Evan Jarvicks of Oklahoma music website Make Oklahoma Weirder shares his 10 favorite music videos by Oklahomans in 2019.
10. Asher Evergreen - "Rejected
dir. Les Wu
Trending alt pop newcomer Asher Evergreen is an Oklahoma City artist with a mission. As someone who has survived the darkness, she aims to help others dealing with their own demons to know that they aren't alone. There is hope, and her music can help the lost find their way. Her artist name and signature green hair color are symbols of the persistence of life.
With her debut single and music video, Asher Evergreen similarly uses symbolism that is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been isolated or abused. Through a gritty filter, the scene opens with three characters unconscious in a cold, industrial building. They gradually awaken to their predicament and muscle their way out to daylight and greener pastures.
The visual style follows this arc, graduating from shakycam closeups to gliding pans. There are also more lens flares than a JJ Abrams film here, but they serve a big purpose. In the earlier shots, they are a jumble of roving greens and purples, but when the video's pivotal angel-winged figure appears, the flares begin to take on a softer, steadier white glow.
Lastly, Evergreen's strong, charismatic presence delivers her message with flying colors. Such empowering songs need a steadfast central figure for others to trust and believe in, and she owns the camera with exactly the right amount of confidence and care. This is personal. She isn't drawn into songwriting for its entertainment value but a deeper connection altogether. That her work manages to be as enjoyable as it is heartfelt is a bonus.
9. doubleVee - "Ladder for the People"
dir. Allan & Barb Vest and Dave Smith
One of doubleVee's catchiest songs to date gets a snappy visual treatment in the modernist music video for "Ladder for the People". Making every use of a single house location as one can realistically imagine, the OKC-based duo rock out with nearby modern art and upscale architecture playing a sort of character of its own. The inanimate pieces get more screentime than the video's peripheral third character, and the band even gives a film credit to a pair of eyeglasses.
As with prior music videos, doubleVee has a lot of fun with speeding up footage and playing to the camera. The two also continue to adhere to a striking red, black, and white palette, which manifests here across multiple instruments, outfits, and set pieces. This is no White Stripes knockoff, though; doubleVee is doing its own thing.
There are some literal references to the song's lyrics, such as the people in the peephole, but the direction here generally goes for a more tonal interpretation of the music. Much of that is made in the editing, which indulges in quick cuts and visual overlays to make for an especially stimulating watch. "Ladder for the People" is clean-cut, stylish, and energetic, and it wears its eccentricities proudly.
8. L-Smooth Mensah & Continental Cudd - “Make Love”
dir. Terrell Mayes
It's not uncommon for rappers to refer to their music in culinary terms, equating studios to kitchens, seasonings to style, and words to ingredients. None, however, have visualized the metaphor quite like this.
Released in time for Valentine's Day, "Make Love" places emcees L-Smooth Mensah and Continental Cudd in a literal kitchen at a cute restaurant where guests are not treated to food creations but musical experiences. While dinner dates chop it up out front, the two wordsmiths literally slice and dice old soul records and hip-hop memorabilia to cook up some feel-good sounds. The extra-wide film format and slow-motion gives room for the video to soak in the vibes like a choice cut of protein simmering in a stew.
"Make Love" is a clever spin on its namesake phrase while also capturing the creative process behind new music, especially in hip-hop. Everything draws inspiration from something, and all art is derivative to some degree, so one might as well learn from the greats, as L-Smooth & Continental Cudd prove to have done here. Their expert verses are creatively prepared, well-seasoned, and dished out with finesse.
"Make Love" has enough old-school cred for hard-to-please hip-hop oldheads while retaining a laid back approachability for general audiences, the latter of which is elevated even further by the music video here. It's a delicious concoction.
7. Special Thumbs - "Moonbow"
dir. 351 Studio
In anticipation of its new album, Special Thumbs spent the last half of 2019 steadily rolling out a series of ear-catching new singles. Impressively, a music video accompanied each one, each with a unique flavor and a great deal of effort and skill behind it. Technically, they are all also lyric videos, but that undercuts the presentation of these releases since lyric videos tend to be visually static save for the animated typography. Since Special Thumbs tend to be dense and inventive lyricists, this is a welcome feature.
