Azealia the Confident Confronter

Directed by Nick Ace and and Rob Soucy and produced by Lee Maschmeyer at COLLINS, the music video for “Wallace” by rapper Azealia Banks is hitting the charts big time. Billboard says about her interactive clip for “Wallace,” lifted from her 2014 album Broke With Expensive Taste, “Chances are, you’ve never seen anything quite like it.” And they are right.

“The action starts once you click ‘allow’ and ‘play.’ Your webcam is then activated, which enables you to guide her movements. Here’s the spoiler alertthe webcam wallpapers your very own head into the background, which is actually pretty spooky. You can also make the ‘Wallace’ lyrics shower from the top of screen.”

I spoke to Ace and Maschmeyer about this design-driven hit.

Had you known the artist prior to making the video?

Ace: Banks and I met through a mutual friend whom I had just wrapped a video for. We were working on two other projects when this concept came up. I immediately brought the project to COLLINS as it seemed a perfect opportunity to apply design thinking within the music space. I knew we could turn it into more of “a thing.”

 

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What unique symbiosis did you have between visuals and sound?

Maschmeyer: “Wallace” is a song defined by contrast. Azealia’s voice is fluid and continuous. The track is percussive and accented. We thought these characteristics—“flow and beat” as we called it—could be a perfect visual treatment. To transition these qualities into a visual style, we applied a fluidity affect to Azealia using a slit scan technique. Behind her are bold, aggressive closeups that rapidly appear and disappear with each percussive hit. The result, we hoped, would create a visual experience as equally evocative as the song.

Ace: Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s The Medium is The Massage was our primary influence in crafting the visuals.

 

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Does this video say something about her music that might otherwise have been lost to the audience?

Maschmeyer: Story and tech is always a wonderful combination. Story makes tech emotional. Tech makes story immersive. “Wallace” is a song about a woman standing up to a man who has wronged her. Our ambition was to emotionally enhance this story through a web-based, interactive video. In it, Azealia plays the confident confronter. The viewer is the one confronted. As the viewer moves, Azealia moves with them to maintain eye contact and keep the viewer in the confrontation. So yes, we believe the video helped viscerally convey something that the audience might not have experienced otherwise.

Ace: So many female singers have to lean on tired visuals such as flash and product placement. We went in another direction. Our film focuses on all the things that make Azealia great: her voice, her music, her face, and her personality.

 

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Did you have fun?

Ace: Azealia was wonderful to work with. She immediately saw the value in our concept and let us live. The team at COLLINS crosses our unique disciplines every day, so it was fun to collaborate on a hip-hop video.

 

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