Cannes Lions

FKA Twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. - Don't Judge Me

PHANTASM, Paris / FKA TWIGS, HEADIE ONE, FRED AGAIN.. / 2022

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Overview

Background

Directed by Emmanuel Adjei, Beyoncé's collaborator for Black Is King, the clip brings together the struggles against racist and police violence through the rap of Headie One, alongside activists from Black Lives Matter. On her side, FKA Twigs incites to live together by advocating the values of love. On a pop production reminiscent of Holy Train, the singer speaks out for the ongoing struggle against "the structural, systemic and cultural oppressions that are often invisible but intrinsic to the experience of being British and Black."

Idea

If the staging is metaphorical, it is no less telling. Two sequences answer each other. On the one hand, FKA Twigs tries to get out of a room in a wealthy English house where she is locked up, but as soon as she gets closer to the exit, the singer is invariably brought back to her initial position. The image of this continuous struggle is reinforced by the invisibilization of an unnamed threat. In the second scene, Kara Walker's fountain sculpture Fons Americanus immediately catches the eye as it sits in the center of the Tate Modern.

Strategy

The original “Judge Me (Interlude)” feels like a loose sketch. Headie One doesn’t rap so much as speak-sing, and his mesmerizing voice bounces around through funhouse-mirror effects. Whatever he has done (“I was broke and I loved myself,” he admits), twigs too asks the listener to withhold judgment, offering her “precious love” in return as her soprano soars. Fred again.. builds the surrounding production with precision, forming a choir of spectral twigses backed by weary drones and room-shaking thuds. The completed “Don’t Judge Me” starts there and goes further—exhilaratingly far.

Execution

With a measured delivery, Headie One grounds this anti-racist message in personal references (like his crew’s beefs or a high-profile London police shooting), avoiding clumsiness with specificity. The video, co-directed by twigs and Emmanuel Adjei, takes the song to a higher level still, connecting the music’s sensuous plea for empathy to both the visual artist Kara Walker’s 42-foot Tate Modern fountain and an unseen power that tries to hold twigs back. Nothing can.

Outcome

The satirical work, inspired by the codes of classical Victorian art, was created as a tribute to the victims of the slave trade, a message reinforced by the presence of activists from the Black Lives Matter movement at its side. Two ways of symbolizing the struggle against an invisible oppression.