While all of the videos are exceptionally good, "Moonbow" stands out for its vintage animated collages. It filters Special Thumbs' flair for the psychedelic into a trippy but coherent series of constantly active multimedia graphics. On top of the regular animation is an overlay of woozy movement that warps everything on screen. If this was assembled in bold colors of the rainbow, it would probably be an overload to the senses. This is a moonbow, however, so the palette is nicely limited to a spread of faded maroons and olive greens. These are complementary colors, too, so the visuals never lose their inherent dynamism.
Past Special Thumbs imagery returns here, particularly in its prevalence of statues and eyeballs. No doubt, it's all very weird, but it never crosses the line into wacky. The band has gotten good about wearing its oddness with a sophistication that sticks much better than novelty, and all of that is on full display here. "Moonbow" is a polished, dazzling piece of work.
6. Beau Jennings & the Tigers - "The Other Side"
dir. Bradley Beesley
The new album from Beau Jennings & The Tigers is not a folk music project per se, but it does that for which folk music is most known. It channels working-class life into simple, relatable songs that speak both of, to, and for the people. With "The Other Side", Jennings uses basic, graceful wording to address a divided America, eschewing partisan politics to declare a need for unity. He doesn't provide answers, but he does show empathy, and that's a start.
The music video is similarly simple. Shot in a high school gymnasium, it presents the band's performance intercut with an ongoing wrestling match (of the Olympic sort, not the WWE sort). The lighting is hard and sparse, simplifying much of the scene into light and shadow, which works as a visual metaphor on multiple levels. There is also a great deal of fog pumped into these shots, which is probably just an aesthetic choice to make the white light more pronounced, but it also has the side effect of being a tangible grey amid polarized black and white.
Inevitably, in competition, there is winning and losing, and by the end of the video, one wrestler is declared the champion of the match. One could extrapolate meaning from this as well, but it's the wrestling itself that lingers most on camera as well as in the viewer's memory. The match is captured not in fierce combat but graceful, dance-like imagery thanks to the slow-motion work. Its symbolism is tonally perfect as Jennings wrestles within himself for a populace wrestling with each other in pursuit of a better way.
5. The Space Program - "Colored People Time / So Independent"
dir. JCI Creatives
The Space Program is an ambitious supergroup featuring some of the biggest names in Oklahoma City hip-hop, and these two tracks hail from its exceptional debut album, Curriculum of the Mind. Against the backdrop of higher education, the record wrestles with the incongruent perceptions and realities of liberation itself, so of course, slavery is the biggest elephant in the room.
Following the trajectory of its first music video, The Space Program continues the introspective odyssey of its time-and-space-traveling protagonist with "Colored People Time/So Independent". Here, he is transported to a plantation in Antebellum pre-statehood Oklahoma and given much to consider about oppressive and prejudicial constructs in American society.
In period attire, the featured poets and rappers fit in with a cast of extras attending a meager but impassioned outdoor pulpit. Emcee Jacobi Ryan (who himself had a legendary run in 2019 as a solo artist) introduces the audience surrogate to the slave grounds with fatherly aplomb.
Alongside Ryan are word wizards Deezy, Beetyman, and Mac Woods, all of whom arrest the camera with their confident portrayals. Though the runtime clocks 8 minutes, the video stays engaging thanks to these dynamic performances, as well as some smart editing and worldbuilding use of B-roll. There is also some nice makeup work here that deserves a mention.
The video concludes with a classic "To Be Continued..." end card, and hopefully, that will be the case. The adventures of The Space Program are a next-level caliber of conceptual music, and it's important that they continue.
4. Bringer "Goldie Hawn"
dir. Seth Park
Bringer makes some of the most party-hardy rock 'n' roll music around, so it follows that the Tulsa band's music videos would be a party as well. "Goldie Hawn" is an upbeat number about having a crush on the song's namesake celebrity, and the video pulls all the DIY stops to convey its sense of nonstop fun.
