They look at you through the camera, steadily, to hold your gaze; as a gauzy cloud of coloured fabric floats in tempo with their fluid movements, the female subjects of Wild Beast’s new music video for ‘Alpha Female’ exude strength. This is a video that captures attention; it is an engaging surprise, a satisfyingly feminist portrayal of modern-day ‘girl power’. The video shows female skateboarders in India, gliding through dust-filled streets, wearing both traditional garments and modern threads; they are graceful and move with expertise. There is a sea of male faces in the video, their gaze evidently held; but here the male gaze is captivated not by a display of sexuality, but of independence.
Upon listening to Wild Beast’s new album ‘Boy King’, released in 2016, I was initially too intrigued by the band’s departure from their former musical styling to pay full attention to the lyrical content of their offering. In their past work, in albums such as ‘Present Tense’ (2014) and ‘Smother’ (2011), frontman Hayden Thorpe’s clean, ethereal voice and layered falsetto was at the centre of their music. Their previous songs, in which they made greater use of beautiful piano-based melodies (i.e. ‘Palace’) were dream-like; this is heavier stuff, with punchier synths and guitar solos to match the neon aesthetic of their cover art. It may still be Thorpe’s voice, but everything around it has changed to produce something darker and more sexually charged. Their new sound really brings some of the sexual content of their lyrics to the foreground, where it was once second to the ‘romance’ evoked by their music. As the tone was set for the album, I was surprised to see how ‘Alpha Female’ differed, lyrically, to the other songs.
The video was directed by Sasha Rainbow, a film director based in Paris and London, and it cinematically articulates their emboldening lyrics which, though perhaps uttered often in a society that is becoming almost hyper-aware of the nature of gendering, are evidently not uttered enough. “I would not hold you back, I would not hold you back” chants Thorpe – and whilst it should be “Simple as that”, it continues to present itself as a complexity, unresolved by governments all around the world.
Of their release, the band declared “Alpha Female is a tale of pushing off the earth to gather momentum, of leaning into resistance and meeting it with bravery and composure. Don’t we all seek the exhilaration of showing ourselves to the world? And when we do show ourselves isn’t it obvious how much we are made of an exquisite clutter of strengths and fragilities undefinable by gender?”. What better way to raise a question so painfully relevant to our times, to stress the way so many individuals must still navigate the delicate balance between concealment and “showing” themselves.
Watch their video for Alpha Female here