Erykah Badu walks nude down a Dallas Street in a jarring cinéma vérité video for her new album. She eerily ends up in Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy was assassinated, and is instantly gunned down herself. But instead of blood, she bleeds a message.
As she lays on the sidewalk, nude in a fetal position, the word “groupthink” spills from her head and her disembodied voice chants a free-verse poem.
“They who play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand,” she speaks. “They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another.
“They feel more comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become, afraid to respect the individual.”
Badu’s new LP New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, will be released Tuesday (Mar. 30). You can buy it here, by clicking the icon to the left.
Although not totally original, the video for her single “Window Seat” has far more impact as performance art than Lady Gaga’s over-produced nine-minute, prison-themed video collaboration with Beyoncé for Gaga’s song “Telephone.”
Badu’s video was shot on a Dallas Street while real people, including children, looked on — or averted their eyes.
Some street dude can even be seen stealing her clothes – for real.
The video has a surreal look, in part, because of the way Badu moves down the street, pulling off each piece of clothing, always looking straight ahead, walking in a slow, steady lope.
The video also has the same look as grainy Kennedy assassination footage. It opens with Badu exiting from a 60s-era Lincoln Continental sedan. Radio commentary on the progress of JFK’s motorcade toward its date with destiny sets up the scene.
Badu provided the back story to the video on her Twitter account.
“We only had 1 shot to get it right,” she tweeted. “We didn’t plan the shot. [Director] Coodie and I just went raw dog. Too busy lookin’ for cops and being petrified.”
“The people caught in the shot were trying hard to ignore me,” Badu tweeted. “Lol, [except] one guy grabbing [my] clothes. … He disappeared. Didn’t have time to look for him or clothes. We ran. It was the peeps off camera yelling.
Despite the raucous, “I held my head up and kept moving. … There were children there. I prayed they wouldn’t b traumatized.”
Artists stripping down in protest is nothing new. Alanis Morrisette did it years ago, and she remains an activist to this day.
Badu nods to Matt and Kim’s “Lesson Learned.” The duo stripped in the middle of Times Square, to even less public reaction, in their video.