I’ve gotten in quite the habit of over-analyzing music videos from The Weeknd. It started after the release of “The Hills“, continued on through “Tell Your Friends“, had me dissecting “Starboy” and “MANIA” and now we’re here. Earlier this week, Abel dropped the video for the Daft Punk-assissted track “I Feel It Coming“, a Top 10 hit that will most likely carry itself into the rest of 2017. Like nearly every video he releases, I watched thoroughly, attempting to fully understand the narrative and symbolism that was at play. And like nearly every video, there’s a lot to unpack.
In the past, Abel has used a variety of religious symbols videos. In some cases, it’s been a devil. This personification of evil, portrayed by an old, androgynous, tight-skinned figure, appeared in “The Hills” and “Tell Your Friends”. Back then, it represented Abel’s path of destruction in the wake of his dark lifestyle. In “Starboy”, he yielded a glowing cross (similar to the one he wears around his neck on the album’s cover) like it was a lightsaber, destroying everything he’d accomplished in his career so far. Being that he’s no stranger to carrying religious themes, it’s quite easy to see what storyline he’s attempting to convey with “I Feel It Coming”.
The video, directed by Warren Fu, starts off with The Weeknd dancing alone on a rocky outcrop. As the sun comes up over the horizon, his jewelry flashes in the light, providing a hazy glow around his figure. Similar to an ’80s VHS tape, the whole video has a grainy quality to it, making it already seem much more dated than it is. As he continues to glide across the mountain, a golden figure appears, which quickly transforms into a beautiful girl that he embraces and joins in dancing. Just before they move in to kiss, a solar eclipse takes over the sky and she’s transformed into stone. She falls to the ground in pieces while a stricken Abel looks on. A long, black snake slithers through her remains, which Abel longingly reaches out for before also turning to stone. The landscape quickly transitions from one of a sunrise to that of a snowy, desolate wasteland.
Now at first glance, and based on the video quality, it may seem like some sort of Sci-Fi film. But when taking a closer look at the religious symbolism, this isn’t the case. The whole video is a take on the story of Adam and Eve. Abel (Adam) is alone in the new world, the Garden of Eden; singing and dancing to his hearts content, but very alone. The hazy glow that surrounds him, basking in the sunlight, represents his holy prominence. It isn’t long until he gets his partner in Eve, a similarly glowing figure who seemingly came out of nowhere. Despite her random appearance, the two are immediately intertwined in a loving embrace, celebrating in their new union. As they dance, the camera pans out to show the stars and various images of galaxies, depicting God watching down from the heavens. Yet they’re not together long, as her transformation into stone (or possibly a pillar of salt, like the Biblical story of Lot and his wife) separates them from each other. As Abel reaches out for the serpent at her feet, it’s obvious that he too has fallen a victim to the temptation of sin, thus rendering his own existence complete. Their bodies crack and decay as the Garden of Eden disappears and becomes a place of desolation and death.
Being that a theme such as this one are familiar occurences in his videos, it’s clear to me that Abel and the directors he works with are creating a stark parallel between the lifestyle that is overtly portrayed in his music and a belief system that he incorporates deeper into his art. While he sings about the perils of nightlife, the paranoia of heavy drug usage, and the destructive relationships he’s encountered, his conscious spirit does shine through in videos like this one, where we see a Biblical story used in a visually-striking pop video. The idea of good vs. evil and Abel’s role in the midst of that constantly shifting spectrum is one we can all relate to, no matter our religious backgrounds or preferences. And though he’s not shouting it from the rooftops like Chance the Rapper, Abel’s clear grasp on that role and his spiritual mortality are a growing presence in pop music that will most likely continue throughout his career, especially his videos. As he moves forward, I’ll be interested to see how they evolve and grow in a religious framework.