UPDATE: I saw Flo (and Grimes!!!) at the Woodlands during her How Beautiful Tour in May! I’m happy to report that I did not faint, but I did cry and swoon and love on everything she performed. She danced. We danced. There was much love across that venue under her passionate guiding voice and eloquent movement.
Taking a step away from ballet, and returning to a passion-project of mine: music videos. I didn’t grow up with MTV or VH1 (before they were about reality tv, that is) but I always found my ways of watching the latest music videos from artists I loved and those I hardly knew. A common element in all of the music videos I value has been, surprise, dance. And one band has stood out amongst the pack of artists who use dance in their music videos, Florence and the Machine.
This post is a special highlight on Flo, just like I did with Kate Bush, focusing on the latest 6-piece installment of dance-inspired music videos for the latest album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
I found Florence and the Machine during a time of teenage-to-adult transition. I was about 21 when Lungs was first released; I didn’t find out about Florence until I saw the music video for “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” online.
The extreme ethereal, freed Duncan-esque, mood of the lyrics and sound were enhanced immediately by dance, rather than dance showcasing crude and poorly managed lyrics which other music videos of the time were doing constantly.
Florence’s earlier music videos were wild, charismatic, and unforgiving in their delivery of Flo’s unique movement, sound, and personality. The original music video for “Dog Days” is a treat of unbridled fun and joy, exploration in the forest with slight fear and tons of festivities. I immediately liked this Flo, the one who could trash a set with spontaneous outbursts of twirls and hops rather than poorly executed twerking or jerking (give me a wild proper Nicki Minaj twerk over a pathetic Miley Cyrus twerk any day).
Lungs was so powerful in its presentation of dance and song; each one was rich with movement exploration so vital to the atmosphere of the music video. My personal favorite was “Cosmic Love,” a dripping bioluminescence beauty of dance and emotions.
Ceremonials presented a challenge for us viewers: we saw Flo go from indie wild child to reformed studio princess, much like a Disney character starts as a simple, unique 2D sketch and works its way to odd, big-eyed 3D production piece. If Lungs was the Duncan early 20th century modern dance version of Flo, Ceremonials is definitely the dance-drama Graham modern dance version of Flo.
The success of Lungs was definitely appealing in making this album, so the music videos were elevated with a new vibe, new team, and new dance. The standout of this era was without a doubt “Shake It Out.” Lush with sensuality, but still able to delight in her teenage daze, “Shake It Out” introduced elongated leans, sexy partnering, and effortless twirling. And let’s not forget that expensive wardrobe she is awarded with…
I don’t want to get into “Spectrum” because I found it to be borderline gaudy and boring, as many David LaChapelle things appear for me. The use of professional ballerinas and Swan Lake, I will say, wasn’t effective and ruined the Flo vibe we’ve grown to love from Lungs. It was a big step backwards.
Then the announcement of How Big How Blue How Beautiful was released.
In between impressive onstage performances at ACL, Coachella and the likes, we had one small teaser video to bring us closer to this reinvented Flo. Dance was teased as an important factor for this album’s music videos, and that was obviously exciting.
But back to concert Flo for a second, dance is a forever element of Flo’s onstage persona. She can’t sing without movement, and vice versa. I’ve never seen her live, and I kind of don’t want to (seeing her live, dancing, might seriously make me faint and convulse in joy and excitement…). She reins supreme as the queen of onstage beauty, with drama and flare to match her music video persona. On screen, she commands our eyes, but live, from what I’ve heard, she commands souls and spirits.
The third incarnation of Flo was born in HBHBHB; the purely beautiful crone to the formal mother and untamed maiden from the previous albums respectively. Dance also had a new form as choreographer Ryan Heffington was attached to each installment of the 6-piece music video odyssey of songs from the album (“What Kind of Man”, “St Jude”, “Ship to Wreck”, “Queen of Peace”/”Long & Lost”, “Delilah”). From early modern dance inspiration, to dramatic mid-modern dance flare, Flo has ended up successfully on the floor with the rest of us, rolling around, flexing, and exploring 21st century contemporary dance.
It started with “What Kind Of Man” and ends with the recently released “Delilah.” From start to finish, the polished production princess from Ceremonials is gone, for that matter the enchanting Flo from Lungs is too, and a new casual deity of Earth is revealed through the choreography. But from her first music videos to these recent ones, she’s still managed to remain just as magical as ever.
I’m not a Heffington fan (ugh sour aftertaste of using that joke competition dancer in those gross Sia music videos…) but for Flo and this set of 6 music videos, the movement echoes common contemporary themes. Dazzling twirls are now contracted spins. Charming hops across the screen are now gut-wrenching throws from all plains of space.
I love how Flo is meant to partner different people for different reasons, and how she gets in and out of situations on screen is refreshing. The color is toned down, the music is crisper, and the dancing is, yes, flowing with revitalized magic.
I’m inspired by Flo as a human being. As an artist, I will follow her until the end of days.
For more on Florence and the Machine: