Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's new home for exclusive music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Cornelia Murr and Lola Kirke have a story to tell with their new video for "Who Am I To Tell You."
It's no secret that fairytales are deeply embedded in our society, so much so that 2018 rom-com Crazy Rich Asians is coined a modern-day "Cinderella story." But just because fairytales provide a familiar template doesn't mean that they don't deserve a shake-up every so often. The new video for Cornelia Murr's "Who Am I To Tell You" is a direct response to the stories that still permeate pop culture. The video twists a familiar narrative while still playing with plenty of fun tropes — like, for example, a literal frog.
Murr and Kirke (of Mozart in the Jungle fame) co-wrote "Who Am I To Tell You," so it's only appropriate that they would re-team for the video. The project — a dreamy, summer-y delight — was helmed by Kirke and stars Murr as a princess who smooches a toad... who, umm, stays that way.
Refinery29 spoke to Murr and Kirke about working together, working with an amphibian co-star, and subverting fairytales.
Refinery29: What was the songwriting process like?
Cornelia Murr: "We were camping, outside of Santa Barbara. We were talking about our past relationships, the power dynamics that often can throw your for a loop, specifically in relationships with older men, powerful men. Lola was like, 'Let’s write a song about it!' She just strummed the first couple chords, and we just toyed with the first few lines. I went back to LA and was housesitting this place with a piano, and I just banged out the rest of the song."
Lola Kirke: "She definitely ran with it and came back and had all of these new ideas for it. Like the bridge which I particularly love. Cornelia and I have had that kind of relationship with songwriting since we became friends. I love her songwriting instincts and she has been so patient with listening to me! It's always so fun to exchange our little iPhone demos that we’ve made... I actually have a picture of us writing the song except we’re both really hungover, so I wouldn’t share it with you. [Laughs] It’s what pops up whenever Cornelia calls me."
How did you decide Lola would direct the video? What was her initial vision for the project?
CM: "Lola really wanted to direct something new, and she had this idea of turning fairytale tropes on their head. Some divine things came into order. We had a friend help us catch a frog. The DP was free. We had Lola's family place upstate to shoot at, and we just kind of did it."
LK: "There are so many elements of a fairytale that exist in Cornelia's life, and I think that her music really carries that. When I'm with her, [listening to her music], I feel like I’m being brought into this magical world that is very private and that only she can take me into."
The video is a very modern take on a fairytale. Why approach the video this way?
LK: "I think that revising fairytales is so important. There are so many generations of women who have been inspired by this really heteronormative notion of falling in love with people for their potential — kissing frogs and then you get your prince, or just, really, a reliance upon a man. And the kind of joke for me and Cornelia was that this person is really just pining for a frog — there is no prince. The video is about loving what you love, instead of loving something only because you think if you love it hard enough, it will change."
CM: "I let the frog go in the beginning and then I realize that I’ve made a mistake, and I want him back the whole time. So I’m looking for the frog, for the frog’s sake — not because he’s going to turn into a prince. I’m dropping bread crumbs to leave a trail for the frog to find, but I’m hungry, and eat the bread myself... [We're] changing the motivation of the character in these familiar fairytale scenes."
What was the biggest challenge of making this video?
CM: "I was constantly worried about the frog’s wellbeing! Fortunately, he was very well taken care of. But I really bonded with this frog and when I went to let him go at the end of the shoot he didn’t want to leave, it was kind of incredible. I was definitely conscious that there was this living being that we were employing against its will. Oh, and actually finding the frog. Initially we did have some mishaps finding the frog. I was driving all around New York City in peak rush hour the day before the video, trying to find a frog in a pet store and it was totally impossible to find the kind we needed."
What advice would you give artists trying to get their creative project off the ground?
LK: "Make it yourself if you can — that is really what both this song and this video were. A lot of favors and working with what we had. It is a Herculean task to get people to take a chance on you financially. Pulling your own resources or challenging budgets for things so that is really something you can do yourself is always what I’m trying to do. I think it can be done."
CM: "We are living in a time where pretty much everybody has a phone they can record on. Filling in your own vision as much as possible before anyone else can change it is important — that speaks for everybody, but women especially. That is the common narrative. You meet a male producer and he might put a spin on it unless you really have an idea you can stick to."
Check out the video for "Who Am I To Tell You" below.