Music video review: Clean Bandit’s “Symphony” will rip you apart

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 3:05pm

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“Symphony”

Clean Bandit

Atlantic, Epic  

If you haven’t yet seen Clean Bandit’s new music video for “Symphony,” now is the time. The video is emotional, well filmed and perfectly in tune with the lyrics and feeling of the song.

At the very beginning of the video for “Symphony,” a man gets into a bike crash on his way home from the library. The rest of the video cuts between the grief his boyfriend is going through and flashbacks of their relationship together: Talking and laughing together on a bed, racing through a field. In the backdrop, a symphony is performing — featuring Zara Larsson as its lead vocalist — and toward the end of the video, the conductor of the symphony is revealed to be the grieving boyfriend.

When I first started watching the video, thinking about it in conjunction with its lyrics, it didn’t make sense to me. “Symphony” doesn’t sound like a song about grief. The main actor in the video, playing the boyfriend, does a terrific performance of the emotional tolls that grief has on a person: He breaks down crying, he smashes a mirror. But at first listen, “Symphony” isn’t a sad song or even really an angry one.

Then, about halfway through the video, it hit me: “Symphony” is a song about frustration. It’s about being on one side of something, and longing — desperately — for a second side that doesn’t exist.

This is what the video does so well: It captures what it feels like to be so close to an impossible love. And what that feels like, of course, is agony. By intercutting the boyfriend’s grief — hearing about the accident from the police, breaking down, smashing the mirror — with the memories of their relationship, the video shows us how infuriating it is, how heartbreaking, to know simultaneously how good something was, and how impossible it is to ever have it again.

“I just wanna be part of your symphony,” Larsson sings, and this line both appreciates the beauty of the men’s love and gives a hint of the frustration that follows the bike accident. For all that the main character wants is to rejoin his lover’s symphony, to go back to the happiness that they had during their relationship; it’s something he can never do. The lyrics do carry further hints of the desperation that follows loss, such as “I can’t find the key without you,” and “When you’re gone, I feel incomplete.”

The revelation that the boyfriend is the symphony’s conductor brings this emotion to a head, because as a profession for him, in this moment, it makes complete sense. Conducting is a movement of precision, of control. It is also the action used to harness the beauty of a symphony, to bring it into being and to have it make sense. Perhaps this is why, at the very end of the video, there is a shot of the audience: Completely empty, except for the man from the beginning of the video, sitting alone in the concert hall with tears on his face.

This is a beautiful moment that perfectly rounds out the striking emotional impact of the video. “Symphony” is thoughtfully and sensitively put together from beginning to end, and in every way that it could have hoped to work out, it does.