The Story of Jamie XX’s ‘Gosh’ Music Video
The Sheer Size of ‘Gosh’ by Jamie XX provided space for two music videos, and one is bigger than the galaxy itself
In 2016 Jamie XX released a new video for his track ‘Gosh’, which had already been out for a year. Romain Gervas - widely known for his artistic portrayal of political conflict and marginalisation, accepted the job of creating a second music video, a year after the original visuals were released. In the first video, legitimate images from NASA provided massive wide angle shots of a martian planet turning slowly in empty space. Director, Erik Wernquist, used CGI to soon show that the planet was inhabited by some kind of extraterrestrial life.
When Gervas was tasked with making a bigger and better video, he did not forget the magnitude of the song. The video was his first since directing Kanye West and Jay Z’s ‘No Church In The Wild’ back in 2012. That video was memorable for featuring rioters clashing violently with walls of police in Prague as huge marble statues of gods looked on. But his 2016 return proved to be just as just as epic.
Gervas shot the visuals for ‘Gosh’ in the Chinese gated residency of Tianducheng, a huge, shitty dupe of Paris, complete with its own Eiffel Tower. In the 1990s, China experienced a massive economic boom and the government began building thousands of residencies to accommodate a richer middle class. Tianducheng was the result of this. A huge fake Paris in the middle of China. But due to poor planning and location, around 80% of the 10,000 residents that could have been accommodated there never made it. As a (legitimate) Paris local, Romain Gervas naturally found it completely detaching and eerie to discover an empty and overproduced Chinese version of Paris.
The scale of the hyperreal city is pushed even further by more than 400 bleached blonde Chinese school children in matching uniforms running with urgency through the deserted area, or standing individually on the balconies of apartments that have not withstood the tests of time. The whole piece was created without using CGI or 3D effects, but Gervas is no stranger to messing with scale. In 2012 he also directed M.I.A’s ‘Bad Girls’ and its drag racing through the Moroccan desert, as well as the huge riots in ‘No Church In The Wild’.
In most of his videos Gervas focuses on marginalised groups, like the red haired people featured in M.I.A’s ‘Born Free’ who are chased and bashed to symbolically represent any oppressed group. This also forces audiences to realise the insanity behind persecuting any group because of their skin colour, culture or religion.
‘Gosh’ opens with and features an African teenager (Hassan Kone) with albinism, he seems unsettled and is followed through the transient city by the swarm of blonde haired children, before audiences are introduced to three albino Chinese gang-like members.
Gervas spoke to Dazed magazine and says that he sees the video as a certain ‘coming-of-age story’ in a world full of cultural appropriation, where the only escape is to find a kind of spirituality. Gervas went on to say “It’s like when you leave your friends, when you’re in highschool. When you need to leave and find a big town.” In the video a sense of unease is created when there seems to be just two kinds of people in their world, the characters with albinism, and the Chinese school kids. And the audience begins to understand why he needs to leave.
Gervas explains that when the children are encircling him, he is detaching himself from his old world and old friends, and in doing so becomes his own ‘spiritual prophet’. But really he doesn’t elevate himself, it’s the camera that is elevated, the point of view. “It’s the old thing where he doesn’t change, it’s the perception that we have that changes”. And suddenly he is surrounded by a young, dynamic life force that is different to the slow moving and subdued way of his original life.
Parallels can be drawn between the ‘Gosh’ visuals and Gervas’ other works. His works comment on violence in the wake of injustice by portraying pertinent political issues. However, he also works hard to ensure he doesn’t confine the audience to a specific moral stance. Gervas’ use of subdued tones casts a bleak reflection on the unfolding events and ensures any use of colour has a stronger visual impact, such as that brought forward by the neon blue Subaru.
But aside from Gervas’ visuals, Jamie XX’s exceptional beat making peaks in ‘Gosh’. His infusion of simple words and large bass creates a perfectly balanced, ominous backdrop which is best when blown up to a large scale. When you watch the video it’s as if ‘Gosh’ is penetrating the empty city and bouncing off the vast concrete facades, and you’re only catching the reverb.
Jamie XX’s large scale sound is only exceeded by Gervas’ mammoth scenes and together, their works align to create an awe-inspiring mashup of astonishment and otherworldly loneliness.
Watch the two videos here:
Jamie XX - Gosh by Erik Wernquist
Jamie XX - Gosh by Romain Gervas
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