The Red Coat and Remembrance in Leon Bridges’ music video for Bad Bad News

The scene begins with a panorama shot of a dimly lit train station at night. A woman with long dark brown hair in a red coat walks away in the background. The camera slowly advances toward her until it abruptly changes positions so that it is no more than a few feet behind her– acting as a looming shadow. The woman hears a fain whistle and turns her head in surprise, a second wolf whistle follows not too long after. The second whistle causes her to turn to face the camera. Her red coat hangs off of one of her shoulders exposing her bare skin. Understated gold hoop earrings and a gold chain frame her face.

The woman in red decides to walk in the direction of the where the whistle came from. She walks with conviction, courage and also caution. The sound of her shoes creates a pulsing beat that slowly transitions into the percussive introduction of Leon Bridges’ song, Bad Bad News.

The music becomes layered as the woman runs down the train station stairway into a dimly green tinted tunnel. The green of the tunnel contrasts and compliments the red she wears. The video (directed by Natalie Rae) then changes scenes to one of Bridges entering a rehearsal space where his band is playing his new song and he begins to let the rhythm move him. The scene switches to the one of the woman in red (played by model, Paloma Elsesser) who stands framed by a series of archways as she begins to slowly move to the music.

The music video continues with the woman frantically moving through the streets of New York trying to find the man from the train station. In various parts of the video she beings dancing as she is overcome by the rhythm, however she holds tension in her body. Her dancing becomes a personal battle between enjoying herself and feeling ashamed or guilt of some sort.  The way in which she wears the coat echoes this duality, the coat protects her, or shields her, in her ability to decide how tightly it is cinched at the waist, but also reveals her vulnerability as it continues to fall off her shoulder.

The emphasis of the woman’s red coat throughout the music video evokes themes of remembrance and also acts of violence against women. Muldisciplinary Canadian artist, Jamie Black, explores similar themes in The REDress Project which collects red dresses and installs them in public spaces as a reminder of violent crimes committed against Aboriginal women. Black’s work hopes to make visible the gendered and racialized crimes committed against marginalized women that often go unnoticed.

The REDress Project, Jamie Black, 2014, www.redressproject.org

The red coat is a haunting presence in the music video. It is as if it possesses its own identity apart from that of the wearer. Perhaps it is to reflect the collective fear that women still face as they walk home alone.

By Destinee Forbes

For more info on the REDress project click here.

To watch Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges click here.