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Rachel Crow likes to be direct. The singer and actress, who is on the cusp of breaking into the Transformers universe along with Hailee Steinfeld in the forthcoming action flick Bumblebee, keeps it incredibly candid in her video, whose premiere you can stream below, for "Coulda Told Me."
The video, directed by Brad Wong, started out with an idea and the sketch of a treatment written by Crow herself. Rather than getting esoteric, Crow wanted the message of the video to be as clear as that of the song. And so, using the story of a couple in a fight as her framing device, Crow shared a message with the world: whatever you're thinking, just say it.
Crow spoke to Refinery29 about crafting her Alice in Wonderland-inspired video, why she chose mid-century design elements and a '90s-inspired party scene to express a mood, and how the woman she plays in the video takes control of her relationship.
Refinery29: Tell me about writing the treatment for this video and finding the director.
Rachel Crow: “I was on a plane and I had just written the song; somehow I knew I was going to put it out. I loved this song so much. It’s about a moment where I felt unheard by a lot of people. Everyone was walking on eggshells around me and I felt like I was screaming at them to tell me how they felt so we could resolve the issue. It morphed into a video about a relationship dynamic where I’m doing everything I can, dancing and waving in his face, to get my partner to look at me but he won’t. It’s not because he doesn’t love me or thinks I’m not good enough for him; the concept is about me being in a space and not being seen. Did the party happen, did it not? Was this real, was what she was doing real? It starts where it ends, with me sitting on the couch, when I pick up a blue cup and wink at the camera. I wanted an Alice in Wonderland type of effect, to make people ask if what she was feeling was real."
It feels like, with the romantic interest, you finally manage to make the connection you’re looking for in the party scene. Was that your character playing out her ideal scenario of making an emotional connection?
“The concept hints at the idea that if we’re in neutral territory, dancing and having a drink with our friends, we could come together and make everything okay so we can move on. But the whole point of the video, when it snaps back to reality, is that you can’t dance around the subject; you have to go all in and ask the person what is wrong. She’s playing the scenario out in her head, but at the same time, you have to be direct. The message is: you could have told me! [laughs]”
It’s interesting because this video, based on your description, seems to play out so literally next to the words your singing. Why did you choose that route?
“When the artist visualizes it for people are watching it, that can make it so much more clear. I’ve seen videos that are super artsy and they left me confused and wondering what the song was about. I wanted it to be very literal: This song is about being unheard and feeling invisible.”
Since this wasn’t a song written necessarily about a romantic interaction, what made you decide to use the image of a couple fighting to get your point across?
“Romance translates to an audience. If I were fighting with a mom or a friend or someone I look up to, it’s not that people wouldn’t relate but they wouldn’t be as engaged. As a 20-year-old, I know I love some romance drama. It also felt like a different enough concept because it plays in a few different eras. We start in a ‘50s-era designed home with a young girl trying to get her man to look at her, but then she walks into the kitchen like a badass and when he doesn’t acknowledge her she’s like, ‘Fine, be that way.’ She takes back the control of the situation and I think people will appreciate how empowered she is. In the party, she’s freeing herself by dancing. Her attitude is that if he’s not going to pay attention to her, she’ll make him come to her. After the fight, which they both had an equal part in, she just says, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to dance.’”
Looking at the set design, there are a lot of mid-century items. Was that meant to be a visual cue to the watcher that maybe their relationship is regressive not of the dynamic that she wants?
“For some reason, I felt it needed to be done in the ‘50s style in a ‘70s style home. The whole dance party scene definitely leans ‘90s. These are eras that have always spoken to me and I wanted to people to look at it and feel nostalgic, but catch a few things like that they use a boombox and a landline. I thought, why not mix them all up?”
Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.