With handmade props, on-the-spot costume changes, and a great deal of coordination, Bringer pays tribute to the filmography of Hawn's longtime significant other, Kurt Russell. A seamless barrage of snapshots from Escape from New York, The Thing, and others assemble in front of a basic white backdrop.
As the video progresses, though, it is more than happy to show its behind-the-scenes workings, both real and fictional. If any seams are less visible, they are the ones between each of the mere handful of choreographed scenes, creating the illusion of one long take. Even this is easily disproven, however, if one simply pays attention to Kurt Russell's exaggerated facial hair throughout the video. Fun surprises like this, along with great pacing and crafty creativity, make "Goldie Hawn" an utter joy to watch.
3. Lone Wild - "Stranger Ways"
dir. Bobby Ross
Lone Wild understands the importance of image in today's music landscape, a fact made evident by the dashing photos and pastel colors of its Instagram feed. It's no surprise that the Tulsa band would want to put its best foot forward for its first music video since rebranding from its former moniker, The Fairweather. The Halloween-themed video for "Stranger Ways", however, blows away any reasonable expectations for a debut visual. It begs to be seen as the work of a national-level artist, and, well, who's to argue?
A cinematic dream sequence kicks the story off, introducing characters and plot devices that hint at supernatural events to come. Though it's nonverbal and could be accompanied by music, the cold open helps ground the video. Later scenes at a costume party and board game cafe are less frivolous because of the continuing, mysterious thread set up by the dream.
Once the music kicks in, it's a ball. Cool action shots, delightful practical effects, and, of course, great shots of the band all come together as the plot thickens. Its surprise villain, which will look familiar to those who indulge in the occasional Internet creepypasta, is stoic and imposing, but the filmmaking is anything but. Lone Wild's signature colors douse the set pieces, with neon purples, pinks, and greens heightening the sensation of every scene. It's a spectacular production, and the thought that this is just the beginning for Lone Wild is perhaps the most thrilling aspect of it all.
2. Cliffdiver - "You Sir, Are Obviously Not a Golfer"
dir. Shane Gray
When it comes to couching angst-ridden, wound-baring emo punk songs in an ironic sense of humor, Tulsa's Cliffdiver may be one of the best to ever do it. With "You Sir, Are Obviously Not a Golfer" (which is about a breakup, naturally), the band takes a cue from the song's hilarious opening line to create one of the most rewatchable music videos of the year. It's a small wonder that it hasn't gone viral.
A dry opening sets the stakes as an overprotective father assembles a hit squad of dads to take down his daughter's latest boyfriend. A suburban montage of attempted retribution then commences as lead vocalist Joey Duffy declares, "I'm not scared of dyin' / Just scared of your dad / What a scary man." The ultimate punchline of the video is too good to spoil here, but suffice it to say that this isn't the first time the squad has had to cut in on a budding relationship.
The protagonist boyfriend, by the way, is played by Ben Quad's Jacob Rhinehart, which is especially funny to those who have followed the fictional social media feud between the two bands all year. It's just further proof that Cliffdiver's deep rapport with its fans continues to reward all parties, and "You Sir, Are Obviously Not a Golfer" is no exception.
1. Slyrex - "Fever Dream"
dir. Ben Tefera
Slyrex had a big year. In addition to releasing two excellent, well-received albums at the start and end of 2019 respectively, the alt R&B up-and-comer also managed to put out a couple of music videos, including this fantastic one for standalone single "Fever Dream". While professionalism and taste in visuals are the norm for Slyrex, "Fever Dream" raises the bar.
"Fever Dream" follows two characters through a surreal evening party at a mansion-like house. Room after room of extras (credited as "coven members") are styled, arranged, and captured in a visual language that recalls baroque paintings and Kubrick films. The choice and variety of imagery is impressive. The lighting, props, and costuming also indulge in rich colors, centering in particular around a vivid red that itself becomes a plot point midway through.
The term "plot" is used loosely here, though, since much about the short film is kept mysterious. It's the perfect fit for Slyrex's dark, moody style, serving the song's entrancing, slow-paced nuances with an unprecedented elegance. If there's a music video that will make folks reassess their idea of Oklahoma music, it's this one.