RADIOHEAD - I PROMISE
The ever evolving rock band Radiohead recently released a music video for the song "I Promise", an unreleased track off of their 1997 album OK Computer.
It's very surprising for a band to release music video for a 20 year old throwaway track. Radiohead is somewhat known for their elaborate and intricate music videos with deeper meanings that what is seen on the surface. Their disjointed narratives and emphasis on flashy interesting visuals and the lack of disctiction between real and imagined all fit into the ideas of postmodernism. Therefore the fact that they decided to make a video for this track means it should be important.
The video starts off with a tracking shot of street lamps passing by as it dissolves into another tracking shot of a bus passing bye. Through the large glass windows on the bus we see two men one whose face is covered partially in shadow and the head of a man who seems to be laying down on the seat. The rest of the video is seen through the perspective of the man lying down, cutting to various different shots of things he is seeing through the bus window. We see several shots of other people in the busses passing by, as well as shots of people outside on the street doing different mundane actions. The video stick with this formula back and forth showing the mans reactions until it is eventually revealed that the man is just a robotic head resting on the seat observing the world around him.
The soundtrack to the video is sung by lead singer Thom Yorke and is a short slow paced somber song with minimal lyrics.
Thom is repeatedly promising things to someone whom he seems to have hurt previously and is trying to make amends by promising to be by their side from here out. When you pair the expressive visuals with the music and some knowledge of the artist you get a video full of interesting subtext. The song seems to be an ode to his late ex-wife who passed away in 2015 due to cancer. That has a probably a deeper and different meaning being released now 20 years after it was made.
I believe the overarching theme of the video to be a journey of Thom Yorke seen through the eyes of this android. We follow him around looking out of the window on bus as if he's almost daydreaming or looking back on his life. We see a young woman in another bus as he gazes at her and smiles, this could be the beginning of the relationship with his ex wife.
During the middle there is a tracking shot of a fire going on in the middle of an alley with graffiti on the wall written in polish that translates to "I miss you", pointed out by a few reddit users. This could be Thom reflecting on their divorce or mourning her death.
The last thing we see through his eyes is a middle-aged woman wiping away tears as she struggles to look at the man, as the android looks on in sorrow and shortly after is revealed to be an android.I feel as though the this symbolizes his empty, almost robotic promises that he would never actually fulfill.
The video is also filled with small intertextual references to the bands previous works and ideas. The android head is a reference to the song and video "paranoid android" off the Ok computer album. Another instance is when a man outside on the street seems to be staring at lit window full of "fake plastic trees" which also happens to be the name of one the songs off the 1995 album Bends. A few youtube commenters also pointed out that Thom Yorke possibly makes an appearance in the middle of the video as his character in the daydreaming video. (See reference section) The Daydreaming video was shot by Oscar winning director Paul Thomas Anderson and features a lot of postmodern subtext throughout the video. There's even an interesting 'close analysis' video dissecting the work as we are.
This video could be analyzed over and over finding new subtext every time, while searching for different meaning, fitting right along with the post modernist idea.