. True to her own words, UMI spends time as both the main character and supportive friend in the 15 minute film. From pastures to beaches to parties and bedrooms, the setting of “Introspection” is as free-flowing as the 6-song project that inspires it. Interworking the tracks into scenes, the narrative of the film is served by UMI’s intricate lyrics and moody production. Giving listeners a better idea of where introspection is employed in her mind makes UMI a more relatable artist to those paying attention.

The Weeknd – "After Hours"

For as cinematic as The Weeknd’s music sounds, it's only right that some visual aid helps round out the respective narratives. The Weeknd’s love for story-telling has always been present in his lyrics and short form music videos, but he raised the stakes in preparation for his 2020 album After Hours. Complete with an alter-ego starring in the film, the promotional video features the encapsulating sonics of the project echoing through the streets of a seemingly deserted city. Following this ominous character from his performance at the Jimmy Kimmel Show, a pseudo-horror arc begins as The Weeknd, battered and bloodied, wonders through subway stations and empty sidewalks. A proper stage-setter for the album, “After Hours (Short Film)” is The Weeknd’s first, but certainly not his last, attempt at uniting his music with his clear interest in Hollywood extracurriculars.

H.E.R. – "Every Kind Of Way"

Everyone loves a classic love story. Who better to narrate these centuries-old tales than one of R&B’s brightest young stars? Following the release of self-titled album in 2017, H.E.R. united with Sean Frank to incorporate both true stories of connection and manufactured dramas. Standout tracks from the project soundtrack the film, including “Jungle,” “Focus,” and “Say It Again.” An ambitious project for a young artist that has proven to have large aspirations, the film brings a sense of reality to the lyrics found throughout H.E.R. Representative of relationships of all kind, “Every Kind of Way” is neither self-serving nor distracted. It reflects the album accurately and compellingly, tempting listeners to return to the album to hear these stories from H.E.R.’s perspective at the film’s end.

Twenty88 – "Out Of Love"

In many ways, Twenty88’s 2016 short film “Out Of Love '' is evocative of 2021’s Zendaya-starring Malcolm and Marie. To begin “Out Of Love,” Big Sean and Jhené Aiko attend an awards ceremony in which they are recognized several times for their work. Tensions build amid celebratory speeches and glances are shared with fellow competitors, only for them to be relieved in the following scene. The remaining 10 minutes of the film explores the couple’s respective careers in a fictional universe, where conflicts continue to appear seemingly out of nowhere. It is reflective of many relationships, with passive aggressive gestures and lapses in communication complicate an obvious intimate connection. While its true life imitates art, the inverse can be just as inspiring.

Dijon - “Absolutely (Film)”

It’s hard to imagine Dijon’s 2021 album Absolutely becoming any more intimate than the recording itself provides. Listening to the project through headphones, you get a sense for the authenticity of the songs recorded; at times, it feels as if you’re in the studio with him and his band. Lighting strikes twice for Dijon with the release of “Absolutely (Film).” The footage seems to be an unfiltered, unscripted recording of the band performing songs from the album, only for it later to be revealed that Dijon and company are in a set, having thoughtfully planned every action and instrumentation. This adds to the impressiveness of the film: to be able to convey such authenticity through a script is incredibly impressive. For as fulfilling a listen as Absolutely is, the film completes the experience.

You see get to meet band member Mike, for who “Big Mike’s” is named after, along with the undeniable chemistry among the members. At the center of it all is Dijon, passionately parading around, on the cusp of becoming hoarse from his enthralling performance. In the film, you get Dijon in his most pure state: stomping to the rhythm of “Big Mike’s,” him punching the drum set in emphasis of the conclusion of “Scratching,” the stern grip he has on his bottle of alcohol as he inconsolably performs “Rodeo Clown,” smashing props along the way. No further context is needed for Absolutely after an attentive listen. The film simply completes the experience.

Kanye – "Runaway"

Likely the first video many thought of with this prompt, “Runaway” is considered by some as Kanye West (Ye's) magnum opus. While the track itself is convincing enough, the full-length film evokes the entire spirit and discography of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. An artist’s artist, Kanye sticks the landing on perhaps his most all-encompassing work of art of his career. Full of symbols both religious and cultural, he does not take the term film lightly in any respect. It comes at perhaps the height of Ye’s creativity in 2010, when his star shined the brightest; for him to dedicate himself to a project of this scale is a feat recognized in the film’s quality. A pioneer as always, “Runaway” was and continues to be the blueprint for short films in music.

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