His eyes stare directly into the camera in ecstasy. Eyes lost in a moment of magic, a moment that ends abruptly with the opening of a door, and eyes of disgust are revealed as a secret is uncovered. Secrets are the gateway to pain, and pain is what follows the sequence of events that kick off Kevin Abstract’s “Empty” music video.
Described as “A Suburban Love Story,” “Empty” perfectly merges the narrative of a short-film within the confines of a music visual. Summer LaBouf’s death is a story told in four compelling minutes without a moment of dialogue.
Warning: Semi-NSFW opening scene.
“Empty” reminds me of the coming-of-age teen movies that throw you into the world of adolescents dealing with growing pains that are triggered by one event. The All-American suburban football player is caught by his girlfriend in a sexual act with his male lover, a situation that can cause the ceiling to come crashing down. You can see in the characters that the walls are closing in. The beauty of “Empty” is how everything is told in details―the power of silence over words; showing and not telling. It’s just the music, a song about the heartache of forbidden teenage love. It feels like flipping through the diary of a teenager who has filled the pages with his disdain for school, issues with his mother, and the rocky relationship with his boyfriend.
I envision “Empty” being included in movies; there’s a cinematic quality to the storytelling that could easily score coming-of-age films. The Stephen Chbosky-directed The Perks of Being A Wallflower immediately came to mind while watching Kevin's video.
Kevin, who self-directed the music video, told Vulture that the visual was inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. A good director is able to take a lot of different inspirations and influences and creatively bring them to life in their own voice. You can see similarities, but there’s also a clear original vision with “Empty.” I thought “Echo” displayed Kevin’s potential as a video director, but “Empty” significantly raises the bar. The great storytelling and impeccable cinematography easily make "Empty" one of the best videos I’ve seen this year.
My favorite scene is the one that comes at the end, with the football player sitting on the edge of his diving board staring aimlessly into the pool. Deep reds completely eclipse his body and the pool glows, illuminated by the light. He’s lost in thought, so lost that he barely acknowledges when Helmet Boy arrives.You go from being the football player, the big man on campus, to having your deepest secret disclosed―there’s no comfort in this kind of calamity once it consumes you. As he throws himself into the pool, and the R.I.P picture flashes on the screen, you feel invested in the characters. I believe that Kevin’s sophomore album, American Boyfriend, will continue the story of Helmet Boy and what happens before and after his boyfriend's suicide.
Fearless. That’s one word I would use to describe Kevin Abstract. The shocking opening scene in "Empty" is proof of his fearlessness. He is daring enough to create art that doesn’t ask or beg for acceptance. He isn’t conforming to societal pressures or adjusting to make others feel comfortable. It’s always the artists who aren’t afraid that go on to inspire, influence and affect change. He’s following his inner moonlight and the results have been magical thus far.
I saw promise in Kevin as a musician, an artist with the promise to obtain GRAMMYs, but now I can see Moonmen in his trophy case.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Abstract, aka @Yoh31.