VIDEO REVIEW: How To Be A Human Being with Glass Animals
If you’re at all familiar with Glass Animals and their work, you know their music videos, just like their music, are pretty weird but also incredibly intriguing. Their video for the song “Agnes” off their most recent album, How To Be A Human Being, is no different. Glass Animals goes above and beyond what most musicians would ever consider doing in order to capture the true weight of the emotion behind the song – which makes it all the more powerful.
“Agnes” is known to be lead singer Dave Bayley’s favorite song on the album and his favorite song to perform live. In interviews, he has also said that it’s the saddest song he will ever write. While the lyrics are, of course, up for interpretation, it seems that the character in “Agnes” is addicted to drugs and struggles with depression and eventually dies, whether that means actual death or symbolic death of the person the writer used to know.
So, how did the band decide to accurately portray the extreme pain and grief presented in the song? They put Dave Bayley in a human centrifuge.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a human centrifuge is, it’s a tool used to train astronauts. You get inside a pod that starts to spin slowly at first and gradually speeds up. The point is to expose the person to high levels of g-force, which ultimately is overdrive for your body and causes extreme pain. Imagine those roundhouse rides at festivals where you stand back against a mat and the contraption starts spinning so quickly that you can’t move – a human centrifuge is that sensation… times a billion.
The entire video focuses on Dave only from the shoulders up so we can see his facial expressions and how they change throughout the song. At the beginning, it is not immediately evident that he’s in a centrifuge. He looks completely normal, although quite solemn, and it seems that he’s preparing for something difficult. He starts singing the song and soon we see a meter and something strapped to his shoulders and lights beaming across his face. This is where the viewer might start to be clued in.
As we get into the pre-chorus, white roses come into view and his face and the roses rapidly start to change in front of us. The roses bend and his expression becomes much more strained. It becomes clear that he is struggling to move his mouth and keep his eyes open.
As the second verse begins, the force is turned down. We can see that Dave is relieved to have a chance to breathe, but he is sweating profusely and his eyes are full of pain – both physical and emotional.
As we progress into the chorus and he sings “you’re gone but you’re on my mind/I’m lost but I don’t know why,” we don’t need to see the meter to know that the force has gone up again and Dave is struggling to keep going. This is symbolic of how he felt when he lost “Agnes” – absolutely crushed under the weight of what was happening.
What do you see in Bayley’s eyes?