Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It Might Be Possible


Despite the presence of a rather straight-forward song and the overstuffed genre of fan-based videos, Terra Naomi and director Jonathon Bird produce something extremely unique and powerful for "Say It's Possible"...

VIDEO: Terra Naomi "Say It's Possible" dir. by Jonathan Bird

Ironically the most goosebump-inducing moment of this largely fan-made video comes from the singer herself. Standing on a deserted highway, Terra Naomi belts out "i'm not alright!" like she means it. And though we are barely allowed a second to register it, it's a forceful reminder of the music and the artist. What else could possibly bring these people together? But it's also ringing proof of the emotion and authenticity behind the video.

Naomi has the type of voice that shatters things. Here it's as if she raises her guitar to the clouds and screams to crack wide-open the glass roof hanging over all our wildest dreams. There are a lot of cute and heartwarming fan videos made (and some horrible ones), especially among independent artists, but the majority are either thank you notes to the fans or examples of the universal power of music to unite. "Say It's Possible" works on both those levels, but goes one step further in developing it's concept.

Rather than simply drawing attention to the myriad of faces worldwide that appreciate her music, Naomi gives these people a voice - an opportunity to express themselves (underlined by her moment of ecstatic expression). Ever since Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" we've known the strange power of words on white sheets of paper in a music video (also see Common's "Come Close"), yet apart from a few scenes involving the singer herself, these words are not specifically aligned with lyrics in the song.

Naomi asked fans to send in tapes of themselves answering the question, "what would you do/want if anything were possible?" While it's clear she has been selective in choosing which one's to present (she obviously had to be), there are a wide-range of ideas, dreams and wants on display here. They range from the universal "love > hate" to the extremely personal "hold grandma again." And yes it can be argued, as some of my colleagues have, that people will put anything on a piece of paper to be in a music video - but that kind of pessimism misses the point entirely.

The video and the singer are not naive to the depravity and hopelessness that plague most of the modern world. In fact, it seems fairly clear that part of what motivated these lyrics and this video concept comes from the fact that things aren't alright in the world (the lyrics are fairly blatant on this point). She also admits that the future well being of humankind isn't looking very "probable." Instead, like the climactic moment on the street with her guitar, Naomi isn't asking us - she's telling us to "say it's possible." In forcing these opinions and thoughts onto the screen, even if you believe that what the people write are often manufactured statements of hope, she represents - at the very lest - a hope in the idea of hope.

Naomi isn't necessarily endorsing any of the statements presented within this video either, rather she is simply showing us that there are others out there who do care about something. It's all about the potential of what we might do with our collective ideas. While raising money for a cause is a more visibly effective and glamorous way of fighting human suffering, things will not change in the long-run unless drastic revolutions take place in the way people think as well. But like all revolutions, the people are the ones who must recognize their own power and capability for large-scale change. There is already enough money, food and the means out there - most human beings just don't think anything is really possible. This video gives a few people a chance to feel that self-worth and confidence, an immeasurable gift that in-turn can make others feel as if perhaps our own voices are worth hearing - or at least reading.

Yet it's highly doubtful that Terra Naomi and her director would claim that everything is even close to being "alright" by the end of this video. Even in knowing that someone out there has "forgiven himself," or that some young girls wear shirts that say "gratitude" or "no fear" across the front instead of random sexual innuendo's - one can't help but feel rather helpless after watching. After all we can't all hold up the ideas in our heads for the world to see. But perhaps there is comfort in knowing that this type of video and this type of artist even exist, and that furthermore, "Say It's Possible" has already been viewed on YouTube over 85,000 times and there are more than 77 pages of comments underneath it (positive and negative). Continuing this conversation is more important than anything else and Naomi's video reminds us that it never really stops - we just choose to ignore it sometimes.


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Steve said...

Nice and thoughtful write-up. Speaking as one of those with a (thankfully for all concerned) very brief appearance, like several of Terra's older fans, only she could persuade us to actually stand in front of a camera. As for the messages being heavily edited, of more than 10 people I know who made contributions, only one didn't get in. I think it's a pretty accurate reflection of what was submitted. There are also some more personal subtexts on a few of those appearances - one where near death and a related birth were separated by just four days.

An interesting thing about this version of the video is that it ends on the upbeat "this could be something beautiful i know" where the original version ended with the more melancholy "but times are tough I know, and the pull of what we can't give up takes hold". Terra wrote the song as a reaction to seeing the Al Gore fronted eco-doom warning film "An Inconvenient Truth". The last few lines recognise the trap we make for ourselves and maybe we aren't able to make the changes. Maybe we are in an unstoppable spiral.

Once the context is realised, then it can be seen just what a powerful song it is. People miss the tremor that Terra introduces into her voice at times, as well as the howling primal scream of "I'm not alright".

Truly a song that means more when you understand its roots - yes, it's catchy and hypnotic, but there is so much more, as there is to the artist.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put! I applaud you, Terra Naomi, for not following in the shallow footsteps of so many, for really stepping out and saying something real, instead of the usual fluff we're inundated with..
And I still believe in possibilities.
Annie L.

Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie